This Insights article was contributed by Keith White, MA, Certified Life Coach
When I started my coaching practice, I took a step backwards and asked myself, What is coaching?
I decided to develop an elevator speech that caused me to personalize my definition of coaching. My academic training and practical experience gave me a foundational understanding of coaching, but I needed to have a message, in my own words, that spoke my client’s language.
Success for a start-up, such as my coaching practice, requires customers; without customers all you have is a hobby. Moving from message to practice requires an intimate knowledge of your client and the ability to tell them your story. Moving someone from prospect to client involves selling yourself and your story.
After an internet search, I concluded that the other practicing coaches speak a foreign language. Coaches use words like transformation, neuro-linguistic programming, holistic and co-active. These words are understood in the coaching community, but they make little sense to the potential clients.
Consider the dry cleaners. Do they market the chemical or the process of dry cleaning? Of course not. They simply market “one-hour service.” Other companies use simple phrases to sell the brand – Coke is the “real thing,” “things go better with Sprite,” and Ford’s “quality is job one” tell a story the client understands.
My urgency to develop a personalized coaching message and my inability to personalize my coaching message became real on a date night with my wife and best friends. When my buddy found out that I had been certified as a life coach, he asked me an honest, sincere question. He simply queried, “What is coaching?”
My reply was clumsy and awkward. I said coaches help people who are stuck in a rut. In a light-hearted retort he said, “Yeah, my wife does that for me.” I said, “Hey, let’s order dinner.”
Developing the elevator speech required three things: an understanding of the marketplace; a unique product; and the ability to market your product.
I looked at the marketplace. I looked at the way other coaches describe coaching on their websites. I asked myself, Is the product they offer interesting? Would I hire them to be my coach? What are they offering? I chose to take a different tack and concluded my approach would focus on the outcomes of coaching. I chose to focus on the future reality of the client. as opposed to the client’s current reality. I chose to describe the outcomes as better decision making, success in business, success in relationships, and a more fulfilling life.
Over the next few weeks, I developed an elevator speech that focused on the outcomes of coaching. The three crucial tools to getting things done are wise decision-making, focus and vision. I found the analogy ‘coaching is the owners-manual for life’ led to a great discussion of the outcomes of coaching because coaching is the roadmap that guides all three of the crucial tools.
For my coaching practice, developing an elevator speech was the beginning. I still needed to find a way to make money and get in front of the right people. When the aspiring entrepreneur attends a network gathering, meets someone on the street, or meets the gatekeeper for the person they want to see, an elevator speech is paramount.
Make sure the speech tells your story and make sure the elevator speech leads the client to ask you questions. I knew my elevator speech was effective when my potential clients started asking me questions like, “What does coaching have to do with decision-making and how does vision and focus lead to success?”
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