The Shortcut, Please

The voice on the phone could have been any business call I get in the course of a day.
“I’m an artist, and a coach, and I teach business communications.”
“Great,” I say, and almost always, I know what’s coming.
“I’ve noticed on your website that you teach journaling classes, even incorporate them in business seminars,” the eager voice says.
“You are right,” I say waiting for the next question.
“Well, I’m having trouble getting a lot of people in my class. And you’ve had this up on your site for a while. So you must be doing something right. Can you give me some tips and shortcuts so I can be successful?”
It’s seldom that I am at a loss for words, but this is a sure way to make me speechless. Lacking understanding, I aim for clarity.
“I’m not sure what you want me to tell you,” I ask, although I’m beginning to think I do.
“I want you to give me shortcuts and tips to be successful,” the voice says.
“What are you doing now that works?” I ask.
“Well, I’ve been a coach for about six months and word of mouth isn’t working,” she says.
“Word of mouth is a method that comes after there are enough happy mouths to talk about your work. Word of mouth takes about four years to work,” I say.
“What? That can’t be. Look at all those people on the internet, and their sites, and all the ones that get thousands of orders overnight,” she says, what about them?
“I don’t know about them,” I answer honestly, “Here’s what I can tell you about my success. I work 120 hours a week, divided over 7 days. I make mistakes, I fail, I figure out what went wrong. I do something else. I advertise, I use every opportunity I can find, some work better than others. I don’t have a secret, and I don’t know any shortcuts.”
The voice at the other end of the phone is quiet.
“You won’t help me. Women are supposed to help each other,” she says.
“I am helping you. I’m telling you from my experience that there is no shortcut. I can give you tips, though.”
“OK, she says, GO.”roadwork ahead
“Keep track of what works.
Listen more than talk.
Ask questions.
Go “huh?” a lot and wonder why.
Advertising takes longer to work than you think it should.
Run ads at least 7 times before you expect them to work.
Have a clear idea of what your business is about.
Know why what you do is different from what other people in the same line of work do.
Know what your features and benefits are, be ready to explain them.
Most people know features really well, but explaining the benefits of your service is the key to success.
Don’t ever undervalue yourself, but understand that value is a relative thing.
Don’t think everyone in your audience is rich, and don’t plan on having just rich people for an audience.”

Those are the best tips I know.
“Oh.” She sounded disappointed. “So you won’t share shortcuts.”
“I can’t,” I say, wishing I had some myself. I’m not pushing 50, I’m dragging it, and I wish I had discovered some shortcuts.
“Can I ask you another question?” the voice asks.
“Sure, go ahead. If I know the answer, I’ll tell you.”
“Do you know someone else, maybe someone famous, who’ll share their shortcuts with me?”

Note: Every coaching school, as part of its curriculum, should teach marketing. The one I attended has an optional brown-bag lunch session in two courses, but it wasn’t part of the training. There was a separate marketing course, with a separate fee. Coaching students are often other-directed, focused on spirituality, and believe that “sales” and “marketing” are bad words, that selling your service is somehow tainted. These good people often think  they will attract the right people to them just because they are ready to work.

From what I’ve read, a large number of people go through coaches training and then can’t create a business. Part of every educational course that teaches a skill should be a lesson on how to apply it, how to market it and how to create a life doing it. My husband, who is a personal chef, discovered the same thing in his training. Luckily, we both came from marketing backgrounds. For those who don’t, and are planning on taking any skill-set education, it’s an important question to ask, “Do you offer marketing as part of the course?”

–(c) Quinn McDonald, 2007. All rights reserved.