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Susan Dunlop

Don’t Sell The Boat

Here’s a quick memorable lesson that sticks with you.

It was something that really resonated with me and it made the whole idea of marketing simpler.

I can give you myself as an example: I could be creating funnels and selling coaching programs and packages galore for the rest of my days!

But what I learnt one day was that’s me “Selling the boat”. Okay.

The secret is don’t sell the boat.

Alright then, so what do I sell, if it’s not coaching? 

Yes, I know that behind facilitating my clients’ change and growth and guiding them through the most effective pathways to actualise their dreams, there has been all of my own coach training, experience, the platforms and marketing I’ve invested in, ensuring privacy and ICF ethics are withheld, and there are all the coaching steps and questions we need to go through for you to get from A to B to C. But that’s not what you need to hear when we have an initial Discovery Call.

That’s not addressing what you are considering coming to coaching for is it?

My coaching is the boat.

Don’t sell the boat!

For you, it will be something different, or it could also be coaching: In your line of business, what is your boat?

The magic is to focus on what is your prospective client’s pain island that they are stuck on or bored hearing themselves complain about or be fed up with being, doing or having right now.

  • What challenges have your prospective clients had keeping them where they are?
  • What’s their reality?
  • What did they try before?
  • What haven’t they done yet?
  • What didn’t work before?
  • How come the wheels are falling off their bus again this time?
  • What’s making what they say they want not to be as important as being stuck in the space that they’re in?
  • What’s kept them where they are that they are finally seeking a way to change?

So that’s their pain island.

My boat is ready to dock at their pain island, fully equipped to take them to where they would like to go.

Some people come and think it’s about doing a 3-hour tour, as the Captain of the SS Minnow once took his esteemed guests on! Some people may think, all I need to do is a quick circuit, get this quick fix, and be shocked, or even not surprised, to find themselves back on their pain island, kind of like Gilligan’s Island, because they’d wanted a band-aid fix to their problems.

But what if your service or my service is about taking someone to their idea of pleasure island, to where their magnificent vision is, to what their desired outcomes are, to stop taking spin after dizzying spin, around pain island over and over again? What is your prospective client passionate about? Think about tuning into that. Do you think that will have a different outcome for each or both of you?

You’ve created a service, or you sell a product or widgets. My old service was supplying nurses to the whole healthcare industry of Queensland. I knew where my clients’ pain island was and where their pleasure island was. That’s another long story.

For me, selling that company and setting up as a small business operator, in the form of coaching practice, somewhere in there, I’d initially forgotten that message. Doh! 

I’d got caught up in creating excellent coaching packages with bells and whistles and aha moments galore, but that wasn’t the type of conversation anyone needed when they contacted me for an Intro Discovery Call.

They needed me to tune into what was happening for them.

Funny, I knew I was off-centre, and it was making me annoyed with myself. It was just something as simple as this little message that gave me a light-bulb moment for myself, and I shifted to being person-focused, not product or system-focused, as I’d been.

So, with vulnerability, I’ll ask, was it only me that was selling my boat? Have you ever sold your boat?

By focusing and being present to understand a client’s pain island and their vision of the pleasure island, and just knowing that I’m a competent captain of the vessel, that will take them to where they want to go, now that’s the golden ticket!

What do your prospective or long-term customers want at the end of the day?

The idea of any service or any product is to help them get there.

The lesson might seem silly, but it sticks and always makes me smile – I love a simple lesson guiding me back onto the path! Don’t you?

Don’t sell the boat.

What’s your customer’s pain island and their pleasure island?

If you truly want to facilitate the change your customers are seeking that will make them smile and recommend you to others, remember, at the end of the day, businesses are here to be of service to others and co-create their outcomes with them.

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