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11 Dec 13

3 Ways To Sell When You Can’t Guarantee Results

Let’s say you have a sense of the journey you take clients on, from A to B. You’d love to support more people with that journey, but at the same time you live with a daily niggle of doubt.

Snowy signpost, which way should you turn when you can't guarantee results?What if you’re wrong?

What if you can’t get everyone there?

What if clients get to the end… and want their money back?

Whether you’re new to self-employment and lack real-life client experience, or whether you know that not all of your existing clients make it successfully to their end destination, you feel unable – and unwilling – to promise results.

This leaves you with a marketing challenge. Without that certainty, how do you sell what you do?

If you’re holding back from promoting your work, here’s how to sell without making false promises.

1. State your intention

Rather than making the claim that, “This service will do X”, reframe your communications as “This service has been designed to do X”.

Put that within the context of your Big Why: “I’m passionate about _____, so I’ve created _____”.

Your prospective clients will see you as human: having the best intentions, doing the best job you can do. You’re selling your full commitment to them and your desire to serve them to the best of your ability. Think about the line we’re familiar with on legal documents: “This information is, to the best of my knowledge, true and accurate.”

2. Guarantee what can be guaranteed

At the tender age of 34, I’ve started buying anti-ageing cream; it’s one by Origins and it stood out as a moisturiser because it smelt nice, felt good on my skin and was made from quality, organic ingredients.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t come with a leaflet that guarantees it will take my wrinkles away. I don’t expect it to make that promise. If I don’t like the product, I won’t buy it again – or if I really don’t like it, I’ll take it back to John Lewis for a refund.

But I won’t go knocking on the door of Origins, demanding my money back because my wrinkles are still there. My wrinkles are my responsibility, created by many factors – not least, the natural process of ageing! The cream has been designed with the intention of moving me in the direction of better-hydrated skin, but it can’t control the lines on my face and I don’t expect it to.

Hand on heart guarantee - even if you can't prmise resultsIf you’re in a helping/healing profession, remember examples like this from other industries. You can’t promise results, but neither can they. Guarantee satisfaction, not results.

For your service, state explicitly what you can and cannot guarantee. I offer a wise investment guarantee on both the Passion to Profit and Blog for Clients courses. If a participant gets to the end of one of those courses and is not satisfied they’ve received clear guidance on how to enrol paying clients, or blog effectively, they can ask for their money back. It provides safety for me, as much as for my clients. Nobody walks away unhappy; we’re in it together.

3. Use testimonials.

Let others sell for you. Case studies and testimonials are so powerful because they are the stories of those who have travelled from A to B with your support. You’re not promising the same journey for all; you’re simply sharing, “Here are the facts about what this one person experienced.”

Of course, we know when we look at a sales page we’re only seeing select feedback. I had the idea a while ago about business owners including “negative testimonials” on sales pages: case studies of those who, for whatever reason, haven’t reached the end goal. Have you ever seen anyone do this? And would it strengthen or diminish your faith in a service professional?

Over to you

Have you held back from promoting your work because you can’t guarantee results? Do you have any tips to add to these three? I’d love to hear from you so leave a comment below.

Haven’t yet identified the A-to-B?

If you’re not yet sure what journey you take clients on, you’re missing out on a core piece of the marketing puzzle. It’s time to make your marketing easier; get stuck in to Passion to Profit – available here as an instant-access home study course.


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© Corrina Gordon-Barnes

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  1. Susan Quilliam

    Wise words as always, Corrina. As a relationship coach, my way forward has been around setting a clear and agreed framework and checking satisfaction regularly.

    – offer a free trial phone or face to face session so that both the client and I can tell whether we can work together; in the very few instances if we can’t or if results seem unlikely, I refer on.

    – build into a contract which we both sign before beginning paid work, the promise “We agree that though I cannot guarantee a result, I will use the best of my expertise and experience to help you reach resolution on the issues we have discussed in prior emails or phone calls.”

    – check at the end of every session what progress the client (and I) considers we have made, so that any doubts can be resolved and redirection actioned.

    Love as always


    1. Corrina

      How perfect, Susan, that you’re a relationship coach! Because your policies and approach show your commitment to being in relationship and in clear/honest communication throughout.

  2. Ann-Sofi

    Thankyou for another head-on-nail article, Corrina!

    I defenitely recognize this feeling. As a coach, I know from experience I have helped many people. Still, everyone is different, so of course I cannot guarantee that my approach will work for everybody.

    I think this is also a reason why many people resist to pay for this kind of services. If you buy a TV, you know what you get – and if it’s not working, you know you have the right to complain. But if you invest the same amount of money in for excample coaching, and you’re NOT satisfied with the result, who do you blame? Was it the coach who couldn’t do the job properly? Or was it you who couldn’t use what the coach was giving?

    What I’m trying to remind myself is this: For every person there is a key that will solve the problem. Unfortunately the only way to find out wich key is to try. sometimes we’re lucky and it’s the first key we try that does the trick, sometimes it’s the last key that opens the door. so if I do my best and cannot help my client, i will still have helped them – by finding out this was not the key for them.

    But i will use your thoughts to do some changes on my sales page!

    1. Corrina

      Ann-Sofi – Nicely put.

      With my 1-1 coaching contract, I offered a wise investment guarantee. Specifically it stated:

      If, at the end of our first month together, you’ve attended all scheduled coaching sessions and taken action on the steps you committed to, and you’re not completely satisfied, then I will give you a 100% refund. Why? Because you’re making an investment in yourself and your business and I want you to know how committed I am to your success. I want you to feel solid and confident that you’re investing your time, money and energy wisely.

  3. Linda Anderson

    Great article, as ever, Corrina!

    ‘What if they don’t get results/what if I don’t deliver’ is such a biggie for heart-centred business owners, especially at the beginning of their journey.

    I love the clarity around your guarantee – that we’re guaranteeing satisfaction as opposed to results.

    If I claim responsibility when clients don’t get their desired results (or don’t get the results I think they should get), I must also claim responsibility for their successes, which would be totally disempowering (as well as impossible).

    If I engage a personal trainer and don’t reach the level of fitness I’m aiming for, I know it’s not the trainer’s fault. I’ve had all the benefits of their expertise, knowledge and encouragement, but they can’t do the push-ups for me 🙂

    1. Corrina

      Linda – A tap-worthy topic, huh? 🙂

      1. Linda

        Oh yes, most definitely a tap-worthy topic 🙂

  4. Jessica Penrose

    This has come at a perfect time for me Corrina – thank you! It’s exactly what I’ve been scratching my head about. I’m in the process of trying to launch an energy work/healing/reconnecting to yourself service (you can see the trouble I’m having…). It’s very difficult to put into words what the journey is because it is so very different for each person who takes part – but I’m beginning to see that the notion of “taking part” rather than being a passive receiver of it may be part of the key to how I can market it. Just as we’re all responsible for our own wrinkles and can’t expect anyone to wave a magic wand, stepping on to any kind of healing journey involves a willingness, conscious or otherwise, to co-create whatever outcome arises.

    I am collecting testimonials, and talking to friends and “co-creators” about how to describe it and get the message out there – so all tips and ideas and encouragement are most welcome!

    Thank you.

    1. Corrina

      Great to see you here, Jess! I imagine others will have some great tips and ideas…

  5. Karen J

    …including “negative testimonials” on sales pages: case studies of those who, for whatever reason, haven’t reached the end goal….”

    ^^^That^^^ is an interesting thought, Corrina!

    I’m not sure if I’ve really seen that done or not – maybe “I’m not there yet…” comments, but couched in gentle phrases – not like “X is a b****, and I can’t see *anybody* enjoying working with her” – more of a “Y has helped me recognize that my path is not her path – although we’ve parted ways, I enjoyed the journey together…” ?

    1. Corrina

      Karen – Yes, that’s where I’m thinking. Increasingly, I’ll have a “Who this product is NOT for” section for each course or event I’m offering. And I wonder about actually including testimonials in there, as with the “Who this product IS for” section.

      1. Karen J

        Love that^^^ idea, Corrina!
        I’ve noticed your “Who it’s not for” section, and it really helps me make the “To buy or not to buy?” decision. .

  6. claire

    oooooh, top post. The work I do is totally non-guaranteeable (seeing as it’s all about nutrition)- and I really struggle with what to say about it. This has given me some really solid ideas – thankyou!

  7. Julia Barnickle

    These are really useful tips, Corrina – thank you! I work with introvert business owners, and one of the main challenges is how to promote services authentically, rather than “bigging them up” – and all three of your suggestions would definitely work. I particularly like the idea of using testimonials, so you actually get your clients to sell you, rather than having to sell yourself!

  8. oeda

    This is exactly what I have been struggling with Corrina. Making big promises….It can be very scary to do and very off putting when other people do it. This gives me some very good ways to get around that. This way I can be myself and still sell my product.
    Thank you for the tips! x

  9. Janet Winter

    Thanks Corrina for this great reminder of an important topic we covered in the P2P course. Helps to hammer it home, I was really struggling with it as I cannot guarantee results.

  10. Mahal Hudson

    I appreciate your simple, clear and direct information. It’s a helpful tool so thank you for writing this. I was most intrigued with what you indicated about Testimonials. I had the same thought for a awhile now since I created the concept for The Avant-garde Company. As for me, I also believe that honesty and sincerity are critical elements in any relationship particularly in human services. Have you encountered a website or a businesss that used a “not so good” testimonial and and in turn successfully drove clients too?

  11. Emma Swan

    Thanks for this post Corrina, this is so relevant to me and the deep inner work I do with people. So much of their success depends on how ready/open/receptive they are!

    Your tips about clearly stating my intention and what I can guarantee they’ll be satisfied with has really helped. I’m going to state clearly on my website now what can and cannot be expected, and I think this will relieve a lot of the anxiety I feel.

    Thank you

  12. Laura

    I’d love to see a followup post discussing how to gracefully handle your relationship with a client who isn’t seeing the results you both were hoping for. I am slowly coming to terms with my clients’ success not being entirely in my control, but when I do have a client who is struggling to implement what I teach or a client who I am struggling to help in their particular situation, I don’t really know how to navigate the relationship. Do I help them as best I can until our contract ends? Do I admit to them that things aren’t going well and terminate the relationship? If we end our work together, do I give them a full refund or do I still get paid for the work I did put in? Etc etc.

    1. Karen J

      Laura ~ I see at least 2 “third options” here: Offer a pro-rated refund, if there was a contracted time-frame, paid for in advance. If it’s pay-as-you-go, you keep what they’ve already paid (you did do the work you said you would!), and don’t bill for any more time that they’re not going to use.
      A pro-rata calculation doesn’t have to be 1 to 1, either. You could offer some smaller percent refund than the time/sessions remaining, to help offset your non-billable prep-work and overhead. (Although that ought to be factored into your rates to begin with…)


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