We are happy to share an article from our friend Stan Peake, an expert business coach and captivating speaker who, in addition to being certified as a corporate facilitator and cultural transformation tools practitioner, is certified as an executive coach by the #1 executive coach in the world (John Mattone, former coach to Steve Jobs), titled Your Unique Value Proposition as a Coach.
Your Unique Value Proposition as Coach
As Sally Hogshead famously argued, “different is better than better”. This is advice every coach trying to build their dream practice needs to hear for two reasons. First, the innate drive to serve and help others steers many a coach into the common business trap that ‘any business is good business’. Second, if a coach trying to build their practice isn’t very clear on exactly who an ideal client is, then by definition they can’t be clear on how they as a coach provide unique value to said client niche.
In order to help any coach gain more clarity over their unique, differentiated value proposition, there are three key steps.
Step one: Who do you want to help?
Because most coaches, in my experience, are drawn to coaching in order to help others, the first step is to clarify exactly who you want to help as a coach. For most of us, our past often dictates our ideal future. Perhaps an early mentor helped create a soft spot in your heart for a certain profession for you. Often a more likely crucible are some past challenges: a struggle that left a bit of an emotional scar for you informs who you want to help. You may have had a manager early in your career who was harsh and impatient, which has made you passionate about helping new professionals find their brilliance.
Chances are, if you’ve chosen coaching as a profession, you’ve done a lot of self-work, and you’ve been able to reflect upon your challenges and find meaning in what used to be pain. Have you ever considered the greatest power in previous struggles could be to gain clarity in who you want to help, and how you can help them?
One caveat before you finalize your ideal client: no ‘Miss America’ answers. By this, I mean avoid answering what you think you should say. If you have a real emotional connection to a particular audience – a real preference to serve a subset of the population – then go with it.
Step two: What do they need?
If your experience has led you to empathize with, and want to help a particular audience, the key is to further explore their needs. The genesis of your reflection or research are the pain points of your audience – the problems they are trying to solve. This is because, according to statistics, 70% of all purchase decisions are made to ease pain; only 30% to gain something. Remember, the problem your ideal client has is not that they don’t have a coach, or even the right coach. Chances are, your ideal client’s problems they are actively seeking solutions for would be things like not knowing how to grow their business or not being able to get through to their team (or their boss).
When contemplating what your ideal client might be struggling with, the key is to understand the nature of their challenges, but also their psychology. Why might the particular problem(s) be so vexing? What emotions might they be experiencing? Are they any limiting beliefs that might be common among your ideal clientele?
After considering your ideal client’s pain points, it’s time to shift your focus to try and understand their goals. What are they trying to accomplish, and why? Consider a great coaching question, ‘how would their life improve if they achieve their goals?’
Queens University in Ontario, Canada, as part of their executive education in sales leadership, teaches value proposition in an unorthodox, albeit memorable way. They call it the Viagra Rule, and argue that people don’t buy products or services, they buy solutions to problems. Upon further explanation, Dr. Ken Wong explains that when Viagra first hit the market, it was designed to prevent heart attacks (think long-term, hard to prove benefit). When ‘that other benefit’ was discovered, sales skyrocketed. When Viagra could one day save your life, Pfizer was selling for $2 a pill4. When Viagra could save your Friday night, the price went up to $30 a pill4. Pfizer realized a 1500% increase in price simply by changing their value proposition from a long-range benefit to solving an urgent problem.
The last aspect of your clients’ needs to mentally siphon through are their needs, as they directly and indirectly relate to your offering. While most of your clients will require haircuts and annual medical exams, focus your effort on needs related to the type(s) of coaching you do, and how their needs can become the genesis of your service offering.
Step three: How do you help?
Now it’s your turn. While many might assume that their certifications, education, or corporate careers are their value proposition, rest assured- they are not. Your coaching certification, masters degree, and the fact that you were promoted to VP of Sales for North America in a large company are all elements of your credibility, not your value proposition. Chances are, your credibility enhances your value proposition, but the two concepts are neither synonymous nor interchangeable. The reason is that value, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder.
A client desperate to grow their business and improve sales could care less (right now) that you might have 25 years of leadership experience. They would place far more value in your experience and wisdom gleaned through growing and selling three previous businesses. Conversely, a client looking for advice on ‘managing up’ might feel they’re interviewing the wrong coach if your bio is completely focused on your entrepreneurial and speaking expertise. They need to know that you’ve overcome challenges with a direct supervisor in a senior role, and that you know how to help them navigate a comparable dilemma.
Putting it all together
When you understand what your client is struggling with, what they are trying to achieve, and how you can help, you are almost there. The last notion, when it comes to framing your value proposition, is to do so as a solution, not a service. Rather than “I coach leaders to realize their potential” you might consider “I help leaders get unstuck and realize their potential”. Re-read those two statements, and you’ll realize, as valuable as the first statement might sound, it’s a benefit- a $2 pill that might prevent you from dying 20 years from now. Re-read the second statement and you realize there’s a solution to pain (getting unstuck) and the actualization of a goal (realize their potential). Doesn’t the second statement, similar as the two may be, sound more compelling now?
Finally, when marketing your value proposition, market outcomes, not products and services. Especially for those who have not yet experienced the benefit of working with a great coach, most coaches are not focused on needing a coach. They are focused on needing a solution to a set of challenges, and on finding pathways to achieving their goals. Instead of marketing what a great coach you are, try and demonstrate to potential clients how because of your experiences and background (assuming they are, in fact, a fit) that you are the ideal coach to take them from where they are to where they want to be. If you’re not – be honest. When sales are approached with the utmost integrity, it actually becomes part of providing a valuable service.
So, who do you serve, and why are you the ideal coach for them? Wishing you, and those you serve, every success throughout your journeys!
How does it apply to you in your life?
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