Coaches, are you getting the hard sell, offering the miracle solution in these hard times? I decided to follow up on one of theses and see what would happen and what they were offering. I’ve noticed more and more social media posts offering top secrets for generating business, courses which guarantee success, or people willing to share their secret business development strategy, but all for a price. These are difficult times for many coaches, so these offers appear a tempting way out.
Many of my coach/consultant friends have seen their workload ‘drop off a cliff’ since COVID-19. As organisations and individual clients have gone into lockdown, what were full order books, have now been slashed to nothing. There are no new coaching assignments, no leadership development programmes. Organisations are not investing in developing their people, whole learning and development departments have been furloughed. The future is more uncertain than ever before. Every penny counts, why pay for coaching if the business is about to go bust, or the coachee is about to be furloughed or made redundant?
In these difficult times, here are some examples of the posts I’ve seen on LinkedIn, or received as direct messages:
“If you’re tired of hearing people say, “Wow, you should start a consulting business!” why not learn more about what starting your own consulting business entails? Jump to this link to check out our internationally best-selling program, Launch Your Consulting Business!”
“Hey Ian, With all that’s been changing lately, I’m finding that rather then do a marketing campaign right now, I’ve been having a lot of success generating conversations for executive coaches by finding the top executives on LinkedIn.”
“A lot of executive coaches I’m connected with are seeing an increase level of response from executives and leaders on LinkedIn. Is that what you’re seeing too? Happy to share strategies if you’re up for it.”
“I’ve been think-in a lot about professionals like you and the long term effect COVID may have on your business. X has been working with coaches like you in helpin them win back their clients and get more referrals so business can get back to normal. If you’d like to find out how and see if this simple strategy can help you reach your business goals this year — please message me for more information.”
All of these are seductive sales pitches. But I suspect, the claims are complete rubbish, they’re selling ‘snake oil’. But in desperate times, these can be very appealing; the answer to all troubles. To check this out I decided to follow up a couple of these posts. One “solve it all” hyperlink took me through to a website which looked very home made and low quality; a school pupil could have knocked it up for a weekend homework project. As it looked so unprofessional, I didn’t pursue that any further.
An other was a direct message received via LinkedIn, and so I arranged a call. The person arrived late for the call, not a good start, and clearly had not done any preparation or looked at my LinkedIn profile. She asked me to tell her about myself, so I quickly outlined that I’m an executive coach of 20 years, ‘x’ thousand of LinkedIn contacts and co-author of a best selling coaching book. Without a pause to actually listen to what I said, the person went on to talk at me for the next 20 minutes, telling me about their highly successful £3000 course. The caller quoted the ICF, saying that only 18% of coaches actually made a living (so emphasising the fear factor of a ‘burning platform’). Against this, the caller said that 80% of their coachees were successful (an unverifiable claim), and that the remaining unsuccesful 20% didn’t follow the programme and ignored their advice (an unbelievable claim!).
I was shocked by the lack of listening, this was a one directional sales pitch for 20 minutes, with no pause. This was not anywhere near a consultative approach to build trust, the caller was only interesting in themselves and selling their course. A million miles away from a coaching approach. So I decided not to pursue that one either.
So with all of these unsubstantiated business development claims, I would recommend “buyer beware”. Many coaches are feeling vulnerable, worrying about the future, and understandably seeking a way out. But be cautious of people too willing to take your money. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer; we’ve never faced this before, and so no one knows the way out or has the solution. Strategies of the past may or may not work, we just don’t know yet.
Don’t get lured in with a snake oil sales pitch, promising miracle solution, all too willing to take your money. What I would suggest is talk to your fellow coaches, ask their advice, ask for their recommendations, what are they doing which is working right now? All of which is likely to be free. If one of your trusted contacts recommends a programme or a course, then explore further. But remember it might be right for them, but you are different, and so ask the questions to ensure the course is right for you and a suitable investment for your hard earned cash.
All I know is that in times of change and uncertainty, coaching is needed more than ever. Coaching is most valuable when helping people find a ‘new normal’, to overcome their fears and to find a new way forward. The demand for coaching will come back, it’s a matter of time. Stephen Covey in “7 Habits…” talked about ‘sharpening the saw’, so invest in yourself. Don’t lose sight of your CPD, go to a co-coaching group, be coached yourself, check out Udemy, get creative and feed your soul. Don’t feel desperate, and if you do (which is normal given these difficult times) talk to someone.
Here is one of my posts from my Instagram account to emphasise the point: