The 3 R's of selling coaching services

"Launch your 6-figure coaching practice in 6 months or less." 

That was the headline of an ad I saw on my social media. So compelling, so attractive, and so much b*****t. 

These programs usually give some good advice, and some of them have had some good success stories, albeit not the norm. Most importantly, they tend to be extremely tactical: do a webinar, launch your list, and run ads using this formula. 

These tactical approaches can be very attractive when you are starting, they are easy to do and they get you busy quickly, so you feel like you are doing something. There is nothing wrong with these tactics, but you need to understand that as a coach, you will mostly get clients in three ways: Relationships, Referrals and Reputation. Tactics can only help you reinforce the 3 golden R's . 

How to sell coaching services. The 3 R’s of selling coaching and consulting services.

It is all about TRUST

When you are the expert, selling professional services, your clients simply need to trust you. They need to trust that you will execute a good diagnose and provide a good solution that is in their best interest. You need to earn this trust.

Furthermore, there is information asymmetry - you simple know more about the work in hand than you clients do. 

Think about it when you are the client. Let's say you need a baby-sitter, how do you go about finding a good one? Do you ask a friend? Do you think of who you already know? Do you Google 'Best baby sitters in town'?

Relationships, Referrals and Reputation are just ways on which trust is transferred from one person to another.

REMEMBER: If there is NO Trust, there is NO Transaction.

What you can do with this information

Here are some immediate mindshits and tactics that can help set your marketing in the right direction:

  1. The most successful coaches and consultants get their clients from sustained, lifelong professional relationships. 
  2. Activate your network of relationships. It is best if you do this when you don't need anything from them. It only works when there is genuine and mutual professional respect for each other. Avoid salesy language, instead. Ask questions or advice. "Hugo, I following my passion to help coaches do better marketing and wanted your advice what really help you when you started." Is a lot more compelling that "Hugo, I am opening my marketing practice for coaches. And would love to tell you more about it. Do you have 15 minutes to jump on a call?" See the difference? People like relationships, helping, connection, buying. People hate being sold something. 
  3. Master the art of building and maintaining relationships. This is an intentional act. One of my favorite tactics is to map my champions: people who just love working with me, refer me, and support me. 
  4. Craft an elevator pitch that clearly describes what you do, who you serve and what sets you apart. So that when people ask you know what to say. 
  5. Consider networking opportunities, before you go make sure to read Rosemary's golden rules on networking. 
  6. Getting referrals come organically, but every now and then, you can ask for referrals. Most people don't. 
  7. Consider what elements of your customer journey are deterring your reputation. E.i, a. Poorly designed website. 
  8. Evaluate things that build your reputation. Speaking engagements, publications, mentions, articles, testimonails, portfolio, lists, etc. 

The role of digital marketing in all of this.

No agency and no formula will guarantee the success of your business, there is not get-rich-quick proven steps. The role of digital marketing is to support relationship building, creating reputation and putting together a referral strategy. Below are some high-level ideas on how digital marketing support the 3 R's.

Relationship Building:


Protect and build your Reputation:

Why I quit on self-improvement projects.

A little better every day. A little more efficient, more profitable, a little smarter? I’ve accepted the “Better Every Day” dogma - it is just obvious, because, what is the alternative? A little worse?

Unapologetic motivational speakers can energize a room with thousands of people with words of self-improvement. And gosh, they are good. I get out of there with an inflated sense of being better, of doing the right thing. What’s is wrong — you may ask — with harvesting from this energy to improve myself?

Here is where self-improvement goes wrong

Self-improvement in our western culture, is heavily influenced with this industrialized notion of continuous improvement. As an Industrial Engineer, I deeply respect the work of the XIX century thinkers like Goldratt, Deming, Taylor. While these currents of knowledge work splendidly well in lean manufacturing environments, they don’t work in our spiritual journey of being fully (not better) humans. I am NOT a factory.

More so, self-improvement is sold as a shortcut from suffering. “You feel bad? There is something wrong with you that needs to be improved.” And we immediately take action at the slightest glimpse of discomfort. We rush out of unpleasant feelings trying to put ourselves together and get some solid ground on where to resume the construction of the “Me Project." I am NOT a project.

Self-improvement is tainted with blame. The sense that there is something about me that needs to be fixed, that needs to be corrected, is extremely critical. In other words, self-improvement is married to self-critic. The inner-critic is the one dictating what to improve. And while this internal judge has fair intentions — it wants us to be accepted member of our society — its tools are not nearly as fair. The judge blames and the judge rejects the parts it doesn’t like. The judge’s handbook of law was written during our socialization years. I now wonder, how much of my self-improvement projects are coming from fear? I am NOT my inner-critic.

What I’ve chosen instead of self-improvement

“Yeah.. I hear you, but without self-improvement. We will just be stagnant in our habitual patterns. I want to overcome the things holding me back from my full potential.”

Here is what I’ve come to realize. I’m done making a project out of myself. Instead, I want to befriend myself. To get to know me without judgement. To become aware of my ways of being, my habitual patterns, defaults and reactions. Here is the main difference: I will not make a project to get rid of the things I don’t like.

I’ll simply observe them. And if possible, offer my kindness to my demons. I’ll sit in peace with discomfort without trying to get solid ground under me. And then, with an open heart, I’ll have the courage to listen and honor my shadow.

During my first therapy session, I told my therapist, “I am here because I am done with the way I’ve been doing things. I am ready to bury the parts of me that no longer serve me.” Her response was, “Hugo, we don’t bury them. We integrate them.”

This compassionate approach is gentle and subtle but is the most powerful and courageous thing I’ve done. Blame is an invitation to pause and relax with discomfort.

In her book, Radical Compassion, Tara Brach, a beloved Psychologist and Buddhist Teacher, introduced a very practical technique to befriend strong emotions called RAIN. In a nutshell:

My invitation is to avoid making a project out of yourself, catch your self-improvement being rooted in fear as opposed to love, relax into the wisdom of your heart and your inherent goodness. Befriend your demons. I leave you with a poem I wrote titled “To my demons.”

Running in the wilderness as fast as I can.
Not looking back. I’m being chased.
The branches are thick, I can’t see the light.
It’s cold in here but I know the sun shines.

You run next to me, pointing mirrors to my face.
This feels familiar, you are still yet to learn.
I grasp the illusion of redemption In your arms
But I pass through you and hit my head to the ground.

The sky opens up and the light burns my skin.
I see my flesh bleeding, brutally raw and thin.
It hurts like never before. Oh boy, it hurts so much.
“I surrender.” I scream “Fill up with my flesh”

In a cathartic encounter, my demons arrive.
With fierce devotion, they rip me apart.
Without any resistance they eat me alive.
I scream, I cry, I laugh as I look in their eyes.

They love me so much. Can I love them back?

You will die. So will your imposter syndrome.

You will die. You dwell in between states of cognitively knowing this and dissociating from the fact. Both psychologists and Buddhists agree that all fears ultimately root in the fear of annihilation; by this, I mean ego death.

When you keep present that you will die, some things lose their importance, or their urgency. It makes you wonder, what really matters? You’ll find what really matters is being of service. Being of service can look as simple as being kind to others while working, or taking a leading role in a cause that is important to you.

“Since death is certain and the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?”

Pema Chodrön

Increasingly, as I become more aware of this realization, I feel more and more empowered. As the stories I’ve built around myself start to dissolve I am realizing that I don’t have anything to defend. That the only thing keeping me from being of service to the world is me! Fear of being looked some way, fear of not being enough, fear of the world challenging the stories I’ve so carefully crafted to get a sense of value.

I will die, and the stories my ego created will dissolve, but the love I’ve spread will forever circulate.

When you watch your imposter syndrome emerge, the invitation is to accept it, and be curious about it. What can I learn from it? What story about myself am I protecting?

The gift of these questions is that they open the door for a more fluid identity, a malleable sense of self that needs no defending, no validation, and no walls. You are just doing to best to selflessly be of service, to make the world a better place. Whoever judges your efforts, is ultimately judging themselves.