I had the worst coaching experience of my life. It was during a first meeting with another coach who was there to coach me. I am a business development coach, which means I work with coaches as a thought partner as they build their coaching businesses in an authentic and life-giving way. Even business development coaches can use a coach, so I found myself thinking that I might be able to share with this “coach” my need for space to work on my business.
I was wrong.
The coach’s questions quickly became interrogating. He mentioned he has an MBA. He mentioned some famous coaches who are doing business development for some famous coaching schools.
I said, “I don’t do what those coaches do. In fact, my target market are the coaches who are turned off by the famous coaches doing business development for famous coaching schools.”
His energy changed, and he began to interrogate me. “Who do you serve?” I answered. Then the wry smile and chuckle that often happens just before someone talks down to me like I am a little child, “Are you surethat’s your target market?”
I said, “Not everyone in that group is, but most of them are. To be specific, my target market is coaches who have been in business for about a year and are frustrated with the lack of traction they are getting. They have tried following the advice that’s out there, and that didn’t work and left them feeling awful.”
Wry smile still intact, he said, “I have this question that my wife and kids hate, but I’m going to ask it anyway.” He described in painful detail the set up for a dental hygienist waiting with you for the dentist to arrive. The hygienist asks you what you do, “What do you say?”
I said, “I say I am a professor. A hygienist is not in my target market.”
He continued, “What is your elevator pitch to this hygienist?”
I answered, “Remember your training to be a hygienist? Most training focuses on how to do the job. How to build and run your business is left out. That’s what I do. I help people get the information they need to build a successful business.”
I was then informed by him that somebody famous wrote that the elevator pitch should be 20 words or less—and getting it down to 6 words or less is key.
He also reminded me about famous coach at famous coaching school. “Well, she says….”
I stopped him, “I don’t care what she says. Her message does not resonate with everyone, and it does not resonate with me.”
The biggest problem with business development for coaches is it comes from a one-size-fits-all mentality. The advice out there says, “I built my business this way and you should do the same thing to build yours.” If we are all building our businesses the same way using the same marketing tactics, we are not differentiating our businesses. Being undifferentiated in the market means we compete with each other and we disappear into the background noise that is the majority of marketing today. Doing what everyone else is doing means no one stands out. My clients deserve to stand out.
I know how desperately we want someone to just give us the answers. I was there, too. I asked how did this coach build her business? How did that coach build his business? And I spent a year interviewing people around this exact topic. Do you want to know what I found out? Some coaches built their businesses the way that the famous coaches out there say it needs to be done. Those coaches exude an energy that makes me want to crawl out of my skin. They hard sell, or more accurately use the coaching session to push rather than invite. They have six-word elevator speeches.
Other coaches have built their businesses in a more organic way. They often could not clarify what they did because it was so natural to them. Building their businesses came from a place of flow. I am not saying there was no effort on their part. They worked on their businesses as well as in them, and they did not do what the gurus said. These coaches have a warm, peaceful energy about them. They don’t have 6-word elevator speeches and they don’t pitch. They invite. They coach.
Those who built their coaching businesses in an organic way have lovely senses of humor, are somewhat self-deprecating, are very loving, are of service, and are 100% authentically themselves—and that is what matters most.
Ready-made answers likely won’t be your answer.
Take what is useful from the famous coaches and leave the rest.
Get a business thought partner who will support you as you build your business your way.
Be the coach.
Invite connection and hold the space.
Be your authentic self and you will succeed.
The only way our businesses fail is when we give up.
You are the coach who is needed in this world.