Updated: May 20
Business Coaching = A Relationship
I’m a business coach. I also coach other business coaches. I myself…have a business coach. It can get pretty meta.
This might sound odd to some people. To me, it makes total sense. I know how much business coaching can help. I know how much it’s meant to me.
So, there’s a language between us that we instantly recognize. I trust their help because I understand what good help looks like. They trust me. All good.
But for a lot of un-schooled entrepreneurs, this is their first time with business coaching - or any coaching. It’s totally uncharted territory.
One of the biggest challenges you’re going to have is trust. Not just teaching them to trust you but teaching them to trust the whole industry.
It’s a booger of an ask. Especially because there’s so much BS business coaching out there making it harder for the coaches who do good work.
But in the end, business coaching is just another service-based business. And “service-based” is code for “relationship-based.”
If you start with building a good relationship, you’ll be on solid ground.
So think - what do you want in a relationship? How do you build trust there?
Whether it’s a friend or a romantic partner, we all want someone who listens, really listens. We want someone respectful and open. We want someone who fully shows up. Someone who’s consistent. Someone whose words and actions line up.
That’s what we’re looking for in our coaches, consultants, and colleagues too.
I call it making a client feel SAFE:
Show Your Work
Expect Your Best
In this article, I want to help you build trust with prospective and current clients. We’ll map a clear, straightforward way to communicate your whole fabulous, honorable self.
You can build trust with your ideal clients even before they’re your clients.
Show Your Work
Do you remember the phrase “show your work?” In math class? The correct answer wasn’t enough. The teacher needed to see how you got there.
If you showed your work it proved, well, it proved you didn’t copy it from the smart kid next to you.
But showing your work, also, proved that you understood the answer. It’s the difference between knowing a fact and really understanding the concept.
That’s kind of how this works.
In business coaching, don’t just tell prospective clients what you do. Give them a chance to watch you do it. They need to hear your stories, read case studies, watch you talk live, and even hear about your epic fails.
They’re approaching you for business coaching because they want a change. Give them a feel for what that change is going to be like.
Look I don’t know how you found me. But if it was a live stream, a blog, or LinkedIn, that was me…showing you my work.
Most of the time when clients seek me out, it’s because they’ve watched me talk. They’ve internalized what I offer, what I’m like, how I work and who I am.
They feel like they’ve seen the backstage of my business coaching. No one is coming to me on pure faith. And that’s how it should be.
In an online sea of offers, we can get a little too short-handed with prospects. But all they really know is that they have a problem.
That’s how you start a cult, not a business coaching relationship.
Have the bravery to show your work. Talk with clients live, answer questions, and yeah…write a blog.
Let them into your world. When they see you - in your natural habitat - they can more confidently see themself in the picture with you.
I think we all know this by now…yes? No? Apparently…no.
And I so get it. I hate, HATE admitting I got something wrong. I mean, really, who likes it? But if you’re trying to inspire trust in your business coaching - this is going to be key.
Mistakes happen. Communication goes awry.
I’m not saying you have to walk around whipping yourself for every little thing, but…come on. We know when we screw up. You just have to own it.
Own it. Simply. Say a sincere apology. Do your best to fix it. Move on.
This is how good relationship building happens and good business.
Part of business coaching is offering a model. Well, this is a prime “business coaching moment.” You can show your clients how to screw up gracefully. You can show them it’s not the end of the world. You can show them how to put things right.
Your accountability will signal your sense of honor, maturity, and confidence as a business coach. The client can learn the skill of accountability while they learn what a stand-up person you truly are.
Follow Up With Answers
The follow-up after your first discovery call is a crucial moment. You have this little window with your potential client. In that window, you have a chance to become an indispensable ally.
So, don’t just lean on salesmanship at the follow-up. Help the prospect out.
Chances are they had a lot of business coaching questions on the call. They likely left the meeting feeling buzzed and overwhelmed with info.
You can ratchet up their sense of safety by helping them navigate the next few steps.
Send them a recap of their questions and your answers. They may think they know what was said, but you’re in a better position to remember. After all, you’ve been through these calls over and over. They haven’t.
“While they may think they'll remember all your responses, they usually forget and have to ask the same questions later…” advises Inc.com, “whenever a client asks you a question, write it down. Add it to a master list FAQ, then send it out in your follow-up email.”
Look I’m a terrible stenographer. I can barely remember what I say.
But if you can repeat even a fraction of the questions they had about your business coaching..and add a few extra FAQs - you’re already like a member of their team.
In fact, it will feel like you’re already their business coach.
Following up is definitely about closing the deal, but you have an opportunity to give them more than just a pitch on business coaching. You can give them a sample of your broader identity as a person who helps. A person who sees their needs and supports them.
Don’t waste the follow-up by just selling. This is where your coaching relationship begins. They’re learning how you attend to questions, and how you value them as an individual.
Expectations: Bring Your Own Yardstick
Expectations can be a real sucker punch to the soul. You think you know what you’re getting and then you’re disappointed.
But every once in a long while…you get surprised. Every once in a while someone surpasses your expectations.
It can really raise the trust meter to new heights when we work with someone who expects more from themself than we do. This isn’t just about overdelivering on service. It’s about overdelivering on character.
When it comes to measuring what we can get away with, don’t look to the norm for your standards. You can do better than that.
Expect better behavior, better manners, more accountability, more kindness, more clarity than is usually expected from a business coach. Even if the client is willing to let you get away with stuff…don’t let yourself.
Expectations don’t mean beating yourself up. You can cut yourself some slack. But never cut corners. Don’t use norms as your yardstick. Carry your own yardstick, inside you.
Be a better person than they expect you to be.
When you’re potential client sees that you expect more from yourself - as a business coach and as a human - they’ll know that they can lean on you with total trust.
And they may learn to do better from your example.
Business Coaching Means More
Good business coaching is a little like therapy. People come to you with their problems, and ask you to help sort and solve them.
Business coaching means that your client’s going to have to change and stretch. They have to move waaaay outside their comfort zone.
And, like a therapist, a business coach needs the client’s trust or…it just won’t work.
But that’s where the similarities end.
In therapy, the doctor often has to be a little cagey about their own story. They have to hide a little to make the healing possible. With business coaching, it’s exactly the opposite.
In order for your clients to thrive, you need to be transparent.
You’re asking them to do something scary - and to pay you money for teaching them to go there. The least you can do is be as brave as they are.
Did you set your specific goals? Do these goals involve taking your passion and creating a profitable business out of it? I could be the mentor for you.