As we head into the New Year, it’s a natural time for coaches to make resolutions and think about the future of their business. At awarenow, we’re proud to be part of this journey and have published a free library of actionable strategies and tactics that coaches have used to become more successful - see them all on our business blog.
That said, even the best strategies and techniques can be undermined by issues in other aspects of the business. In talking with successful coaches, we’ve uncovered four key mistakes that many coaching businesses make that could thwart even the best plans.
Top Coaching Mistake 1: Casting Too Wide of a Net
Kelly Trach of Kelly Trach International believes the biggest mistake coaches can make is “Not building a business on their genius,” meaning that coaches should find a niche in which they can create the most value, and focus there.
It can be tempting to cast a wide net when marketing your coaching business. It seems reasonable that the larger your potential market, the more customers could be interested in your services. That’s true to some extent; businesses can’t define their target market so narrowly that there aren’t enough potential customers in it to sustain the business. That said, it can be equally damaging to define your market too broadly. By trying to appeal to everyone, coaches can dilute the impact they have on individual, specific clients, as Allan Borch of Dotcom Dollar advises:
When coaches try to build a coaching connection with too many people all at once, they provide messages that are not specific enough to target and address the specific needs of clients. Each client needs a detailed and tangible coaching message that directly addresses their specific dilemmas.
Jasmine Ivy at Women of Woo explains this point succinctly: “Don’t compete. Focus on serving. That speaks for itself.” By focusing on serving a tightly-defined niche relating to one’s area of greatest expertise, coaches can reduce the temptation to compete for clients in the broader market.
Top Coaching Mistake 2: Jumping too Quickly to Solutions
Another mistake some coaches make is jumping too quickly to “solve” a client’s problems. This usually comes from a good place. Most coaches get into the industry because they have the desire and skills to help others. Experienced coaches have seen similar issues occur repeatedly during their careers and can often diagnose an issue quickly and provide solutions. In principle, this adds value and makes a coach more effective.
However, coaching is different from many other industries. While getting to the point and providing solutions quickly may be ideal for lawyers, plumbers, or software engineers, it carries dangers for coaches. Coaches are in the transformation business, not the solution business, where many shortcuts don’t apply or are counter-productive. This is actually a key distinction between the role of a coach compared with that of a consultant, as Claire Brown of Coaching Through Clarity explains: “A coach holds a space and provides guidance for their client to connect with their own resources and find the best solution possible in their own situation; they are not there as a mentor or consultant coming in to present the solution.”
As Paul Symonds of ProMarketing Online puts this in practical terms:
Talking too much and not listening enough is a key problem for some coaches. When coaching someone, take a step back and listen. Better still, ask the other person questions to help them come up with the answers themselves. This way, they will be more invested in the solution.
Indeed, going too rapidly toward solutions can inhibit clients from having the “a-ha” moments that lead to breakthroughs. The journey is as important as the destination, as Janet Zaretsky of Empowered Women Enterprises explains:“The client always knows the answer; it is the coaches job to help the client break down their own barriers to discover their own brilliance.” Or, as Stefan Chekanov of Brosix puts it: “The idea of coaching is to ask people a lot of open questions and help them find their own solutions.”
Top Coaching Mistake 3: Avoiding Expectation-Setting
Another common mistake coaches make is failing to go through the process of setting expectations at the beginning of an engagement. Azim Sahu-Khan of Business Performance Tuning notes that this failure “often leads to the client either not getting what they thought they were going to get or the coach getting frustrated with the client.” One key tool here is to effectively use client intake forms. Done properly, intake forms help surface clients’ expectations and provide a structured format for coaches and clients to discuss them.
A key driver for the lack of effective expectation-setting can be found in the sales process. Some coaches are so eager to onboard a new client that they don’t want to introduce dynamics into the mix that they see as potentially interfering with the sale. However, as Willie Greer, founder of The Product Analyst, notes, “making clients believe that everything will go exactly as planned doesn't help when they end up situations that are not favorable to them.” It is better to be clear upfront about potential challenges early on rather than letting the client be frustrated later.
Another way that the sales process can lead to problems down the road is in the nature of the traditional marketing funnel itself. It often makes sense to give away free content to gather new leads, but at some point, the relationship needs to transition to a paid engagement. To do this effectively requires setting clear expectations for the client or potential client. As Gwen Montoya of The MOB Nation, explains, ”one of the biggest mistakes I see coaches make is in failing to clearly define what is free - opt-ins, email lists, ebook, videos, blogs, social media content, etc - and what is a paid offer.”
Top Coaching Mistake 4: Not Being Coached
Many top coaches strongly believe in the value of being coached (a similar dynamic exists with therapists, many of whom in turn participate in therapy as a client). This makes sense, after all, if one believes in the coaching process, why wouldn’t coaches want to benefit from it themselves?
As Tracey D'Aviero of Your VA Mentor puts it, “if you are a coach, you should have a coach. If you host a mastermind group, you should belong to one.” Self-improvement should not be limited to one’s clients.
Moreover, coaching is a rare industry in which providers can experience the process from the consumer’s point of view. Not only can coaches benefit from the coaching process itself, but they can also gain insight into the process from a client’s perspective as well as ideas and techniques that they can apply to their own coaching business. As D’Aviero explains, “we are all challenged by seeing our own businesses objectively, and getting outside advice and support is essential.”
Developing a great coaching business is as much about avoiding mistakes as it is about following the best strategies and techniques. Avoiding the above four pitfalls will help position coaches for success and provide the opportunity for their skills to shine.