How to sell coaching … or not

Today I was browsing through some discussion topics in an online group I belong to, and came across a request for input on a new product that a parent coach was creating for her clients. This coach is working on a home study product designed to help parents feel more confident about their parenting.

My radar always goes off when I see a coach who is trying to sell coaching.
What I mean by “selling coaching” is that you’re trying to sell the things we coaches are best able to help our clients achieve, like “balance, happiness, fulfillment,” etc. In the words of my own coach and mentor, Rhonda Hess, “Coaching doesn’t sell.” This is very scary news to hear when you’re a life coach who has just spent a ton of money to get yourself certified and is out there looking for some clients to work with. But it doesn’t mean you can’t be successful as a coach. It’s all in how you position what you offer to your target audience.

Below is my response to the parent coach who was asking our group for our ideas and suggestions about her product. Read on to see my coaching to her for how to create a product her clients will want to buy.


So I’m glad you’re doing some “market research” by asking for some feedback here. Often times we create a product or service offering that we think is a good idea, but we don’t check it out with our audience before investing a lot of time, effort and energy into it.

I know that you see a lot of parents out there who are not confident in themselves as parents, and I’m sure that as a parent yourself and a coach, you know the unbelievable value of getting to the other side of that, and know how that confidence makes a huge positive impact on your child.

That said, it’s hard to sell “being more confident.” I’ve been a coach for five years now, and I spent the first two of them trying to sell “life coaching” and all of the things we help our clients achieve like “balance, happiness, fulfillment, etc.” While these are clearly important and valuable, I found it very hard to get people to put a price tag on them and pull out their wallets to pay me for them.

How connected are you with your target audience? Are you engaged with them, talking with them in person and online, coaching them already? What are their top problems and challenges? What are they telling you they need help with? And what are they willing to pay for? I.e. Are they willing to pay in order to be more confident in their lives?

My experience is that although they want this really badly, they can’t justify spending money on it.

Now, that said, you may still have a great product to create. My coaching to you would be to check in with your target audience. Ask them if they “need this” and what they would be willing to pay for it. By having some great conversations with your target audience about their problems, challenges and concerns, you will learn what they are most willing to pay for. As a mom and a coach, you have a wealth of resources you could provide to solve their problems. Make your offerings be solutions to your clients “pains” and they’ll sell.

It’s not a question whether you or your services are valuable–it’s all about how you market what you offer so that your target audience realizes they NEED it.

Let’s help her out: Are you a parent who needs help building your confidence about your parenting? What sort of things would help you with this? And would you be willing to pay for a home study guide to support you? Please leave your feedback below.

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  1. HI Lara,

    You gave great advice to your group mate – it’s so important to find out if your target audience not only NEEDS a particular service but also if they’d be willing to PAY for it. And if so, how much?

    It’s difficult to place a dollar value on something like having more confidence as a parent – every parent and every child is so different. In order for me to purchase a home study guide like this, I’d need to see the tangible ways in which it would help ME specifically. HOW would it help me be more confident? WHAT would I be able to do after reading it? WHY is this worth paying for? WHO else has used it and what successes have they had with it?

    I tend to buy info products and books that give me VERY specific advice and information that I can immediately implement in my life or business – and that’s what I’d be looking for in a product like this.

    So…I hope that helps!!
    .-= Heather Allard´s last blog ..Weigh-In Wednesday: Where Do You Find Inspiration? =-.

  2. Lara, thank you so much ~ first, for your helpful comments on the group site and now here too! Your comments have really got me thinking. While my underlying mission and much of my content will continue to include ways to increase confidence, I’m thinking that I need to find ways to speak/write more concretely. I’m thinking now in terms of offering materials that help parents learn how to discipline their toddlers and preschoolers effectively while at the same time strengthening their connections with their children. I’d love to hear your feedback. Does this still sound too vague?

  3. Lara, I don’t “sell” coaching, but I’ve been in sales for many, many years. And what I’ve found is that, no matter what you’re “selling,” you can’t “sell” a product or service! What you’re selling is a solution to a problem or a situation that your client has. Sometimes that client actually needs some help in realizing what that problem or need is, and how your service can fill that need, but they are not buying the service, they are buying the solution. So whether it’s a widget or coaching, it’s all still the same theory!

  4. Karen,
    I love the point you make: Selling your “product or service” isn’t what people want to buy. They want to buy “a solution.” That’s so well-put!

  5. Kathleen,

    I think Karen makes a great point that can help you as you determine the right info products for your audience.

    Here’s an exercise: 1) Describe your ideal client in as much detail as possible. 2) Now, write down the top 5 problems they face (be specific). 3) Lastly, how can you solve those specific problems? I think it really helps to first name the problems and then ask yourself how you can best solve them. People buy solutions to their problems before they buy things that make their lives “better.” Does that help?

  6. Wow, I felt like you were talking to me, too! One must remember – what problem are the solving for thier client? Interesting thing about consumer psychology is that when car companies sell cars they sell a life style and that’s how the advertise. We KNOW it’s a car but they want to sell us the prestige or the safety or the room for kids.

    With your parent coach sellling confidence, isn’t this sort of the same thing? Perhaps selling confidence isn’t bad and she just needs to combine it with a specific “product” or solution besides coaching.

    As a past purchaser of “parent” how to’s, the only one I’ve ever bought was a book by Gina Ford called The Contented Baby. I was a terrified first parent. EVERYONE said get a schedule but no one gave me one to follow except her. I needed a plan to follow – step by step and it worked out great. I’m pregnant with my 3rd kid and I will still use the book. I don’t remember what I paid but, it was probably about $10. I’ve purchased more since then and given them as gifts.

    As a parent, I want a reference how-to guide that I can adapt for my own needs. Now with toddlers, there are a million questions about discipline, eating and starting them in school. Confidence comes from knowing I have some tools to work with – (whispering…kind of like Super Nanny!)

    Hope that helps her market research! Also, what age group is she targeting?

    Thanks for post, Lara. Will pass along!

  7. As a parent who sometimes questions my parenting skills and my budget, I’d rather pay for coaching rather than a home study product. As succinctly stated in some of the other comments, you’re selling a solution not a product.
    .-= Gail´s last blog ..Do you work out with ID? =-.

  8. Lorin,

    Thanks so much for showing up and sharing your perspective. I love how you put it. Every parent needs confidence…it’s just a matter of figuring out how to sell it. I think it’s hard to wrap our minds around the idea of buying confidence. But the comparison of how the car dealerships sell lifestyles is a compelling argument. Wondering if that’s really what’s selling us, though? After all, cars are clearly a commodity. Confidence is not. So maybe “selling a lifestyle” works when in reality you’re selling a commodity. And when you’re selling an intangible (non-commodity), you have to attempt to make it more tangible?

    This is a great discussion that’s making me think. Thanks, Ladies!

  9. Gail,

    I think that some things are better suited to the personal touch that a coaching session can provide. I would agree that coaching a parent to increase their confidence is probably best suited to a supportive setting that includes a coach and/or like-minded peers.

  10. I for one would pay for the home study guide or a book written about what it is I’m looking to solve before I would invest in coaching. So many put such high price tags on their “expertise” and the words we need to “hear” to turn on the LIGHT for us, can often be found on a written page.

  11. Thanks for chiming in, Denise. This is exactly the reason why I encourage coaches and consultants of any industry to create some info products for the do-it-yourselfers out there. If all we offer is live coaching services, we often miss the opportunity to reach an audience who can’t/doesn’t choose to spend the high fees that come with that. Home study programs (and other information products or e-products) can be a great solution for those who learn/benefit from reading and self-directed study.

    I am curious, though: Would you be compelled to purchase a home study program to help increase your confidence in your parenting? All this discussion is fantastic market research for the mom coaches I know. Thanks!