Recently, I was working with a seasoned coach/consultant who wants to work with ministry leaders. Unfortunately, he had hit a roadblock. The pastors he felt called to coach were not responding and the reason was quite clear – they didn’t think they needed help.
It wasn’t that they didn’t need his help, it was that they were unable to admit they needed any help. In their world, admitting the need for help was a sign of weakness, unbearable vulnerability, and perhaps evidence that they were unfit for ministry.
Church leaders aren’t the only ones who struggle to admit they need help. And while coaching is not necessarily best thought of as “help,” many would-be clients cannot make the admission that working with a coach could prove beneficial to their journey. What’s a coach to do?
When marketing your coaching services, it’s important to describe the client’s situation in ways that don’t sound like you’re saying the client is a “loser.” Now, I know you don’t think of your clients as losers and that you would never, ever intentionally use loser language, but this kind of language can easily leak into your marketing language, both in your formal marketing and your informal networking conversations. Here’s what it can sound like:
- I help people who are stuck in life.
- I work with leaders who’ve hit a wall.
- I work with seasoned business leaders who wonder if they’ve lost their edge.
- I coach young moms who want to pull their hair out.
- I coach people who want to lose weight but can’t stick with a diet.
- I help small business owners who are in over their heads.
- I coach retired people who’ve lost their purpose in life.
Each of these examples uses negative situation contextualization or NSC. Honestly, I just made up that term and I thought that giving it the abbreviation NSC would make it sound like a legit psychological factor. I like it, so I’m going to go ahead and run with it. Okay, now back to the impact of NSC.
In marketing, we want to be clear that the client has a problem that can be addressed through coaching with us. But in our efforts to describe the problem, we flirt with situating the client in a negative context. NSC can lead the client to think that we think the client is the problem. That’s NOT the case. The client is not the problem, the client has a problem. But what if having a problem means the person is, well, a loser? It’s a delicate dance and so we want to find ways to reinforce that the client is actually a winner by dealing with his or her problem.
What’s it sound like to contextualize the client as a winner? Here’s what I think it can sound like:
- I help people gain momentum in life.
- I work with leaders who are scaling new obstacles.
- I work with seasoned business leaders who refuse to lose their edge.
- I coach young moms to develop immunity to frustration.
- I coach people who are ready to do what it takes to get healthy.
- I help small business owners whose success is bringing fresh challenges.
- I coach retired people who found a desire for a new purpose in life.
Of course, there are many ways to say things and sometimes what sounds negative to one person is inspiring to another. This blog post is less about wordsmithing and more about thinking in heroic terms about your clientele. Your clients (both current and potential) are not losers in need of help – they are winners ready for a coach.
The very best athletes have coaches. In fact, most of them have several coaches – one for each aspect of their life and success such as diet, strength, flexibility, mental toughness, and finances. Your clients occupy a similar space. They are not working with a coach because of weakness but from a place of strength, agency, resilience, and responsibility.
Your clients may not think they need help. They might even confuse an admission of need with an admission of weakness or unfitness. Rather than convince them otherwise, change your own mindset and language to fit the truth that they are creative, resourceful, and just the type of strong person who can make the most of a coaching relationship.