Updated: Jun 13, 2019
Do you have a problem selling your coaching services? Do you worry because you’re not collecting enough leads for consultations? Does becoming a successful entrepreneur seem to linger just beyond your grasp? And do you get fed up with hearing every Tom Dick and Harry on social media telling you how to become prosperous, how to create customers, how to be motivated and how to live the life you want? If you’ve answered ‘Yes!’ to any of these questions, then this article may be for you—not because it will necessarily offer a solution to any problems you may have, but because it may strengthen faith in yourself and give you courage to continue down the path you have chosen.
I have been in the process of establishing myself as a coach for some time now. I’m a very good coach, on this score I have no doubt, but I have been really giving myself a tough time for not being more effective at building a client base. My own coach (Yes! I have one!) keeps advising me on sales strategies and what I could be doing differently to get more clients. He’s a good man and good coach and he is absolutely right in everything he says. So why, then, do I find it so difficult to enter into the spirit of the entrepreneur revolution.
My professional background is in the performing arts. I have spent five decades working in the ballet world, as a dancer, teacher and artistic director. This is the environment where I learned about professionalism, excellence and the courage to live the life you chose. Deciding to pursue a career in dance takes guts, passion and resilience. To become a top-flight ballet dancer demands about ten years of daily training, after which the chances of having a significant and successful career as a well-known dancer are minimal at the best of times and the potential for financial success is virtually non-existent for the vast majority of professional dancers. Yet around the world there are thousands of them who turn up day in, day out to produce excellence on a daily basis. They are on the whole underpaid and over-worked; but they ceaselessly and passionately go through their daily practice for no other reason than that it will uphold standards.
So, with my background firmly rooted in the arts, and my professional values shaped by spending thousands of hours in a rehearsal room practising and refining my skill, I find it difficult to come to terms with the overabundance of self-proclaimed success experts I come across on social media. Many of these on-line purveyors of “failsafe” sales systems, in my view the modern equivalent of the proverbial snake oil salesman, deliver their messages in formulaic short marketing videos of little substance. I don’t wish to cast aspersions on those who want to be successful, make money and live a comfortable life. Far from it, we should celebrate the Internet revolution and rejoice because of what it has made possible, and video marketing is set to dominate the media in the next two to three years at least. There is no getting away from this so if you want to keep up with the Joneses you just have to join in. The flip side is the proliferation of mediocrity. In the olden days being a snake oil salesman was a highly skilled profession. Nowadays anyone can do it.
So why, then, is it difficult for some people to embrace the spirit of entrepreneurship? After all, if social media is to be believed, it should be fairly straightforward. But is it? My experience is that social-media selling is relentless and discouraging and that it diverts attention from my original objective: to become an excellent coach. I do understand the need for marketing and sales strategies but to use them to sell myself as someone who provides excellent coaching services (and I know I do provide excellent coaching services) doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I hear all the arguments – too many to list here and all of them absolutely reasonable – as to why I should just get over myself and accept the realities of being a sole trader, an entrepreneur; if people don’t know I exist, then how can they use me as a coach? But therein lies the crux of the matter for me, if I attract clients through clever sales strategies rather than through the excellence of my coaching, to me the value of my work somehow seems diminished. I blame it on my ballet background but if I am not true to those values that have stood me in good stead throughout my dancing days, I do not believe I will make it as a coach.
I am assuming you, too, have chosen to be a coach because you want to transform lives, so I hope that it stands to reason that that’s where your focus should be—on being as good and professional a coach as you can be. Not a perfect one but an excellent one. Every professional of integrity understands that perfection is unattainable but that excellence is achievable; because excellence is a state of mind, an attitude, not a sales figure. Excellence is a personal choice where you set your standards and professionalism a priority above all else. It is passion for excellence that drives an artist onwards, not ego and not desire for success. Any true artist or artisan, and I consider a coach an artisan, understands that the quality of their work and the integrity by which it is delivered comes before profit. Because it is what you finally put in front of an audience, or the product and service you deliver, that you will be judged by, and it is only when you embody values of integrity and quality that genuine success will follow.
It’s sometimes a good thing to stand outside of yourself and ask yourself why you became a coach in the first place. If your only objective was to become a wealthy one, then, quite frankly, you’ve made the wrong career choice because wealth doesn’t necessarily equate with success and excellence. Have the courage to stick to the path you chose because quality beats quantity any day; and sincerely held values together with clear principles will always triumph over strategy because, as the saying goes, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Allow your coaching practice to grow organically, one client at the time, and accept it may take time. This will not make your business more lucrative in the short term perhaps, but it will make you a better coach and at the end of the day that’s what matters. It’s always the quality of your work that will ultimately determine your level of success, [as a coach] not the number of leads you manage to clock up. Remember that you only have one client—your next one—delivering great value to him or her is the only thing that will truly make a difference to your business: remember, a word of mouth recommendation trumps a slick video any time!
So, to sum up, it is imperative to let people know that you, a profession and well-established coach, are there for them. If social-media selling is not your thing, you need to find another approach to link up with potential clients: if people don’t know you exist, how can they get in touch with you: how can they buy your services? So don’t be a shrinking violet. Fortune favours the brave, so be courageous. Find opportunities, any opportunity, to talk about who you are and what you do. And talk with pride, passion and enthusiasm – your three most effective marketing tools. Then get back to practising your skill as an excellent coach, so you can continue transforming lives; one life at the time.