The Fear of Being That Person

You don’t have to be a sleazy salesperson to get results

Carl Dierschow
choice magazine, vol. 13 no. 2

SleazyMost coaches are the primary marketing and sales engine for their own business. If you’re in a larger coaching company, you might have a separate sales force. Or if you’re an internal coach for a company, you may think much differently about the process of connecting up with clients.

The rest of us are our own marketing and sales department, which may be both the best news and the worst.

On the positive side, your clients know what they’re getting. They’ve read the information on your website. They’ve talked directly with the person providing the coaching, and are able to judge how much they trust the value you’ll give them.

On the other side, most of us were never trained in how to be effective at sales. Many of us are introverts, and have a reluctance to put ourselves out there to make a great impression. We don’t want to be that person.

You know who I’m talking about. The classic example is the car salesman, who (especially in the U.S.) is stereotyped as sleazy, dishonest, and willing to treat a customer like dirt in order to make a sale. Of course it’s a cartoonish stereotype, but it is so well entrenched that we’re surprised to run into a car dealer that breaks from our expectations.

Coaching is all about integrity, trust and transparency. So the last thing coaches want to do is adopt a persona that damages that foundation.

In my journey of building a coaching business, I’ve repeatedly struggled with this internal conflict. Just when I think I have my gremlins under control, they pop up again in surprising ways. But every time I recognize this struggle, I’m able to make progress and grow my business further.

Here are some things that have helped me:

Work with a sales coach.

I’ve worked with several over the years, and they’ve helped me address my own tension and come up with an approach that is honest and authentic. Each coach gave me a place to practice having the words actually come out of my mouth, which is much different than thinking through a conversation.

Script things out

Boy, did I resist this, because I love to trust my own creativity in the moment! But by writing out what I wanted to say to a prospective client, I became very clear on how to best approach the sales conversation. I identified a few powerful words and phrases, which I use in almost every interaction.

And then I relax, stitching together the best wording in the moment with each person.

Track sales and marketing activity every day

I’ve been doing this for years, and it pushes me out of my comfort zone. It’s amazing how this affects my decisions to attend a networking event or set up a sales conversation! I’m so heartened when I see that I’ve had nearly 25,000 quality marketing contacts with people over the last four years.

Find what works for you

Each coach has a different personality and approach, and serves different clients. There are lots of ways to build a successful business, so constantly be looking for what might help you. You’d never be able to deliver a consistent image if you tried everything you read. But if you’re thoughtful and deliberate, you can find great tools and techniques that will deliver what you’re looking for.

Think like a businessperson

We tend to focus on the quality of our coaching sessions, but the fact is you’ll never have many clients unless you also build a business. You have to look hard at your revenue, expenses, client load, marketing effectiveness and retention. Without this attention, you’ll never focus on the right areas that will make a business successful.

Stand in the power of your coaching

Many of us are quite modest, recognizing that the client is the one doing the hard work of change. But we have be able to be confident in the realization that the change wouldn’t happen without our help, and that it makes a deep and lasting difference to every client we touch.

Claim your value

Sometimes this shows up as a reluctance to charge what you’re truly worth. Recognize that mindset and work through it; there are more than enough clients out there who can appreciate the value you’re charging for.

A typical trap is to charge an hourly rate as if you’re in a regular full time job. But in any successful company, the service provider gets paid, the business owner gets paid, and the sales force gets paid. You’re all of these!

Coaching as an industry is still emerging, and there’s no single formula for success. But many have found that it’s quite possible to build a thriving business, without turning into that person.

Published in, and reproduced with permission from, choice, the magazine of professional coaching