In a sea of sameness, how does one stand out? As coaching professionals there are so many of us – you could be an independent coach, trainer, consultant or freelancer; and in a sense all of us are looking to make a mark for ourselves in our own independent practices. To top it off, there is so much gyaan out there on what to do and how to do it – some of it even contradicting the other. So, as an independent coach, how does one navigate and get to the point of success? I thought I’d cover some basics that you can keep in mind and add on to as needed.
Create content and put it out there
Marshal Goldsmith puts this well when he says ‘you cannot make anyone hungry; they just have to be hungry’. Whether it is professional change, a healthier lifestyle or any kind of transformation really, one has to want to change from within. Want being the operative word.
Your role is to create awareness of that want, which could be at a subconscious level. And for that, you have to create a pool of information about the most common and general aspects & practices of your industry – content that can be consumed for general awareness. You should do this without any kind of expectation or direct benefit to yourself. All this content is going into the ocean of someone’s subconscious – and yours may be just one of many pieces of content your audience is consuming. You just have to think of adding to that pool, so that when the time comes that they are hungry for a coach, they may pick you because you’ve been a crucial medium for them to have received all this knowledge.
Figure out what they want
Once you’ve created sufficient content around your area of coaching – and for the sake of this article I am going to draw a parallel of serving up different cuisines – you may have someone who is interested in what you offer. When you find that a person is hungry for your offer, you’ve first got to figure out what they want to eat. If a person is craving Chinese, you cannot possibly sell them South Indian food (which is hypothetically your offer). So, when a person discovers you via your content and talks to you about what they want, really pay attention to what they are looking for. If they are looking for a Chinese restaurant, forget about selling your special South Indian meal and point them in the direction of the best Chinese restaurant you know and wish them ‘bon appétit’! In doing so, you are letting them leave with a pleasant experience – they will then remember you for having helped them instead of serving your own interests.
Communicate your uniqueness
Now let’s say you’ve finally found a person who is looking for South Indian food. Victory! But just like you, there are many others who are offering South Indian food.
In such a situation when a person comes to you, take the time out to tell them what makes you different from the others, what makes you unique.
Once you do, give them the space so they can then make the decision for themselves.
In the case of coaching, they will consider a number of factors important to them such as cost, personal attention provided, certifications, brand value, etc.
Switch on your Discovery mode
The first and foremost requirement even before any of the above steps is to look at how discoverable you are. How easy is it for your ideal prospect to find you, the independent coach? When the age of online marketing wasn’t here, McDonald’s chose to make its presence known by picking the most prominent locations to place its outlets at to grab the attention of those passing by – think Vasant Vihar and South Ex, if you’re familiar with the Delhi landscapes.
It is much easier now though; you don’t need to install billboards or raise huge buildings in prominent locations to grab eyeballs. The internet has made it much simpler to advertise oneself. Though by no means it is a cakewalk.
Whether it is posts on social media, videos on YouTube, articles on LinkedIn or Medium, optimising your content for Google SEO – all or a combination of these will contribute to you becoming more discoverable to your ideal client.
Once they find you, you will need enough social proof to prove you are a legitimate source who can be trusted. For this purpose, you can put up testimonials of clients you have previously worked with.
And then there is always the option of advertising to break out of the clutter of sameness.
If the intent is to go for a bigger reach, you would need a recognised brand to link yourself with. A big brand with a good reputation will help accelerate your growth as opposed to if you were to do things solo. Not that there is anything wrong with solo, it can just take longer unless you already have a wide reach and network to begin with.
Comparison kills the cat
Often, when we’re just starting our own practice as an independent coach, we end up comparing page 3 of our book with someone else’s page 300. It is imperative to remember that the process of growth and of building something from the ground up takes time, consistent effort & focus. If you’re consistent with your action and keep your eyes peeled for opportunities and remain open to feedback, success is bound to come knocking on your door sooner or later.
Address your sales aversion
All our lives we’ve been psychologically made to believe that selling is bad. And from our experience of encountering pushy salesmen at car dealerships, or insurance brokers, we’ve ended up with a bad taste in the mouth that reinforces this notion. But if you carefully observe the conversations you have with your friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, you will see that selling is very natural to you. You and I are always recommending things to people around us – movies, books, shows, vacation spots, artists, restaurants, songs, and what not. This kind of persuasion (that is genuine and coming from an authentic place) is nothing but a form of selling what you think another should see, hear or try.
So, think of selling as a way to help another person make a better, a more informed decision while keeping their best interests at heart. Then leave the rest to them. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, take what you can learn from the experience and move forward.
There is no way to make a successful profession without making sales an integral part of your life.
Let it simmer
Once you have committed to putting in the effort to do all of the above and you’re following through on that, just have faith and trust the timing of your life. The road to success never was and never will be linear – it may be a see-saw or a roller coaster ride. Before you begin ask yourself if you’re sufficiently ready for it. And be really ready for that journey.
Whenever I hear of the ‘overnight success’ stories, I laugh. Because in all probability, it took that person many months, if not years, to reach that point of booming success – which was nothing but an accumulation of all the immense amount of work they’d put in, with a smattering of luck.
So, when a moment of despair hits you and things seem not to be working, take a deep breath and step back. Don’t throw in the towel! You’ve put your work on the stovetop – the fire and fuel are the time and effort you are putting towards it. Some things cook quickly, some things take time. So let it cook in its own sweet time, do not make the mistake of flushing down everything you’ve worked for in one singular moment of hopelessness.
State of being
In order to be successful, you have to start from a place of ‘I am already successful’ and not ‘I will be successful’. Sure, the journey to success is there to make, but before you begin that journey can you become that person from within? Do you look at yourself from the lens of ‘I am not successful yet, but I will be, one day’? Would a better approach perhaps be ‘I already am successful. It is just a matter of people discovering the same’?
Whatever your journey, the company you keep can be a powerful way to take it to another level and depth. It is best to keep company with people who are doing what you do or have done it and seen success. Immerse yourself in the same environment and be like a sponge – absorbing the best ideas you encounter, learning, getting inspired and seeing how to make them your own.