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Top 5 reasons why coaches fail building a thriving business?

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

This is a noble and beautiful goal; to dedicate your life to empowering others to reach their full potential. In a world where 85% are disengaged with their jobs, and millions of people are depressed, unfulfilled, we certainly need more coaches, enablers, and givers. In 2012, the International Coach Federation (ICF) reported that life coaching is a $2 billion a year industry. The profession can be lucrative, as evinced by famed coach Marshall Goldsmith’s well-publicized rate of  $250,000 per client. 

Despite the increasing need for coaches and the ever-growing industry, many life coaches fail. Why?

What are the top 5 reasons why most coaches fall short when it comes to building a thriving practice?

Top 5 reasons why most coaches fall short
Top 5 reasons why most coaches fall short

Reason 1 - Jack of all Trades, Not a Master of One

If you ask 50 people what coaching is, you will certainly get 50 different answers from mentoring, consulting, counselling, therapy, neuro-linguistic programming to sports coaching. Hence, most people who could benefit from coaching have no clue what it is.

This is detrimental for business. Today, with information overload and low attention span, clarity is of paramount importance. Within seconds, potential clients need to understand your value proposition and clear impact for them.

Let me give you the example of Sarah and how she got 10 paying clients in 2 weeks. At the beginning of her coaching business, Sarah ran an experiment that totally changed her business.Rather than offering 1-hour of coaching week by week with no clear ending and outcomes, she designed a 10-week program with impactful coaching tools and very specific outcome. She offered clarity, methodology and focus to her clients.

Never again was she offering a difficult to-depict service. She was currently offering a well-defined program with a specific outcome customised for a specific customer. She was still selling coaching but she was putting it in a format that made it easier for her potential clients to evaluate and understand. The result: 10 paying clients  in two weeks!

Tip 1 : Find Your Niche. Clarity is Key: Make sure you have a well-defined program with a specific outcome for a specific customer.

Reason 2 - Focusing on your interests, rather than the client’s needs

It’s the number one rule of entrepreneurship: you can only successfully sell what your client wants to buy. And yet, many professionals  who have longed to start their own coaching practice have come to view it as their vehicle of creative expression rather than as a business. Even when we view our practice as a reflection of our innermost self, we have to remain cognizant of what clients are willing to pay for. Value is not determined by those who set the price. Value is determined by those who choose to pay it.

As a business or life coach, it is imperative that you focus on what your coaching clients want and need, NOT what you want. Your motives should ONLY be their motives. The second you prioritize what you think is important versus what your coaching client thinks is important, you have failed tremendously. Their needs always come before your needs (This goes for any relationship you want to last).

Another pitfall is to have only one (or a few) “one-size-fit-all” approach(es). If you’re not getting through to your coaching clients, it’s not them, it’s YOU. When you have only one approach your level of influence will suffer tremendously and neither you, nor your clients, will see results. Having only one approach is like driving down a dead-end road, it’s unlikely you’ll ever reach your destination (read: desired outcome). Just because one approach or strategy worked for you before, it does not mean it’ll work every time.

Tip 2 : Focus on your client’s needs with a customized approach.

The remaining 3 points are about the business element. Many underestimate the business aspect and lacking knowledge how-to build up a thriving business. Most Life Coaches don’t take the business element seriously enough.

Reason 3 -  Unwillingness to reach out to past contacts

For any new coach, without any previous track record, the only way to land early clients is to reach out to your existing network. Understandably, outsiders will be hesitant to entrust your abilities. Many new coaches — fearing rejection or feeling vulnerable about “asking for business” to their network — hesitate to reach out to the people most likely to become their clients. Instead, they hold out the magical hope that new contacts will suddenly decide to hire them.

Reach out to your network first.
Reach out to your network first.

Send a message to your network informing them about the launch of your coaching practice, stating your specific value proposition for specific target clients and clear outcomes. You can then state “In case you happen to know anyone who might be a fit for that, I’m always looking for great clients to work with.” You’re not putting them on the spot or demanding referrals, but you are making it clear that you welcome introductions if they feel it’s appropriate. It’s a small but important step that too many new coaches hesitate to take.

Tip 3 : Reach out to your network first.

Reason 4 -  Lacking a clear plan for sales & marketing

Most visitors will stick around less than 15 seconds on your website. 15 seconds.. that’s how long you have to capture someone’s attention on your website. And on Facebook, the attention span goes down to 2 seconds. And that’s only one level of the marketing funnel.

A model describing the various stages of a prospect’s journey from the first interaction with your brand to the ultimate goal: conversion. Conversion rate optimization is about moving people through your marketing funnel (hourglass), turning them from prospects into raving, repeat customers.

Rely on different sources of lead generation.
Rely on different sources of lead generation.

Tip 4 : Rely on different sources of lead generation. Keep learning why some work or not for you. Don’t underestimate the different stages of the hourglass.

Reason 5 -  Lacking Persistence

According to Forbes, 8 out of 10 of all businesses fail within the first 18 months. Despite that, it is clear that the potential pleasure of succeeding as an entrepreneur far outweighs the probability of failure that plagues most flagging business owner.

The main reason why most entrepreneurs fail is due to a lack of persistence. It’s hard running a business. Very hard. You never actually know how close you were to success before you gave up. You could have been just right there. But if you throw in that towel and give up, how would you ever know how close or far away you were?

How committed are you to achieving your goals and what are your fundamental reasons why you must succeed in the first place? When the reasons are deep-rooted reasons rather than superficial ones, we usually end up pushing through. 

When the reasons are deep-rooted reasons rather than superficial ones, we usually end up pushing through. 
When the reasons are deep-rooted reasons rather than superficial ones, we usually end up pushing through. 

I believe the best story about persistence is about a general who landed a battalion on the shores of a foreign country, prepared to go to battle. After they all disembarked, he sent his lieutenants to burn their own ships (which brought them there). The soldiers were outraged. The enemy they were about to face outnumbered them 5 to 1 and the general knew that if the soldiers thought they could retreat and head back to the ships, they would never win. The general told the soldiers that the only way to get back home to their families was straight through. If they failed, they would never see their loved ones again.

This invoked a sense of determined spirit that hadn’t existed before. The army won that war and the general was hailed as a hero. But it would have never happened if he hadn’t burned those ships. He gave them no choice for retreat. Similarly, in business, you have to burn the ships. You can’t think about going back to a life-sucking 9-to-5 job. Make it so that there’s no option for retreat.

Tip 5 : Be clear on the deep-rooted reasons why you need to succeed, with no option for retreat.

The rewards of launching a coaching practice can be substantial.

You truly have the ability to develop a thriving business and make a greater impact, if you avoid the most common pitfalls and instead focus on: - finding your niche and communicating clearly about it, - focusing on your clients’ needs vs yours, - reaching out first to your existing network, - having a clear business development strategy, - keeping a strong determination thanks to the deep-rooted reasons why you need to succeed, with no option for retreat.

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