How to offend 779,000 people
I think I may have offended the coaching fraternity on LinkedIn.
I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago which pointed out a few things that I thought needed pointing out. At the time I wrote the post, there were 779,448 business coaches in the UK listed on LinkedIn.
By the time I wrote a follow up post 5 days later, that number had grown to 779,911.
In five short days, 453 new business coaches had rolled off the production line and set up their stall. That’s a growth rate matched only by the Brexit Party.
The fact that there are over three quarters of a million people in our green and pleasant land peddling business coaching services is a story in itself. But it’s not the real story.
The real story (and the thrust of my LinkedIn post) is that 95% of these coaches can’t find enough work, while a small handful are maxed out.
To understand why, let’s follow the progress of the newly hatched coaches. And by newly hatched I don’t necessarily mean newly qualified. I’ve met people who have had 30 years of coaching elite athletes who try to crossover to business. In the harsh world of commerce, they’re newly hatched.
To survive, the new coach has to get some customers. To stand any chance of doing that they have to get themselves noticed. They have to stand out. Most try to do that by making some noise.
They peck around on LinkedIn, send a few emails, and if they’re feeling lavish, they may try a few Google Ads. Unfortunately, they’re making the same noise as everyone else. The irony is totally lost on them, that by doing what all the other coaches are doing, they don’t stand out, they blend right in.
I'm going to give a name. Let's call it: “The Camouflage Paradox”
The new coach only feels they’re part of the flock if they're squawking in the same way as the rest of the flock. It’s a kind of “aren’t I great….buy my stuff” call.
But their noise is so similar to all the other noise, that it’s completely drowned and gets lost. They’re camouflaged in a sea of noise. They would be no more or less anonymous if they were living in The Witness Protection Program.
Almost immediately, the new coach is faced with a rude truth that he won’t acknowledge. For all his brilliance at coaching, he has also got to be an expert at sales and marketing.
I’m calling it right here. The coaches who rise to the top are not the best coaches. They’re the best marketers.
I think it’s fair to say that after posting that little nugget on LinkedIn, you’re not going to see me as a guest speaker at any coaching conventions any time soon.
One or two coaches even waved their NLP certificates at me in a threatening manner as they explained the errors of my ways. Here is the angriest of them:
“It could be that the most successful business coaches are authentic, committed, intelligent, trained in their craft and recognised as such, rather than being an empty (ish) vessel creating a loud digital sound!”
I think she’s cross, but she hasn’t finished. Look at her go:
“How about the best thrive, based on genuine skill sets, rather than well-crafted marketing flim-flam?”
Well who wouldn’t love to agree? It would be great if we lived in a world where genuine skill and talent rose to the top by default.
It would also be great if we lived in a world where Budweiser flowed freely from my kitchen taps and we could turn plastic into petrol. But this isn’t Narnia.
We’re amongst friends, so let’s speak openly.
The uncomfortable truth that many coaches can’t see with their heads buried in the sand, is that they need to stop thinking of sales and marketing as a dirty word (technically three dirty words).
I get it. Some of these people have trained for years to acquire the skills they have. I’ve met coaches with twenty years’ experience and Olympic gold medals to their name. Understandably they feel accomplished. They feel entitled to be treated with some respect. Let’s not beat about the bush. They feel as though sales is beneath them.
I completely respect that. Where my respect starts to fade just a little, is when they realise there are experts who could help them, but they continue to leave their head in the sand.
“I can’t afford that expense”
These are people who think nothing of dropping a couple of grand on travelling abroad to an industry conference, in the name of “staying current with the industry”. That’s an investment. But paying for some help that might unlock your business, is an expense, usually followed by the words: “…that I can’t afford”
That’s just standing-on-a-rake twice stupid
Let me turn the tables. Imagine if I met a performance coach and told him I wasn’t hitting all my performance goals. But instead of seeking his help, I told him I’d Google performance, maybe read a book or two. I’m sure I could figure it out, and if I couldn’t, I’d just put my fingers in my ears and yell. They’d go nuts.
The first words out of their mouth would be: “You have to invest in yourself”
And here’s their favourite one:
“Performance is a choice”
Yeah – right back at you. Performance is indeed a choice. You can choose to treat sales and marketing like a case of genital warts that stays covered up and never gets talked about. Or you can take your own medicine and make the choice to invest in yourself and your fledgling coaching business.
But if you choose to stay stuck, please don’t complain with faux outrage at how less talented coaches with inferior qualification and less experience than you, not only manage to fill their diaries, but have a waiting list too. And all because they have mastered sales, usually by spending a few quid and getting some help.