Why selling by the session hurts everyone

Why selling by the session hurts everyone

Today I want to talk to you about why selling your services by the session or by the hour is not only hurting your business, but it’s also hurting your clients. I’ve had two recent personal experiences that have really highlighted this for me and have inspired me to record this video for you.

Watch the video or scroll down to read more.

If you’re reading this then you’re probably somebody who charges out your services or your work by the session or by the hour.   OR perhaps you’ve already brought your services together into some sort of package or programme, but you might not be feeling completely comfortable about it.

A lot of heart-centred business owners “get” why packaging their services is, good idea and often create one.  But then those little internal voices kick in. You know, the ones that say, “Oh, but I can’t imagine any of my clients would buy a package from me,” or “I don’t think that what I do is something that I can really sell this way.”  With the result that you have a package ready to go, but you don’t have the sense of confidence and conviction that you need if you’re going to offer it in a clear and compelling way.  So instead you tend to shy away from actually selling the package that you’ve created.

Before I share my recent personal experiences,  I’m just going to do a quick recap of why selling your services by the package rather than by the session is so important.

Why Sell Packages?

There are two important reasons to sell packages or programmes:

  1. It’s better for your clients. When you sell your work as a programme or package, you’re asking your client to pay for the end result, and the package or programme is designed to deliver them to that end result. This means that your clients get better results because they’re more likely to see the process through. This means better case studies for you, more success stories for you, and of course, more clients running around the planet having had this transformation from you and giving you word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations.
  2. It’s better for your business. Selling programmes and packages makes your business work so much more smoothly and more sustainably. As an example, it is so much easier to sell two packages of £1,000 each in any given month than it is to sell 20 single sessions of £100 pounds each. To sell two packages you’ve only got to attract and have a conversation with and enrol two people. To sell 20 sessions you’re going to need to be out there doing a huge amount of work to enrol that number of people. And if your clients are paying you session by session a lot of them are not going to stick the course, so then you need to find new clients to replace them.  This is one of the fastest ways to burn out and it’s just not a sustainable model for a business – even though it’s something I see a lot of.

Why selling by the session hurts everybody

My Personal Experiences

Experience #1 – She Didn’t Care
I recently sought help for something that I knew it was a fairly deep issue and wasn’t going to be a “quick fix” and I identified a healer and had a Skype call with her – for the sake of this story, I’ll call her Jane. Jane recommended that I come and see her for a one-off session.

That first session lasted 2 hours and Jane worked right up to the final minute.  At the end I was expecting her to talk to me about next steps and offer me an ongoing way of working, and she didn’t say anything. She didn’t even say, “Think about it and get back to me.” Instead she wrapped up the session and she showed me out. I was particularly confused because I’d read on a questionnaire she’d sent me that she offers three month and six month programmes.

I felt bewildered. The part of me that teaches sales and knows that a lot of practitioners feel uncomfortable talking about pricing and money was able to think, “Perhaps she wasn’t comfortable having the money conversation and didn’t want to seem salesy.” But the other side to me – the regular human being who’s vulnerable and has “stuff” that I want to deal with – felt bereft.   I’d really opened up to her in that session and shared a lot of very personal things because I thought this was the first session in a longer process.  Because Jane sent me away with no further solution or follow-up work I was left feeling that she’d cared about me during the session, but didn’t care about me once the session had ended.

I felt rejected.   I’ve talked in past videos about how rejection is one of my triggers – I thought maybe she doesn’t like me or want to work with me so maybe that’s why she hasn’t offered me the next step.

I felt annoyed.  I’d invested both time and money in that first session because I believed we were embarking on the beginning of a process together. While I was very, very happy to make the investment in the transformation that I want, I wasn’t happy to just waste money on a one-off session that I knew (and I’m sure she knew too) wasn’t going to be enough on its own.

Experience #2 – I Felt Supported
This story illustrates the just the opposite. I’ve recently been having acupuncture and for a while I was seeing an acupuncturist who was charging session by session – let’s call him John. I had four sessions with John, after which I started to feel dissatisfied and because there was no clear outcome or result that we were heading towards. I also started to doubt the process, wondering if he could really help me when he was just letting me come as and when I feel like it, rather than encouraging me to commit to a regular programme.

Around that time somebody recommended another acupuncturist and because I’d made no commitment to John it was easy for me to switch to her – I’ll call her Laura.  Once Laura had done the initial consultation she talked in very clear terms about the end result that I could expect to get as a result of working with her – which of course was the result that I was looking for.

She told me how long she would expect it to take me to get there and she recommended that I see her once a week for six weeks and then go on to a monthly maintenance programme. She recommended that I purchase that six week package for £800.   Now, I know that some of you would baulk at the idea of making that offer to one of your potential clients because you’d be thinking, “Oh, she’s going to think that I’m just trying to sell to her. She’s going to think I’m just wanting to get her money” but the experience for me as the client was quite different.

I Felt Cared About

In comparison to Jane and John, I felt as though Laura really cared about me. She had listened to me, she understood what I wanted to achieve and she cared about me enough to offer me a programme that was going to support me to get the result that I wanted.

I felt very supported by here and confident that as a “team” we were on track to get this result together. There was a plan and a clear roadmap of how she would help me to get to where I wanted to be.

Instead of feeling salesy or self-serving, the fact that she offered me the 6 week package made me feel cared for and reassured that I was going to get the result I wanted.

I was delighted to be able to make the commitment to do the work with her. 

Meanwhile the two other practitioners are putting a lot of effort into their marketing but missing out on the opportunity to enrol their clients in ongoing work,  their clients are missing out on getting the help they need.  Everybody loses.

If you remember, I came to Laura via a word-of-mouth referral. And of course, Laura’s much more likely to have those type of referrals because the way she works and the programmes she offers are more likely to lead to clients actually getting long-term results.  Everybody wins.

So if you want to create lasting change in a way that gives the client the transformation they’re looking for but also gives you a sense of fulfilment because you’re making a genuine difference and actually seeing results, then maybe it’s time to shift your thinking about packages.

What about you?  Has hearing the perspective of the client changed your thinking about offering packages? Does it make you feel more confident about it?  Please share in the comments below – I always love to hear your thoughts.

And of course, I’d love you to share this if you know anybody else that you think would find this useful.

If you’re not already a member, do hop over to the Selling From the Heart Community on Facebook – I’d love to support you further there.

Until next time.

With Love & Gratitude,

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14 Comments

  1. sarah on August 15, 2017 at 10:29 am

    interesting blog Catherine

    I’m wondering how I can apply this to me as a photographer

    I’ve tried approaching clients to due a year long baby plan but no-one ever wants to sign up and it does always feel like I’m chasing the next client

    • Catherine on August 15, 2017 at 12:06 pm

      Hi Sarah, It’s definitely the case that each business is different. With photography sometimes a client WILL only want one photo shoot. But there will definitely be a place in your portfolio of options for packages. Some of them ongoing, like the year long baby plan (or if that was me I think a longer time frame would also appeal – e.g. to capture the first 5 years of babys life). Others of them a one off – like my recent website photo shoot which included hair & make-up, location planning, editing etc. It may come down to “how” you are selling the baby plan, rather than that people don’t want it….
      I’m doing a live Q&A on this topic in the Selling from the Heart Facebook Community tomorrow at 1pm – join us if you want to explore this further.

  2. Lynne on August 15, 2017 at 11:06 am

    Great Catherine. It is something I am thinking about right now for my business coaching practice so great to hear a customers perspective. Made real sense. Thank you

    • Catherine on August 15, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Lynn, I’m glad this has come at a useful time for you – and of course the ongoing container is so important for business coaching as so many obstacles come up for people, both practical and mindset, that the ongoing container is usually essential to help people get results.

  3. Fiona Grant on August 15, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this from the perspective of a client Catherine. Yes it has definitely made a difference in how I look at offering and selling packages.

    • Catherine on August 15, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Fiona, I’m so glad this has made a difference for you. It’s so important to move past our own “stuff” and put ourselves in the shoes of the client in order to give them what they most need, rather than what feels most “comfortable” to us.

  4. Louise R on August 16, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    I love your ‘soft’ approach to selling Catherine. Another useful video and blog post

  5. kate Olphert on September 9, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Catherine,
    On a wet afternoon, I am catching up on emails and have just read your blog which has resonated strongly with me. I need to seriously rethink my approach, I’m not being fair to myself or my clients in the way I am working at the moment. Your blog has made me pick up my Corrina GB file and remind myself of how to do this stuff, I’ve let it slip!
    Thank you!

    • Catherine on September 11, 2017 at 9:37 am

      Hi Kate, I’m so glad it’s inspired you to re-look at how you can best serve your clients (while also best serving yourself). And thanks for letting me know – good luck revisiting how you do things xx

  6. Irene on October 3, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Great video xxx

  7. Marlow on October 9, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Hi Catherine,

    This really struck a chord with me. I’ve been in practice for 27 years now and have hitherto resisted ‘the package’ as a way to provide or bundle my services. Your blog has highlighted the value of being able to goal-set with the patient/client and it’s also reminded me of something one of my Mentors used to say… ‘Keep them sick long enough, so that they continue treatment and really get well’. It sounds manipulative, but over the years I have seen many patients come and go, having either successfully dealt with ‘superficial’ symptoms (my emphasis) or having forgotten what state they were in in the first place! As a practitioner who is interested not just in healing symptoms but also enhancing and promoting resilience, my lament is that people often don’t follow through to the deeper issues in their health. This results in two things; discouragement if their symptoms return and frustration for me because the constitutional follow-through was not made. You’ve made a strong case for ‘packaging’ treatment in a way that gives people a reasonable assessment of their financial commitment as well as a projected outcome. Brava and Thanks!

  8. Chris Dudley on January 10, 2018 at 9:48 am

    Hi Catherine,

    Great article and I completely agree with your points. As a Life Coach, moving to package sales had the biggest positive impact on both my clients and my business. Offering monthly payment plans on packages can also be a great way to support a client and their finances.

    I think two key points here are the confidence to sell the package (previous testimonials boost your confidence to do this) and the ability to graciously say no to those who would prefer session by session working.

    Thanks again for the great content you share.

  9. Lorri on February 9, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    Thank you for this, excellent perspective!
    I have gone from a senior management role in Biomedical to a self employed Energy/Reiki Practitioner and I had begun to act so differently my mind set settling into service rather than strategic thinking?.
    I suddenly became all woolly and apologetic on pricing and cetainly not following up. Your comment about investing your time in the hope that you would gain something positive struck a chord and already I can see how to make changes in my own practice and how I work with clients. Thank you Catherine

  10. Pam Ostrowski on July 4, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    Another fantastic blog, Catherine! Thank you! It’s been a long time since someone asked me for an hourly price and then it happened this past week. Although I explained my philosophy around project pricing, I still buckled and told him an hourly price. I’m meeting the team tomorrow to determine if we’re a good match for each other and at that point, I’m going to explain that there’s a 10 hour minimum per month to ensure that I’m part of conversations that can affect the project results and that they’re not hesitating to engage my counsel because their budget is tight one month. Moving forward, I now have a better way of positioning my project -based pricing! THANK YOU for sharing your experiences as they totally changed my viewpoint on this!

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