630-484-2336 ben@bedo.org

Yep, I’m a fan of scotch.  I enjoy it.  However, little did I know that this golden nectar would not only serve me in building my bar, but also building my coaching business.

Here, let me clarify.

(And I’ll include some comments of insight and learning along the way.)


About once a year I go to the store to purchase a really nice bottle.  In fact, it’s one that I’ve spent all year saving up for.  Granted, I usually go for something around $60, but that’s where all my spare change goes.  After a whole year has passed emptying my pockets, I’ve accumulated enough to give myself a wonderful treat.  (the single / struggling actor / temp employee still freaks out at any purchase of this type over $20). 

(I’m sure you can already recognize the old limiting belief about money and identity showing up.  I know you have your versions, too—heck, it seems like we all do in some form or another—so I don’t feel so awkward sharing this with you.  Besides, even if you don’t have any, there are the ones your potential clients are still running.)


Here’s what happens.  When I walk into the store on my own accord, my intellectual and rational side takes over.  “Let’s see, I have about $60-ish to spend.  Well, just to be safe, it might be a little less, so I’ll go down and look at the $50 bottles.  And in fact, there’s also the tax which will likely pop it over my budget anyway.  So to be even safer, I’ll look at the bottles in the $40 range. 

(Can you see how this intellectually rational and reasonable approach is already lowering the value of my purchase?  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but remember, I’ve been thinking all year about a $60 bottle and immediately talked myself down to 2/3 of the amount.)

(Again, does this sound or feel familiar?  Of course there’s nothing wrong with going for a $40 bottle.  But notice how it becomes an automatic default.)


Now, as it turns out our local liquor store has a tasting event, and it just so happens to be around my birthday.  Actually, it’s before my birthday, so I go to this event without this extra money in my pocket.  But that’s ok, because I’m not planning to buy anything.  (My wife wants to get some wine.  I’ll get some Scotch some other time.)

And they have a table specifically offering Scotch tasting.  (My first downfall.)

But that’s ok, because I’m not here to spend any money, remember?  I’m being sensible.  However, there’s nothing that says I can’t have a few free delicious sips. 

So up to the table I saunter.

(I should point out that if I really wasn’t interested, really and truly out of the market, I wouldn’t even approach the table.  But perhaps… perhaps there’s a possibility.  At the very least I can get some free tastings.  Again, do you see your prospects doing that?  They perhaps don’t really have a compelling reason to “buy” your coaching, but they’re still interested in coming to your “table” to see what you have.  And at the very least, get a few free “tastes” out of it.  The very fact that they are having that sample/consultation call with you tells you that they are actually interested.)

“Hi there,” says the tasting guy.  Very friendly and welcoming, of course.

“Hi,” I reply, nonchalantly, to let him know that I’m not a serious buyer, but still expressing that “But I just might be interested” vibe so I can get some tastes.

“Would you like to try some Scotch?” he says.  (What a sucker, I think to myself. Little does he know I have a cunning plan.)

(As do all our prospects.  It’s called, “How to get as much of something for nothing.”  They do it, I do it, and I know you do it, too.  It’s part of our natural human design.  We call it browsing, or just checking it out, but if someone is interested in giving us something for free, of course we would be happy to oblige and receive it.)


I smile and say yes and hold out my tasting glass.  But instead of just pouring anything (after all, there are a few different options available) he first asks me, “So what kind of Scotch do you like?”

(What a wonderful turnaround.  You see?  By knowing what kind of Scotch I prefer, he’s in a better position to give me something that I like.  Or if he’s going to offer something different, he’ll be more able to speak my language and compare and contrast to what I’m used to.  The coaching version is when we ask them specifically what they are working on, their goals, their issues that they are tolerating.  In other words, just like Mr. Scotch who is focusing the tasting to what I am actually interested in, we do the same for our prospects.)


“Well, I enjoy them all, really.  Depends on the mood.”  (Excellent, I praise myself.  Keep it non-committal.  Don’t give him anything to “sell” you on.)

(It’s a common strategy to be evasive and vague.  After all, the more specific information you give a salesman, the more he’ll use it.  So in order to stay clear of any sales, we just keep everything as neutral as possible.  When your clients keep it vague, it’s really just that other part of them that wants to keep control of the situation.)


“All right.  Well, have you tried any of these before?” he continues calmly, clearly not shaken by my astute indifference.

(You see, he’s not trying to sell me anything.  He just wants to know what I like so that my tasting time isn’t wasted.  It also helps him discover and determine if I’m someone that he wants to spend more time with.  After all, if I’m not really interested, just wandering around, I might purchase the low end bottle, or not.  But it’s the people that are truly lovers of Scotch that he wants to spent time with, get to know and help out.  He won’t turn me away—business is business and a sell is a sell—but if there’s someone else at the table who is clearly a lover, then he’s going to give more attention to that person.  Just like with our prospects—never turn anyone away, but the consultation is not just about you helping them decide if they want to buy, it’s also about you deciding if you want to devote that time.  How many times have you had a long “give everything away” complementary coaching session, only to find out they weren’t going to buy in the first place?)


(And while we’re at it, let’s look at the overall setup on this. I’m at the table.  There are teeny little mini-glasses, and he’s pouring little samples of his bottles.  He’s not going to give me a full bottle—I have to pay for that.  He’s not even going to give me a full glass or even a shot.  It’s literally about a teaspoon taste.  Just enough for me to get the flavors, to have a clear sample of what the rest of the bottle will be like.  And he’ll happily give me a teeny teaspoon taste of all 10 bottles he has on display.  It takes him just a few moments and he’s really not lost any product or time.  But he’s keeping me in the experience.  Now, I don’t mean that the coaching version is to give your client 10 sessions that are 2 minutes each.  Not at all.  But that you limit your sample session to a teaspoon-like taste of what’s to come.  Enough so they have a really good idea of how wonderful a “full bottle” of your coaching will be like.

Now we’re getting down to business.  I have a chance to show him that I’m not just some uninformed scotch novice.  I know a thing or two.  “Yeah,” I reply.  And proceed to tell him I actually have one of his bottles already—the 15 year old of the series, and also the middle one.

“Well, here, let’s give you a taste of the 12 year one so you can taste the difference.”

I admit that’s nice as he shares his description of the flavors and add in my own identifications.  It’s good, but not quite as good as my 15-year-old.

(All he’s doing is connecting with me.  We’re sharing a language.  He’s learned more about me and what I like And by offering other tastes, he’s giving me a comparison of the lesser quality to help me feel good about my previous purchase.  Not a bad approach.
The coaching version is looking at what it might be like if they get a lesser quality type of help, or no help at all.)


“Now let’s move to the next one, which is the one you have.” Ha, ha.  I laugh to myself.  He’s giving me something I already have.  This is so easy.  Of course, I enjoy it, offering my own insights and experiences and appreciation, playing it smooth, working myself up to the bigger prize.

(And the whole time, we’re deepening our connection of rapport and trust.  He’s interested in my thoughts about it, sharing his own without coming off as some big know-it-all.  But rather offering me some good bits of information.
The coaching version is how we highlight what is currently working for the client.  What are their successes?  You don’t always have to go for the pain.  Sometimes you can go for the power of the client.  They are likely not living their best.) 


When he offers me a taste of the 18-year-old, although it feels like a triumph on my part—a subtle manipulation to get some of the good stuff for free—it’s of course his job, and he knows that there’s no way I won’t buy a bottle if I don’t try it.

(I suppose the comparison would be the difference between people coming across your website and how much they’re compelled and interested in buying, vs. you directly engaging with them to find out their interests, needs, issues and other important factors, so that you can help them find that perfect “bottle” that they may not have considered before.)


Remember, if I just walk into the store on my own, I’ve already regulated myself to safely only get a $40 bottle, and that’s if I don’t talk myself out of it because I’m being really practical and money is tight and even though this is “extra” money that I’ve saved up for this occasion, I sure could put it to a more reasonable use.

(Can you see how that old mode just keeps wanting to take over?  If left to our intellect, we’ll most often rationalize ourselves out of just about anything, even if it’s something that we want, even if it “makes sense.  Because it’ll make more sense to play it safe.)


But when I raise the 18-year-old to my mouth, and I take a taste, the experience overrides (at least for the moment) the intellectual urge.  First off, I notice immediately that the taste is quite different than my 15-year old bottle—complex, sweet, with several layers of flavors, including a little influence of Sherry.  Wow, is that delicious.  I think I even drooled a little.  But the intellectual comes quickly back to remind me that I already know it’s out of my price range.  And besides, I don’t need to have a bottle of that class and price.  In fact, who am I spending that kind of money on a bottle of Scotch?  I’ve never spent anything more than $50 (and that was last year when I bought the 15-year bottle.) 

(The rational, play-it-safe mind just keeps wanting to come back in, doesn’t it?  Notice, he needs to be great at what he does, and it’s a great product, but even still, I can easily allow myself to walk away.  And then I can look back at how I passed up such a great opportunity.  Sound familiar?)


However knowing this is already way out of my range, I can safely ask the big question, “How much” and know that I’m not going to buy, no matter what it is.  So I do.

“Well, this is going for $120 a bottle.”  He replies.

Yeah, I expected something like that.  So the sticker shock doesn’t freak me out.  And it’s ok.  Because I’ve already predetermined that I’m not going to buy it.  After all, that’s twice as much as I was budgeting (and really three times more than I was going really allow myself to responsibly purchase, and $120 more then I think I deserve to spend on myself.)

I thank him for the experience and acknowledge just how wonderful it is.  (But as an experienced “potential customer” I know how to play this game a little further.  It’s not quite over yet, and here is where I turn it on and work him just a little bit more.)

(Remember, our prospective clients still want to get as much as they can without paying.  See if you can spot the tactics they employ.)


Instead of leaving, I stick around and join in on the conversations he’s having with other customers, sharing my own enthusiasm and joy of the tasting, and even showing off a little of my own Scotch knowledge when he’s talking with someone else.  You know, helping the guy out.  I don’t want to sabotage his sales.  In fact, I want him to succeed with other people. 

“Have you tried the 18?”  I engage.  I take his lead, “First try the 15 and then try the 18.  You can really taste the difference.”  And I even pass along some of the stats and information he just gave me about the flavor palate and the process and all that stuff.   (If he likes me and sees me helping him with others—I secretly hope—perhaps he’ll give me a little more to taste.  Heck—my clever mind conceives—maybe even a bigger discount, or he’ll happily give me the rest of his open bottle.  After all, what’s he going to do with it?  Man, am I twisted.)

And sure enough my devious plan of camaraderie works and he offers me another taste of the 18.  (Score!)

But before I partake, I work it just a little more, just to see how much more free stuff I can get out of this.  “Actually, could I taste the 15 again, just to compare the difference?” 

(Yes, you spotted it.  It’s the old, “Hm, I just need to try this one more time before I make a decision,” play again.  This shows up in the coaching world like, “Well, let me ask you this…” or “How would you handle this problem?” or something that draws out a little extra bit of coaching or advice.  Remember: Get as much as you can for as little as possible.)


Of course, he’s only too glad to give me not one, but two more tastes.  After all these are small amounts—teeny teaspoon tastes—and that’s what he’s here for.  Besides, what’s he going to do, say no and chase me away?  But even so, my “customer” mind feels like I’m winning.  But I’m still not buying.  I remember all too well that intellectually this purchase doesn’t make sense.  It’s not in my budget.  I don’t need it.  And besides, who am I to go around buying $120 dollar bottles of Scotch?  That’s a bit outrageous.  (In fact, one might even say I don’t deserve that kind of bottle.)

(Can you see how, even at this stage, my decisions are still being ruled intellectually and rationally?  Our prospective clients operate the same way.  Even when they’re emotionally engaged, even when we’re working together.)


But, I ponder, that 18 sure is delicious.  That second taste had me appreciate it even more.  Of course it’s not anywhere near a full glass worth, but enough for me to really get the depth and levels of flavor.  In fact, I can even imagine what it would be like, just sitting on my back deck on a sweet spring evening, just sipping a glass. 

 “Well,” he says.  If you’re interested, there’s a special discount for the tasting.  If you buy it today and it’s only $100.

(This approach tries to appeal to my intellectual and rational sense.  If it’s about the money, then perhaps a discount will make it more attractive.  But there’s another thing going on here—a sense of urgency.  If I walk out that door and then come back later and get it, I spent $20 more than I needed to.)


Ha, my intellectual prowess asserts, your “discount” ploy won’t work

(But it is something to keep in mind when I’m making my final decision.)


The reality of the situation still remains—discount or no discount.  This bottle is still out of my budget.  This purchase still doesn’t make sense.  And I still am not the kind of person that goes around dropping even a discounted $100 on a single bottle.  There is no reason that I should buy this—now or later.

But I’m not going to walk away from something that’s free.  So clever me, I step once again into that, “Hm, let me think about it” stage, indicating that perhaps one more taste would convince me.

And then I made my fatal mistake.  If I had just walked away it would be clean and done.

My wife came over.

The other thing to bear in mind is if I truly wasn’t interested, I would simply walk away.  But instead, this time, I said to her, “Hey honey, taste this,” and handed her the glass. 

(Like I didn’t know she was going to love it.)


She sipped, and swooned, and smiled.  (Of course she did.)

She said, “Well, of course you’re going to get this.”

But before she could go any further I put the kybosh on that plan.  “Oh no.  It’s way out of my budget.”

“But Ben,” she continued, clearly not hearing or accepting my rational reasoning, “You’ve saved up all year for this.”

Good try, wife, but I’m ready for you.  “True, but this is much more than what I’ve got.”  Ha, ha.  Take that.

“All right.  So how much do you have to spend?”

(All right.  If she wants to do this intellectual dance, I’m ready for it.  I’ve got all the facts and data on my side.)


“About $60.”

“And how much is this stuff?”

“Well, it’s $120 normally, but today it’s down to $100”

“So since you already have the $60, it’s really like you’re only spending $40.”  Wow.  She’s good.  But then again, she’s a skilled shopper, already ready to alter the pricing perspective to make the purchase acceptable, (“Sure it was a $200 blouse, but it was on sale for 50% off, so really I’m saving $100”.)

And it’s a great argument she’s posing, but I’m still not going to bite.  “Yeah, but that’s still way out of my range.  I mean it still comes to $100 any way you look at it.”  (After all, I don’t usually buy in to her argument of saving money on the blouse.  She may have saved $100 from that rationalization, but she’s still spending $100.)

“But how wonderful will it be sipping this drink on our back deck?”  (Good try, but still not going to work sister, I already went that route.)

(Can you see?  She’s changing her tactic.  Now she’s going for an emotional approach.)


“Sure it would be nice, but I’ve got plenty of wonderful Scotches already to sip. I don’t need another, really, especially one that’s $100.”

“Ben,” Uh, oh.  I can tell from her shifting tone of voice, she’s going in for the kill.  (Stay strong, stay strong.)  “You’re Uncle Joe just passed away.  What would he say if he were here.”

Not fair.  That’s going below the belt.  But her words still take root.  I picture him smiling, enjoying a good drink here and there, and immediately recall the wonderful blessing of a trip that I took with him, my dad and other uncle, touring the countrysides of Ireland and Scotland, stopping in pubs after a long day of sightseeing to enjoy a fresh pint of beer or a delicious glass of whiskey.

And there was a time nearing the end of the trip when we were getting concerned and a little frugal about money.  And then I remember him, “When is this going to happen again?  Here we are, in Scotland, drinking wonderful Scotch.  We may never get another chance like this.” And I remember the wonderful feeling of flagging the tavernkeeper over to get that one final glass of “The good stuff”, raising that glass with my father and uncles and drinking to our time traveling together.

(I’m not sharing anything new when I say that we often purchase from pain.  But there’s not a lot of pain when it comes to buying a $100 bottle of Scotch.  I don’t have a desperation or panic, my life will be just fine without it.  This isn’t about fixing or solving any dramatic and overwhelming problem in my life.  In truth, it’s the pain that would invariably have me pull back and NOT make the purchase.  Because this is entirely about pleasure.  That’s what made the decision for me.  Thinking about that wonderful adventure I had, travelling with my father and uncles—it was a coming of age time, it was a coming together time, it was a celebration of our family history, and creating new memories.  And the buying moment quickly transformed into a “how can I create this wonderful feeling again?”)


But here comes the kicker.  Because literally just a month prior, my Uncle Joe passed away.  He was such a marvelous man, who directly and indirectly taught us nephews how to enjoy life.  He would make amazing dinners with anything he could find in the fridge and call it “Uncle Joe’s Surprise”, he loved playing music and always encouraged us to sing along, he always made sure to have fun wherever he was.  And in fact, it was he who travelled on his own—backpacking through Ireland—to find our ancestors.  

And it was then that my wife played the Ace.  “Ben,” she said, her eyes honest, her voice full of sweet love (with an obvious tone of “I’m just about to win this game”) “What would your Uncle Joe say?

Without another word I turn, grab a bottle and go straight to the register.


Even though quite a few years have passed, I still sometimes get a little freaked out about the price tag, but even that freak out feels different. 

Now, I have a bottle of $100 Scotch.

Now, I’m one of those guys that purchases $100 bottles of Scotch.  (Perhaps not all the time, mind you, but I can no longer say I’m not one.)

Now, I have something I’m proud to share with others.

And now, every time I take a drink, look at the bottle, and even think about it, my Uncle Joe’s smile appears in my heart and mind.  And I smile.

I’m glad I did it.


But I wouldn’t have done it if I had been left to make the choice rationally, reasonably and intellectually.

It was my emotions that made the purchase. Positive, powerful, and possibility.

In other words, it’s not about the money.

It’s about the meaning. The memories. The magic.

FOOTNOTE #1: It was some months later, in the spring, that we had the burial of the urn. We all gathered at the cemetery, passed along our poignant memories, sang his songs, and celebrated him in the best way we could. And as we made one last stop at the hole, I paused, knelt down and pulled out a flask that I had filled with that very same 18-year-old Scotch and gave him a sip.

Well, perhaps a little more than a teaspoon taste. After all, he helped me buy it.

Because, he’s right. When are we every going to be here again, doing whatever it is that we’re doing? And we may never get another chance like this.

(I’m not necessarily talking about “living your life to the fullest” and all that wonderful stuff. I’m talking about how you can hold your clients. Again, not forcing them, not guilting them. But helping them if they are just willing to take a teeny taste. Connecting with them, engaging with them, learning their language, history, experience. Get to know what they want, and what they don’t want. Help them see what’s possible.

Some may walk away from the table. And that’s ok.

But others are going to buy your “bottle”. And they’re going to savor it. And enjoy the rich, wonderful, multi-layered flavor of your coaching for many years to come.

And they’re going to have an amazing story about how they almost didn’t. But they’re so glad now they did.)

FOOTNOTE #2: Actually, my Uncle Joe had passed back just before Halloween, and some years back. But his birthday had just happened a few days ago, so this seemed to be a wonderful way to celebrate him. And now it looks like I’ll have to go and get another bottle.