Tellin’ Ain’t Sellin’: Surprising Pitfalls That May Stand in Your Way of Getting New Clients

by Mattison Grey, IAC-CC

You’ve hit the coach’s lottery! Your marketing worked! Someone called out of the blue and said something like: I am interested in working with you! How does this coaching thing work? Now the fun starts, right? Well, for some of us, maybe. For others, there is a minefield of mistakes to avoid in the ensuing sales conversation, any one of which could, and probably will, blow your chances of closing this sale and getting this client.

If those three words “closing the sale” make you cringe, well, you’re a coach, and I don’t have to tell you that means something. But don’t worry, this article is not about closing sales, so you can keep reading. This article IS about how to avoid some basic mistakes in the sales conversation that make it harder for you to get new clients.

Pitfall #1: Answering the question, “How much is it?”

If you answer the “How much is it?” question before your prospective client knows what the value is, the price will always be too high. You must always talk about the value long before you discuss price. I know what you’re thinking: my website and my marketing explain the value. That may be true, but they explain the value for everyone, not this individual. This person doesn’t care about anyone else, they care about themselves. In their mind they are “different” from everyone else, and they want to know the specific value for them and their situation. If they can’t see that, the price will always be too high.

This raises the common question about whether or not to put your coaching fees on your website or blog. I can’t answer that question for you. You just have to look at results. If your website has your fees on it and you are getting the results you want, keep it as it is. If you are not getting the results you want, maybe it’s time to try something else.

I don’t put my coaching fee on my website. Why? It doesn’t give me an opportunity to talk to the person and find out what they really want before I tell them the price. If I told them the fee before I created value for them, I would never get a client.

Pitfall #2: Answering the question, “How does it work?”

Once again, people don’t want to know how it works for everyone; they want to know how it is going to work for them. If you tell them how it works before you ask them what they want, it won’t seem like it’s about them. Because, guess what….IT’S NOT. When you talk about coaching and how it works, how many times do you use “I,” “we” or “other clients” versus “you?”

How do you avoid this? Ask about them first. Ask them what made them inquire, what makes them curious about coaching, what issue they are working through, what experiences they have had with a coach in the past. Just about any question will work, as long as the answers provide you with enough information to talk to them about how the coaching is going to work related to them and their specific issues or desires.

Here is the script to handle both questions. “Mr. Client, the cost (how it works) really depends on what you are trying to accomplish with the coaching. Can I ask you a few questions, so I can get a good understanding what you want to get out of the coaching?”

They will say one of two things, either SURE or NO. If they say “NO, I just want to know your price,” that is fantastic. You now know this person is just buying on price. Unless your price is super-low it is unlikely that they will hire you anyway. So you can decide if you want to tell them your price or not. I never do, but that is up to you.

If they say “SURE,” now you are off and running. Let them talk first and a lot. Ask some coaching questions, but DO NOT coach them. You can interject, but don’t make it about you. However, you do want to make sure they know you get them and understand what is important to them.

Finally, when you know what they want, and they know you know, now you can deliver the information they have requested in a way that references what they have discussed. You say something like “Okay, Mr. Client, I think I got it. You want to accomplish X and Y and Z with the coaching. I am confident I can help you with that. In my experience, to accomplish these three things should take about 4-6 months. The best way for us to work together is…” Then you just fill in the details and logistics and tell him how it’s going to work (however you do it) and finally give the price.

Pitfall #3: Confusing the sales conversation with a free introductory session

You can do one or the other, but you can’t do both at the same time. It’s confusing for the client. When someone calls in out of the blue, avoid this confusion by telling them what will happen next. Say something like, “It’s best if we have a short conversation about what you want and how it works. Do you have time for that now, or would you like to schedule for another time? “

The question of whether to offer an introductory session is a big one. I personally don’t do them. If they are working for you, don’t change what you’re doing. However, if you are doing a lot of free intro sessions and people aren’t signing up for coaching and paying your full fee, then you may want to consider changing your approach.

In the end it’s about helping your prospective client be very clear about the value they will get by working with you. If there is one thing I know for sure, people won’t write checks when they can’t see the value in it for them. Your job is to protect them from their own misguided questions and turn the focus of the conversation back to them, early and often. They don’t really want to know how it works or how much it is, they just want to know, “What’s in it for me?” and “Does this person get me?” Once they know and feel that, they will pay almost any fee.


Mattison Grey, IAC-CC, is a business consultant, executive and leadership coach, sales trainer, relationship skills expert, and speaker. Since 1997 she has trained and coached police officers, entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, high-level executives, and functional managers in a variety of organizations and settings.

4 thoughts on “Tellin’ Ain’t Sellin’: Surprising Pitfalls That May Stand in Your Way of Getting New Clients”

  1. Mattison,
    Great article! Fees are funky.
    Many consultant marketing gurus would say you should base your fees on
    value to be gained. Again, another reason NOT to post fees or disclose them
    before determining value … you don’t know your fees!
    BTW, love “Grey Matters” headline at your site.
    Greyt stuff!
    Kenn Schroder

  2. This is very sound advice. The compelling question for most is how to demonstrate value to the prospect in a short conversation.

  3. Angela
    Thanks. It took me years to learn it too. I hope that this article shortens the learning curve for other coaches, or anyone else selling services, for that matter.

  4. Great article, Mattison. You’ve described very clearly what it took me years to learn and which is now one of the keys to my business’s success. And once you get the hang of it, it’s very simple. Every coach who is serious about getting more clients should read this. Thank you!

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