Pain, Fear, and Hope: Inside the World of High Ticket Selling
Updated: Jan 5
“If we invite you into this program, will you be 100% committed, decisive, and open to feedback?” At this point in the conversation, I’d been chatting with the person on the other end for over an hour. Whether they just wanted to move the conversation along or they truly believed their response, people would answer an enthusiastic “yes” to all three qualifiers. “Great. The normal cost of the program is just $15,000. But, as a reward for your commitment, we want to offer you a special deal. If you enroll today on the phone, we can drop that price down to two payments of $5,000. One today and one within 30 days. Or, if you’re like most people and just want to slap it on a Visa all at once, we’ll take off another $1,000 and it is just one payment of 9. So, which would you like to do today? Two of five or one of nine?”
From December 2017 - February 2018, I entered the strange and successfully delusional world of high ticket selling.
It was a culture unlike anything I had ever experienced and has had a lasting effect on me—for better and for worse. It was borderline “cultish” and to be perfectly honest with you, I still can’t decide whether or not I loved it or hated it. Hopefully, by the end of this article, I’ll have made up my mind. What is high ticket selling? High ticket sales, in my experience, involves selling items at a higher price point than you’d normally find for a typical online product or course. For an item to be considered “high ticket,” it’s presumably anything over $1,000 (or, as you’ve probably seen, $997). The online course I was working for, however, was a bit more expensive: Between $9,000-$15,000 depending on when the customer wanted to pay. For this price, the customers would get an 8-week course, a few hours with a consultant, and help filling out forms/writing essays for scholarships in a specific program they were applying to. Note: I won’t be mentioning exactly what I was selling or the name of the company for a few reasons. Mostly, it’s because I am still undecided whether or not they actually did anything wrong. Now, if you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking, “That sounds like a lot of money for not much product.” And I’d have to agree with you. Sort of.
Because some clients ended up getting scholarships for tens of thousands of dollars, almost immediately seeing a 500-1000% return on investment; others, though, pulled out $10,000 of debt to get a whopping nothing back. And they did so without even realizing they barely had a choice in the matter—that is, if I was doing my job well.
More on that later.
First, let’s talk about how this whole high ticket selling structure works. Because it does work. The setup
There was a surprisingly simple formula for creating a successful high ticket program. 1) Create an online course: Don’t overthink this. Record 8-12 hours of content (using something like Google Slides or PowerPoint). The quality of production could be surprisingly low so don’t get hung up on it.
2) Record an evergreen webinar that touches on people’s pain points and shows how your program will heal them.
3) Spend tons of money on Facebook ads to drive people to your webinar.
4) Make potential customers (who have watched the webinar) sign-up for a 60-90 minute phone call with a “Coach” (i.e. Me.) 5) Have the customer fill out a pre-questionnaire before jumping on the call. 6) Complete the 90-minute call and sign up for the program. 7) Build a private Facebook group to engage with and maintain clients. 8) Rinse and repeat. There was even a company that got this formula down so well they would coach people to do it. In fact, it’s how my boss had gotten started with the process in the first place. She’d seen their Facebook ads, gone through their webinar, taken their pre-questionnaire, talked to one of their “coaches,” and forked over her own $10,000. Then her business went into overdrive. Her “coaches” worked 100% on commission and she had a staff of consultants to help her clients. She was able to hire a marketer and a full-time personal assistant. Despite a confidence that tended to overflow into arrogance, I actually liked her. On some level, if I’m honest with myself, she scared the living shit out of me—but as I said, I did like her.
She acted quickly, made decisions with confidence, and strode ahead without looking back almost robotically. Hell, I was hired on the spot in my first interview. To be fair, it was low-risk on her end because I’d be working for commission, but when I got a look behind the curtain, it was clear she wouldn’t hire everyone on that basis alone. She had to see some potential. Apparently, she saw that in me. What did I do? My role as a “Coach” was to take those 90-minute phone calls with potential customers and get them to enroll in the program. I was working from a script from which I wasn’t allowed to deviate until the very end when it was time to handle inevitable objections.
But even those were 85% scripted. The company that was coaching my boss had developed—or stole, depending on who you ask—all the materials for this process including the webinar and sales copy. To their credit, the writing for these scripts is unbelievably powerful and worked so long as the “Coach” (again, me) could get you in touch with three emotions: Pain. Fear. Hope.
Pain from where you’ve been. Fear that you’ll never get out. Hope that you’ve finally found the answer. Now, again, I know what you’re thinking, “This cheesy sales stuff would never work on me.”
But you’d be wrong.
Everyone has some problem in their life that is currently hurting them. Through the sales funnel created by this company, by the time you get to a phone call with the “Coach,” they already know what that problem is and how to get you to commit to the solution. In the 3 months that I was there, I enrolled 10 people in the program I was selling. That means that 10 complete strangers spoke with me for 60-90 minutes and, at the end of the call, gave me $10,000. In some cases, they actually had to get on the phone with their bank and pull out an extra card just to make this happen.
They did so because once we got off the call, the price jumped to $15,000. It seemed a bit extortive to me even in the beginning, but what did I know? After all, the program could get them out of more debt in the future. If you’re following the math, 10 people equals $100,000 for the company, $50,000 of which went directly to my boss’ pocket. That’s $50,000 from one person on a team of four during the slow season.
Like I said, sometimes these high ticket programs really deliver. For my boss, her $10,000 investment to learn how to run a high ticket company certainly did. I had done so well in my first month my boss enrolled me in the sales program that taught her everything she knew (costing her another $10,000 for which I’m still grateful).
I learned so much, but this was clearly the beginning of the end for me. High ticket sales training: The cultish aspect The sales coaching program that I took was unique. There was about 45 minutes of content per week to watch and re-watch when necessary, but nothing like you’d expect for the price tag. It was a simple PowerPoint slide with some narration over it. The key was the presenter, not the presentation. The person narrating was confident, charismatic, and clearly very rich. He had loads of energy and an answer for everything. By all outward appearances, life just seemed to go his way. Who knows… maybe it really does. Regardless, people were naturally drawn to him which compensated for the low production quality of the training courses. Then once a week we had live trainings in groups of 20-30. These were done on Zoom, super low-tech, and you could ask questions and get answers directly from the master himself.
The biggest part of this program was working on our “mindset.” If you’ve ever read a self-help book, you’ve probably heard about “mindset.” The idea is that you can control your life and your success simply by focusing on your attitude. To some extent, I found this really appealing. Wake up earlier. Meditate. Look for reasons to be happy. Be grateful. Exercise. Love your family.
All that “Tony Robbins” stuff that is actually pretty good advice. The problem is when it starts to go too far. The extreme form of this belief—which was needed to be a “Coach”—is that if your mindset is right, nothing in life will go wrong. The universe will take care of you if your mindset is genuinely grateful and open. So, for example, when we changed our marketing strategy to run Facebook ads in impoverished areas of Africa (where people took the call in public cafes because they couldn’t afford wifi), the team’s sales suffered because of our “mindset.” We must have been attracting negative responses with our negative, skeptical attitudes. Yeah. Right. The other half of the sales course was focused on “Objection Handling.” Getting from “No” to “Yes, Please” After the “Coach” would tell their potential client the cost of the program, most people would have some objections. Here were a few of the usual culprits: 1) Mmm… I need to think about that.
2) That’s more than I expected to pay.
3) I can’t afford it.
4) I have to speak with my partner before investing.
5) I just don’t see the value for what I’m paying.
And here were some of the responses we were trained in the sales program to give to each: 1) Can you tell me what you need to think about? (This would funnel them into another objection with a more concrete answer). 2) May I ask what you had expected the cost would be? (Again, this would naturally funnel them to one of the other objections with a concrete answer). 3) What will you do when it comes time to pay for the program you’re applying to (the one our company helps them find scholarships for)? If this program helps you find the money to cover all those costs, can you really afford not to pay? 4) What do you think your partner would say? Are they typically supportive of you working for your future? Do you think your partner would want you to miss out on saving $6,000 by applying today?
I would just hate to see you miss out on the savings because you were worried that your partner wouldn’t be on board with you making this step for yourself. 5) When you go to the doctor, you aren’t paying for time on the table, you’re paying for the result. If our program can get you the results, would you really prefer having more tedious steps and homework to do? Then, when all else failed, we had our “Hail Mary” response: Look, I’m not here to sell you anything. My role is to make sure our clients who join the program are going to be a good fit. If it’s not you, I know I’ll find 10-15 others this month who are ready to take control of their lives. It’s no sweat off my back. But, I do think that you’re a good fit which is why I extended the offer. Our conversation led me to believe you would be 100% committed to fixing this problem. So let me ask, are you 100% committed to fixing it? Then will it be Visa or Mastercard? Yeah… this is where I can feel most reasonable people cringing. But it’s also why I left the company with such mixed feelings. Something about those responses seemed aggressive and manipulative—especially since I was just talking to someone about their pain for 60 minutes and got them in an emotional state. On the other hand, none of these responses were untrue. Some people do need to address their pain to invest in the solution and sometimes paying more money is the only way to get people to commit to sticking with a program. People don’t pay for a process or for the quality of production because they do pay for a specific result. If someone calls me and they’re in pain about their current situation, how dare I, as the “Coach,” take away their opportunity to fix it because I think they’re too “weak” or “poor.” When I brought ethical questions up with the training group, the above were the responses I typically got. And logically, I actually totally agree.
Still, looking back, there’s something about this entire process that just feels… off.
I can’t describe it and it’s not much fun to think about, but it was always a bittersweet moment when the person I was talking to read me their credit card information. Not because the program I was working with was a sham (it got great results for many people), but probably because it was a gamble and I simply wasn’t allowed to be honest about the odds. At the end of the day, or at least the end of this article, I’m still left feeling unsure about the entire thing. Was I another creepy, greasy-haired used Ford salesmen, or did I genuinely get people to take a bold step and improve their lives? I guess it really does come down to what my sales coach always said: It all depends on your mindset.