Using Fear as a Sales Tactic


I’ve received several emails in the last few weeks from people who are concerned about (or have experienced first hand) the pressuring sales tactics being used by some coaches and mentors.

For example, using fear as a tactic.

Or, offering paid workshop attendees a free, private session to work on their business, only to have it end up being a a ploy to get them to buy into a 5-figure year-long program. And then telling those who choose not to invest in the bigger program they will never be able to implement the plan they just created in the workshop (that they paid $1000 to attend by the way) on their own. And, maybe worst of all, treating those who choose not to invest further, differently for the rest of the weekend.

On one hand I was surprised to hear there are people still using these sales tactics.

On the other hand, I wasn’t surprised at all.

These tactics prey on the client. They do not serve the client. Yet, they’re marketed as being of total service to the client. Helping the client get out of their own way and push through fear so they can reach new levels of success.

In my experience (if you’ve read my book you know I have plenty of experience in this) these tactics are designed to get you to make a big financial and life decision when you’re in a vulnerable emotional state. The client is encouraged to make a decision in the moment, and not allowed to go away and think about it, based on the argument that if they take time to think about it, their logical mind will talk them out of it. And, that is the part of them that is holding them back and keeping them playing small.

I couldn’t disagree more.

If further coaching or training is really the right step for you, you’ll know it. If you don’t make the decision in the moment, the thoughts will keep bugging you. You won’t be able to stop thinking about it. You KNOW you want the help, even though you may be questioning whether you should invest. When you do finally decide to say yes, whether it’s in the moment or days, weeks, or months later, you go into it fully ready and committed, because you know it’s the right decision for you. Not because you were pressured to say yes.

Yes, sometimes you have to push clients.

I agree that as a coach or mentor you sometimes do need to push clients beyond their comfort zone. After all, they’ve gotten to where they are by staying within that comfort zone. And, they’ve probably come to you to learn something and do more than they’ve been able to accomplish on their own.

But I don’t think it’s ever OK to use fear or shame to manipulate them into action. Or, to make them feel bad if they’re not ready to take the action you want them to take.

I believe in empowering clients.

I believe my role as a mentor, and someone with experience my clients don’t have, is to teach them the steps I believe are necessary to achieve the goals they’ve set. But it’s up to them to take those steps. I can’t make them take them. And I certainly don’t believe using fear to manipulate them into taking them is the proper thing to do. After all, it’s their life and business. As the saying goes, I can lead them to water, but I can’t make them drink. And I don’t think it’s my job to coerce them into drinking. It may quench their immediate thirst, but in my experience it’s never a good long-term solution. They have to want it badly enough for themselves that they will do whatever it takes to get it. And if they don’t, maybe they need to rethink their goals.

I’m sure there are mentors who would say I’m not truly serving my clients. That I’m enabling them to stay where they are. That I’m not going to get them the same results they might get with a more forceful mentor.

I disagree. But I also realize that’s why there are all kinds of mentors and that I may not be the right fit for every client.

I do understand that mindset issues can hold clients back.

However, I believe it’s better to point that out and help a client work through it, than to use fear or manipulation to force them through it.

It appears these pressure tactics are still being taught and used.

And, because they can make the mentor a lot of money quickly, they can be enticing. Especially for coaches or consultants who are struggling to get clients, and have never been taught to sell. They may believe this is how they have to sell. And when they get big results quickly, it reinforces that belief.

But in my experience, it’s not the way to get the best clients.

Clients who are truly motivated to work with you and do the work that’s required.

As someone who has been selling my own services since 1998, I’d just like to go on record and say it’s not necessary to use these tactics. I’ve been taught these techniques, too, and even tried them out to some degree. And, I’ve learned you don’t have to use fear and manipulation if you’re truly serving people and offering something they want. You can sell with integrity. You can allow people to make their own decision in their own time. And yes, you can still make a very good living that way.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear your perspective on this. Please post a comment and share.


About Debbie

Debbie worked in marketing for 32 years and ran a successful coaching and consulting business for 19. She now teaches marketing and helps people find greater happiness and success by learning how to Follow Inspiration.

6 comments on “Using Fear as a Sales Tactic

  1. Hooray! Finally someone is taking up this particular topic! Thanks again Debbie for being spot on. These soft manipulative tactics have been bothering me for a long time. It seams that whilst everybody agree that the icky car sales-person is bad and outdated, the more soft kind of persuasion that still feels manipulative at least to me, is the new thing that every coach need to know in order to get clients and paid handsomely.

    Greetings from

  2. Yep, yep, yep.
    And God bless all those who use fear tactics ’cause they are racking up large quantities of negative karma they will have to burn off again… ouch.

  3. Pingback: Do You Use Fear as a Sales Tactic? | Affordable Bookkeeping & Payroll

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