The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 23.18

Saturday, May 6, 2023

Photo by Biao Xie on Unsplash

The Psychology of Buying: Product Ladders for Consultants and Coaches

Clients say “no” to a consulting or coaching offer for lots of reasons. Most of the time, we’re not in control of those reasons - but there are things we can do to make a “yes” as easy as possible. In this article, we look at how a Product Ladder makes it easier for clients to buy - and how you can double your chances of making the sale.

Why clients say “no”

When you make an offer to a potential client for your consulting or coaching services, there are many reasons they may say no. Some of these reasons we can’t control:

  • they’re too busy with other stuff
  • they’re having a hard day at work (or at home)
  • they had a bad experience with similar engagements
  • they’re not quite ready for you

There are also reasons we can influence:

  • they don’t trust you enough (yet)
  • the price is too high
  • they don’t quite understand what they’re getting

Professional sales people will point out that even a half-way decent sales process will surface these objections way before we get to making an offer. You can certainly apply those principles, but there are more things you can do to make it easier for clients to say “yes”.

Enter the Product Ladder

Let’s start with a simple definition of a Product Ladder:

A Product Ladder is the same product packaged in small, medium and large versions.

There are two concepts at work here: the “product” and the “versions”.

Productized Services

A productized service is a service that is packaged, presented and sold as a “product”. This means it has:

  • a catchy name
  • a predefined scope (what you will do)
  • predefined deliverables (what you will deliver)
  • a list of benefits or outcomes, and
  • a fixed price.

The advantage of productizing your services should immediately be obvious:

  • they know exactly what they’re getting
  • they know exactly how much they will pay
  • you know exactly what you have to deliver

By productizing your services, you’re already addressing some of the potential objections. At the very least, a productized service tells them exactly what they will get.

There’s more to productized services of course - you can read more about them here.

The Product Ladder

I usually recommend creating a Product Ladder with three versions:

  • The “large” version contains all the bells and whistles you can imagine.
  • The “small” version is the very least you can do to deliver a meaningful result.
  • The “medium” version is somewhere in between.

Note that you need to find better names than “small”, “medium” and “large” when you present this to your clients. Using these terms (small, medium and large) is a useful way to start thinking about it.

You should also see the benefits of the product ladder - but let’s look at them together with the productized services idea.

Productized Service + Product Ladder = easier “yes”

Offering your service as a product makes it much easier for clients to say yes:

  • They know exactly what they will get
  • They know exactly how much they will pay for it

And when you give them three options to choose from (the ladder bit):

  • They can choose the option that best fits their budget (the price objection)
  • They can choose to start small (if they don’t trust you enough yet, or had bad experiences in the past)

And the most important thing for me:

Offering a choice doubles your chances of making the sale because they have twice as many options to say “yes”.

One option means they can say “yes” or “no”. Two options means they can “yes” to the first, “yes” to the second, or “no” to both. You’ve just doubled your chances of making the sale.

Over the years of doing business coaching and consulting, offering a choice has almost always resulted in getting the sale. And a surprising number of clients go for the “large” version.

A consulting example

The easiest way to present a product ladder is in a comparison table.

Ironically, modern web technologies make it really difficult to present tables (they don’t work well on mobile devices), so for this article I will demonstrate these with images.

Here’s a simplified version of a consulting service, packaged as a product, and offered in three different versions:

This example may look trivial, but I think you will get the idea. The client can immediately see what they will get, how much they will pay, and have a choice of which version to go with.

My real-life offerings are presented in a similar format, but often fill a page in landscape mode to show all the details. My experience is that the more details you provide on this “offer” page, the fewer questions you get.

A coaching example

Here’s a similar “in principle” example for a coaching offering. Again, this is not a real life example, but it should demonstrate the principles at work.

In this example, we’re also specifying the number of coaching sessions and other options (such as email or phone support).

How it all fits together

If you’re a consultant or coach, I recommend that:

  • you productize your services, and
  • offer them in at least two (but no more than three) “sizes”.

This has the following advantages:

  • your customers have a choice (doubling or tripling your chances of making the sale)
  • they can start small (if they don’t trust you yet or have a limited budget)
  • they know what they will get
  • they know exactly how much they will pay
  • you know exactly what you will have to deliver.

And I’ve left the best for last:

The combination of Productized Services and a Product Ladder means you will never have to write a proposal again.

I hope this helps. Have a great week!