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Coaches Diary: John Learns To Sell The Benefits


Coach Olivia Stefanino helps an entrepreneur renew his initial enthusiasm for going-it-alone, now being tempered by a frustration at a lack of success.

An experienced salesman with more than 20 years’ experience in the financial services sector, John had decided to follow his heart and set up in business for himself.

His passion, he told me over a steaming mug of coffee, was to help others realise their dreams. Having invested a substantial amount of time and money in honing his coaching skills, John knew that he was in a great position to make a success of his new venture not least because of his considerable sales experience.

However, his initial enthusiasm a year ago was now being tempered by frustration at his own lack of success. He smiled at the irony that as a coach who had helped others in the past, he was unable to work his magic on his own enterprise.

John’s difficulty was in signing up new clients. A highly energetic and charismatic man, John’s enthusiasm was infectious and most prospective clients with whom he spoke expressed an interest in signing up with his coaching practice.

But John found that most people didn’t follow up their initial commitment and he was at a loss to understand why.

I smiled in recognition of John’s dilemma for it was a problem that I too had encountered. I asked John to role-play a sales conversation with me, so that I could see whether he had fallen into the same trap as I had.

Immediately, John launched into his presentation in which he told me how he would go about helping me fulfil my ambitions. As he warmed to his theme, John started to tell me about the different methodologies that he would use to ensure my success. As the discussion continued, John told me all about his studies and his fascination and enthusiasm for his subject was both clear and contagious.

Yes, John was indeed in the mire in which I had found myself a couple of years ago. I stopped him mid-flow and gently told him that he was getting carried away with the content of what he had to offer rather than the benefits that his clients would receive.

We agreed that to be a successful sales person, one needs to believe in the product or service. However, a deep love of the subject, John was beginning to see, could sometimes get in the way of the sales process.

While John had believed in everything that he sold during his successful career in the financial services sector, he hadn’t been so enthusiastic about the subject that he had got into unnecessary detail about the history and methodology behind each product with his clients.

“Most of your potential coaching clients – while professing an interest in what you do, really won’t care how you help them achieve their goals, they just want to know that you can help them achieve success,” I said.

“Sometimes it helps to tell them stories about how other people have benefited – so that the prospective client can apply that story to their own circumstances. Your clients need to hear you being credible but even more importantly, you need to paint the picture of how their success would look and how you can help them reach that success.”

John nodded as I continued. “Most people feel more comfortable knowing that there is a process that you will apply to their coaching programme and that there will be a beginning and end to the relationship. Equally, while you may expand their comfort zones when you are working with them, in the initial stages of the relationship, your prospective clients need to feel that you will not take them too far away from their known territory.”

Seeing clearly where he had been going wrong, John’s relief was palpable. By using his old sales skills to “sell the sizzle and not the sausage”, John’s new business venture would soon be firmly on the road to success.

Olivia Stefanino is a leadership development consultant and executive coach, who works with blue chip organisations, SMEs and individuals. To find out more – and to download your free e-booklet “128 ways to harness your personal power”, visit


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