Professional Coaches: Compete on Value, Not Price

The $10,000 AspirinHow many times have you answered the phone or gotten an initial email from a potential customer immediately asking, “what does it cost?” or asking, “Send me a quote!”

Sure, you can give them a price you charge per hour. But then what happens? Do you lose track of your prospective customers? Do they “go dark”? Do you ever hear from them again? Do you even know why?

When you get to the price negotiation, do you end up dropping your price to accommodate what they think is fair, or what they’ve heard someone else charges? How do you feel when this happens?

Or, how about when the conversation stalls out around the price question with that person you think would be a great new client. They say, “ok, I’ll call you” … and then they never do!

The successful coaches I work with have developed a set of skills that allows them to move the price conversation back further in the intake process for a new client. Instead of quoting a price right off the bat, they have a meaningful conversation with their prospective clients and are able to gather useful information before quoting a price. They’re not trying to be mysterious, and it’s not some slippery sales tactic. They know it’s simply too soon to be talking price when we don’t even know what the prospective customer’s needs are. They know that to serve their prospective client most effectively, they need to understand their client’s most deeply held wants, needs and desires.

But today, the price discussion is more difficult than ever.

  • Your prospective customers are better educated than ever before due to the web and social media. They think they know exactly what they need, and are skipping right to the price discussion. This has become hugely disruptive across many industries. For example, in real estate the prospective homebuyer used to rely 100% on the professional real estate agent to have information about all of the homes in his or her price range and target area. Today, these same customers can go online and find any number of homes that meet their criteria, down to square footage and amenities. They are simply calling on the realtor to be their transaction agent, their “order taker”. This is true for almost every single industry out there, from the software industry to air travel. This phenomenon is the death knell for those who have spent a lot of time and money on education or certifications, because it makes selling your own unique expertise or qualifications almost impossible.
  • In this crowded, noisy marketplace, your potential customers *think* they have lots of alternatives. There are many coaches out there, and many types of coaching. They may also be considering therapy, an online course, or a DIY approach where they search around the Internet for inspiration, or read self-help books.
  • When selling your services to a large organization, more people than you realize may be involved in the buying process and want to influence price, which elongates the whole process. This type of climate means everyone thinks they’re an expert, and everyone wants to throw in their two cents! This can create a very complicated situation for those who sell executive coaching to groups within larger organizations.
  • As a coach or expert, you are involved later and later in the sales cycle. Your prospective client may even come to you for price conversation only because they’ve talked to other coaches and are price-shopping.

When your prospective client thinks they’ve figured out what they need, why they need it and when they’re going to make a decision, you’re at risk! Imagine yourself at the counter of a fast food restaurant. The customer knows what they want and what it costs. Now your only job is to “take their order” – but what’s to stop them from saying, “this is too expensive” and walking out the door?

The Buying Process

The good news is, all buyers share the same process. As the coaching, transformation or wellness expert, you can redirect the conversation and move them back in the process. Your first course of action is to back it up to what they know they need and how badly they need it. You know they need you! You just have to get them to recognize it in their own words.

Business Issue / Personal Issue

Every buyer has a business or personal issue that needs solving. There must be a compelling personal emotional reason to hire you, and when you talk to your prospective client, you need to uncover it. The problem is, they won’t tell you right away what the real problem is.

  • It’s NOT “I need to spend time with my family,” or “I need a better work/life balance.”
    • It’s “my wife will leave me if I don’t fix this.”
  • It’s NOT “I need to get my executives to perform better.”
    • It’s “I will lose my job if I don’t get performance up.”

When they tell you their problem first, ask what the consequence of their problem will be. Next, find out WHY NOW? “You’ve been living with this problem for 10 years. Why call me now?” You’ll then begin to understand and tap into their sense of urgency, or any deadlines or timelines they’re working under.

Differentiation

The key to commanding a different price from your competitor is differentiation.

    • Two customers may buy the same solution for a different reason
      • For example, a nutrition coach may put two clients on the same diet protocol to solve both hormonal imbalance and insomnia.
    • During your initial conversation, you can develop a series of questions that uncover needs you solve better than your competitor
    • Another important piece of information: when they say “this is too much,” what are they comparing you to?
      • another coach
      • psychotherapy
      • DIY (reading self-help books or browsing the Internet)
      • doing nothing
    • Knowing what or who you are being compared to will help you answer the “this is too much” question with more accuracy, differentiating yourself from all other solutions under consideration.
      • Some of the most-clicked content on my coaching websites overcomes objections prospective clients have about working with a life coach, differentiating my life coach clients’ unique solution from therapy, relying on friends, searching the Internet and similar “deep dives” into the self-help world.
    • How does the solution I’m competing with look like me, but is not exactly the same? During my career selling software to large organizations, I spent a lot of time in boardrooms trying to convince the suit-and-tie set that my company’s product was different and deserved the high price tag we were commanding. Julie Thomas, President of Value Selling Associates, taught me the trademarked process of creating a “differentiated vision match”. I learned through working with Julie that being a great salesperson wasn’t about how great I was, how personable I was, how well I “read the room” or the “tricks” I could pull to “sell ice to eskimos”. It was about a full understanding of the issues or problems my solution could solve better than the competition. Working with her, I learned to love the sales process because I was actually doing an important service, meeting an important need for my clients. If you believe your product or service is absolutely better than the competition, this can be true for you, too!
      • As life coaches, you will almost always be up against other solutions (therapy, DIY etc. mentioned above) in the customer’s mind. You’ll also be up against other life coaches. The great news is, you are totally unique. Your mission is to figure out how your strengths uniquely speak to the issues your prospective client is having in their life.
  • Differentiate yourself on something other than price. Of course, when in a competitive situation it’s always tempting to drop your price. But you can be a price leader, if you’re talking to the right prospective client. Price leaders know they have superior:
    • Capabilities
    • Ease or convenience of doing business (for example, they accept credit cards, have Skype calls with their clients, allow for online payment, or offer a self-paced e-course)
    • Quality (training, credentials, testimonials/outcomes)
    • Brand (niche / area of specialization)
    • Reputation (testimonials, experience)

Value & Price Are Not the Same Thing

Without the value conversation, the only thing to talk about when it comes to price is how much it costs.

  • Price is what you pay
  • Value is what you get

As we are entering into a potential coaching relationship, do I completely understand the quantified value the customer wants?

Is that value greater than the investment they’re willing to make? This is key!

  • What is their goal? Getting friends? Being more successful? Looking good in a bathing suit? When they evaluate your price, they’ll have to quantify it. Is a friend worth $500 to them?
  • Are they willing to invest the time necessary to get results? Are they a self-starter? Do they even have a goal?

As a software salesperson, I knew that for a customer with a million dollar headache, my $10,000 “asprin” was a bargain.* For the customer with a $1,000 headache, my $10,000 aspirin was absurd. I was quickly able to distinguish my potential customers from one another and act accordingly. I definitely ran into organizations who just didn’t have the budget, and who wanted to DIY a solution or cobble something together using their own staff. (Many of these folks later called me when they realized that this was actually more expensive for them in the long run!) My software solution was definitely not for everyone, and neither is your coaching. This is the key to differentiation.

*Disclaimer: the “aspirin” here refers to the custom software solution I was selling, which was probably worth even more than that in terms of the issues it solved for my clients. I do not endorse selling aspirin for $10,000, or any other overpricing of goods or services. It’s all about value.

Cheatsheet for Your Next Intake Call

Step 1: Think about the unique value you bring to the table. Create questions to uncover and quantify it for your prospective customer.

Step 2: Wait as long as possible before engaging in the price discussion. Ask questions, and let them talk! The more you can learn about the value of meeting their needs, the better.

Step 3: Don’t give them a “wrong” price, or a range of prices. They will always remember the lowest price point you mention.

Step 4: Prepare and create specific strategies to address your next interaction. If they want a lower price, can you offer deliverables they would love to have, worksheets they can do at home or videos to watch instead of your time? Can you offer a subscription or bundled model, one-to-many coaching or prepayment at a more favorable price? Remember, we never want to drop our prices, but we do want a win-win.

If You Care About Your Clients, Here’s the Real Benefit to Selling On Value …

Selling on value, not on price, will create a trust based relationship with your clients from the very first conversation. My clients have tremendous drive, personal integrity and are extraordinary entrepreneurs. None of them want to ‘get rich quick’. As business owners, their time and personal integrity are their two most valuable resources. This is why I’m obsessed with helping them clients compete on value rather than price. When they uncover their unique value in the marketplace, they get the respect and rapport they deserve from their clients. They become their clients’ trusted ally, helping them achieve what they want – and they get great testimonials when their coaching work is done! They feel better talking about money and the value of their time, and they come up with creative ways to package and present their offerings. As they get busier, they begin to be able to pick and choose who they will work with and at what price. They start working with people who are the best in the business, which boosts their brand.

Amanda-1003Of course, this formula only works once you have a group of people interested in working with you. If you need more leads in your coaching business, I can help you create them! My years working with coaches to help them get clarity about digital marketing means I have a proven process that uncovers where your ideal-fit clients are hanging out, and how to get them to contact you. But don’t take my word for it. Check out some of my happy client testimonials hereContact me today if you’re interested in leveraging your website to create more demand for your unique coaching skill set.

How to Work With Me

        • Contact me today. If you’re interested in working together, I have a brief questionnaire that will help us both determine if we should move forward. My email address is amanda@marketiq.net, please shoot me an email and I’ll send you the questions. If there is a fit, we can then schedule a Skype or GoogleHangouts to “meet”, go into more detail & get started.
        • Join me for an upcoming talk. I host regular webinars, and you can sometimes catch me in person. Here are my upcoming trainings and talks:
          • October 13 2017, UMBC Training Center, Columbia, MD: How to Capture, Nurture & Retain Unicorns: Results-Oriented Marketing Solutions for Professional Coaches
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xo,
Amanda