I am in the coaching/personal development industry.
I’m a coach and I’m also a consumer of the industry via other coaches and healers. So are most of my colleagues. While we don’t have to be consumers of this industry, per se, many of us believe that in order to learn the things we want to learn and become the leaders and business owners we want to be, investing in ourselves through other coaches and programs, trainings and certifications is not just preferable, it’s necessary.
We spend thousands of dollars investing in ourselves. A lot of that money is well-spent.
But some of it isn’t.
One of the reasons that trust between practitioners and consumers gets eroded within the personal development industry is that it’s commonplace to market one thing and deliver something else, skimp on value or simply leave out important details. I wonder what the breaking point is. When will coaches, who are here to make a difference, but get burned over and over, exit the industry altogether?
Recently, I signed up for a free session with a representative of a successful coaching business. The session was described to me ahead of time. A coach would help me uncover a subconscious issue that I’m having. Even though I sometimes take issue with the entire idea of “blocks”, I resonated with the owner of the coaching company’s story and what she had to say. I asked the owner if the session would include solutions or ways to address these issues once they had been identified. She assured me that solutions would be provided during the session.
I had the session with a perfectly nice coach who worked for the company. At the top of the call, as is standard procedure, she explained to me how the session would proceed and that she’d invite me to invest in a program – if I was interested – at the end of the call. Later, the block that she identified, and the metaphors she used to illustrate it, did not resonate with me. After that portion of our call, when I asked how I might address the block, she simply invited me to listen to the pitch. In other words, there was no solution to be provided on the call. I’d have to pay for that.
There are a few things that got me quite frustrated as a result of this call:
1) When I signed up for the call, there was no indication that I would only receive a solution in the form of being invited to invest in a program. In fact, an invitation to invest was not even mentioned.
This is what marketing strategist Beth Grant calls failing to set a “covenant.” You set a covenant with someone when you are clear with them that you intend to invite them to invest with you (possibly further if they have already invested) during a portion of a call, talk, webinar, or workshop. I’ve had dozens of free calls with people in this industry and I strongly believe this is a necessary step that establishes trust.
I don’t mind if you invite me to invest with you. In fact, I expect you to invite me to your program (and in many cases I’m excited to hear about it!) but you need to tell me that you are going to invite me.
2) The coach who called me, while personable and sweet, had a method that I ended up being extremely skeptical of. She didn’t really explain whether she was channelling someone or something, using her own intuition or applying a system based on my written answers that I had supplied before the session. The insight and story she came up with just seemed like – I’ll just say it – bullshit.
It didn’t resonate with me.
It didn’t remind me of anything from my life. It just seemed arbitrary and inauthentic. I am not anti-woo, by any means. I believe in past lives. I channel my unborn baby’s spirit frequently. I trust my vedic astrologer 110%. I think the metaphysical world has lots to offer. But there is authenticity and there is fluff. And all I can say is if you subscribe to any of this stuff, you know in your bones which is which. There was a shakiness in this portion of session that I just couldn’t ignore, as much as I wanted to (because any time I am investing my time in something that I think could help me, I want it to work!)
3) Because I only had my “block” diagnosed, but literally no suggestions as to how I might address the block other than pay money to invest in a program (which I was not intending to do as a result of this call), I hung up the phone feeling like crap about myself.
Yes, I didn’t need to believe this was my block (and I don’t), and I didn’t need to subscribe to any of the things this person told me since they didn’t resonate with me. But even though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it – given my experience in this industry – for at least an hour after the call, I felt worse off than before I had the call.
What a waste of an afternoon!
Or maybe not a waste, because I certainly learned something from it and have these insights which I’m writing about right now. That said, how can this be considered responsible or ethical? How, in this industry, can it be considered standard to use a marketing strategy that, in many cases, leaves someone worse off than they were before you talked to them?
I know that many of the leaders in this field think differently or, at least, frame this issue differently. They say that you can’t solve someone’s problem on an introductory/marketing/sales call because then they won’t invest.
While I understand that I want to leave something to be desired so that someone will buy my product or service, I also believe that in every interaction I have with a prospective client (or even current client), it’s my responsibility to leave someone better off than they were before.
Many leaders, I’m happy to say, do subscribe to the idea that it’s not just okay, but necessary to be generous with solutions, to give away your best stuff. And I would say it’s even more necessary today to do just that because the levels of trust in this industry have reached a level akin to California’s water reserve – rapidly diminishing. It’s absolutely possible to provide value in the form of SOLUTIONS to someone, even if they have not yet paid you. You are not reducing your ability to make a sale. You are establishing trust.
Moreover, I would go a bit further: in a field where we are supposed to be helping people help themselves, helping guide people to better lives, highlighting problems to be fixed, without giving at least some airtime (and I would argue more than half the airtime) to solutions is dirty. It feels manipulative and completely out of alignment with the healing work we are trying to illuminate and get out into the world in a way that catches on with multitudes of people.
So, how do you bypass the dirt? First and foremost, I’m going to assume that mostly everyone in this industry means well and they may just not be considering how their marketing is landing with their potential clients.
With that said, if you are a practitioner offering a free session, there are a couple things that build trust and credibility right off the bat:
1) Think about your session as not just marketing, but an offering. You got into this business to help other people solve some sort of a problem, right? You want to offer a solution. So, begin by offering some sort of solution during your free session. It’s okay if your solution includes an invitation where you are able to more fully address the client’s problem, but be upfront about that. When I’m describing my consult to prospective clients, I say something to them like “After I get a sense of your situation, I’ll make some suggestions, one of which may be working with me.” Can I solve their problem in one 45 minute call? Probably not, which is why, if it turns out they are the right match to work with me, one of the most helpful suggestions I can make is the invitation to work with me. Don’t be afraid of offering up some gems during your initial consult that you know would help them immediately. If you give value, even if the person doesn’t buy from you on the spot, you are establishing your expertise and starting off a relationship by creating trust. The more value you can give in a “free call,” the more likely someone is going to buy something from you either right away, or in the future.
2) Creating a form or application for your session gives you a chance to weed out freeloaders who are never going to buy from you or aren’t the right fit AND it allows the people who are genuinely curious about what you offer to get a better sense of who you are and what you’ll cover. You can even use the form to describe the session so that it’s transparently clear how the session will proceed.
Finally, the consumer also has some responsibility in this equation. If you’re looking to take advantage of some free offers, ask yourself if the person is a good fit for you or if you have genuine curiosity about the service they provide. Your time is too precious to be taking advantage of all the free stuff that people offer. Not only is it not a good use of your time, but filling your schedule with free offers could be detrimental to your own productivity and forward movement in your life or business. Tune in to your inner guidance about who really speaks to you and only then, take advantage of a free offer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the sign-up process. If there is something you want to get from the session, ask! Treat these free offers as an investment you’re making, because the truth is, you are investing your time and energy, and maybe even possibly, the belief that there are people who truly can offer you the exact support you desire.
A Bit About the Author:
Tamar Henry, “The Curveball Coach,” supports women to navigate the unexpected curveballs of life in their relationships, health, career and fertility. Through neural-repatterning, somatic methods and more, she guides her clients to find peace, relief and joy. Find out more at www.curveballcoaching.com.