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Outsmart the Hustle

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Next month I’ll be celebrating my 8 year anniversary as a full-time coach and business builder. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been at this for a while now and that I’m approaching a decade of doing this work.

Not too long ago a client asked me what my biggest mistakes have been and what I’d warn him NOT to do so that he could avoid making those same mistakes.

Kudos to my client for the excellent question!

My clients’ question seems like the perfect opportunity to reflect on the biggest business blunders I’ve had to navigate over the past eight years.

Here they are… 

Blunder #1: I was trying to do things that weren’t in alignment with my natural talents, skills, and abilities.

Early on I had a severe case of imposter complex and I thought my business should look like others in my market. I was constantly looking around to see what everyone else was doing and not recognizing my own strengths, preferences, and the things that came easiest to me. 

I would get distracted looking outside of myself for what I thought was the hottest trend or the idea that I thought would resonate with the most people. My intention was genuine (to help people) but the effort was not.

I wished I would have taken some time to recognize my unique genius – the skills, experiences, and talents that I was already good at – and focused more on those. 

I had so many unique and valuable perspectives that I was discounting because I was looking outside of myself for validation instead of looking for the value within.

Here are some of the things I was discounting:

  • I had a 14-year career as a sales executive where I prided myself on the reputation I’d built for establishing high-quality relationships and serving people BEFORE I ever asked for a sale. 
  • I had a knack for simplifying complicated concepts and making them easy to understand. My career in selling complex technology solutions had uniquely prepared me to explain complex ideas in a simple and easily understood way.
  • I had mastered the art of relationship building and using this innate skill to boost my career. I was proud of the fact that I had always achieved a high level of success as a sales executive without ever cold calling or engaging in short-term, transactional relationships. 
  • For some reason, without doing anything, people seem to trust me with what they are going through. As I got further along in my career, I kept hearing similar phrases from strangers. Things like, “Wow, you are so easy to talk to.” and “You’re such a great listener.” I’m not sure if this is something I was born with or developed over time but today I consider it one of my superpowers to make people feel comfortable and safe without saying a word.

I wish I would have taken an inventory of these skills, talents, and abilities earlier on. It would have given me a higher level of confidence to see that I already had all that I needed to bring value to my clients and be a highly valuable coach. 

Tip: Focus on what you already do really well instead of trying to do (or be) what you think others expect of you. Amplifying your existing genius is the surest way to create a joyful and sustainable business on your terms.

Blunder #2: My niche focus was way too broad.

I was trying to be everything to everyone in the early days of building my coaching business. I couldn’t seem to wrap my head around the competitive advantages of narrowing down my focus and how that would make my business-building efforts exponentially easier.

If you would have asked me what I do or who I helped, I probably would have said something like, “I can help you build a business that aligns with your purpose.”

That’s not inherently bad but it’s a pretty broad focus that certainly didn’t help me differentiate from the thousands of other coaches out there who do something similarly vague.

You could even say that I was (unconsciously) working against my desires by being so ambiguous.

I have a much different answer to that question today. If you ask me what I do, I’ll respond with something like; I help impact-focused entrepreneurs make their first $100k so they can have a sustainable income while having the impact they desire.”

In hindsight, it would have been helpful to be more precise about who I wanted to serve and how I could help them.

Tip: Narrow down to 1 or 2 things you do better than anyone else and dive deep into these to communicate your value. This approach will have you feeling confident about your unique ability to help your market overcome a specific problem or achieve a specific goal. 

Blunder #3: I was totally ‘winging it’ when it came to my discovery sessions with prospective clients. 

Despite having 14-years of experience as a sales executive, I had no solid sales process for guiding prospective clients through a discovery call. Call it overconfidence or just being lazy, but I was totally winging it when it came to talking with potential clients about their issues/aspirations and how I might help them.

This led to a dive in my confidence and a conversion rate of less than 50%. Some of you might be thinking, “Hey, a 50% conversion rate is pretty good!” to which I would say …nope. 

Assuming that you are having discovery calls with high-quality clients, and you have a sales process you feel aligned with, your conversion rate should easily be 75% – 85%, no matter what price you charge.

To make matters even more confusing, I saw all these “experts” in my space using weird ‘scarcity’ techniques to convince people to buy from them. 

Yuck!

Looking back, I could have enjoyed my discovery calls and had much higher conversion rates if I was using an ethical selling process that felt good to me while allowing my prospects to feel safe, seen, and respected.

Tip: How we sell matters. Don’t ‘wing it’ when it comes to selling. It’s important to have a rock-solid sales process that feels really good to you. If you’re selling in a way that feels uncomfortable, pushy, or needy, you’ll be working against yourself and leaving a lot of money on the table.

Blunder #4: I was massively overcomplicating my marketing efforts.

I was endlessly chasing fancy marketing tactics and social media strategies that felt like the perfect shortcuts I needed to rev up my cash flow.

Do this at your own peril. Chasing these silver bullet strategies cost me tons of valuable time, money, and resources that could have been focused on building a lasting foundation for a sustainable business.

Just know that there are more marketing gurus than ever trying to sell you on their latest promise of endless clients and ‘perfect’ strategies. I’m not saying these are all bad but you must have a good understanding of the timing of certain strategies and which ones are a good fit for you based on the stage of your business. The sequencing of when to use certain business-building activities is severely underrated and not talked about nearly enough.

Most businesses can be steadily built on a really simple and solid foundation. A framework that I’ve personally used is something called the ‘Rule of Five Ones.’

The Rule of Five Ones looks like this:

  • Choose ONE target market where you can make ONE solid promise around ONE sticky problem that your ideal client has.
  • Develop ONE core offer that you market, sell and deliver. 
  • Create ONE signature process/framework/methodology you use to help your clients get the outcome/results they desire.
  • Have ONE conversion journey you use to bring in high-quality leads that convert to predictable clients (and reliable revenue). For example, this could be collaborating with partners in your market to host a monthly master class that invites attendees to a 30-minute discovery call. 
  • Commit to this process for ONE year or until you’ve got sustainable cash flow.

This idea is incredibly straightforward – keep things simple and nail the fundamentals before adding more complexity to your business. 

In the first two years of my business, I was jumping all over the place. At one point I had five different offers that I was trying to create, market, sell, deliver and support. It’s no wonder it took me almost two years to replace the income I was making as a sales executive. I was making everything way too complex and harder than it needed to be.

Tip: Building a simple foundation for your business is what I call ‘Intelligent Business Design’ and this has a much higher return on your energy (ROE) than chasing the latest marketing fads and tactics. Mastering the basics of building your business is what gets you a solid foundation so that you’re not constantly reinventing from the ground up.

Blunder #5: I was undercharging for the value I was providing and the results I was delivering.

It was pretty humbling when I had a potential client tell me that the only way she was going to work with me as if I raised my rates enough for her to take me (and her work with me) seriously. 

She thought my rates weren’t accurately reflecting the value I was promising. And she was right. I was afraid, after 14 years of selling software solutions, to put a price on my personal value as a coach.

At the time, I had been asking clients to invest $650 per month with me for a minimum of six months. As a result of being challenged by a prospective client, I bumped my coaching rate to $1,000 per month. My new client happily agreed to pay my new rate and we ended up working together for over two years where she eventually was paying me $1,500 per month for a year-long coaching agreement.

This is where I had an important realization. I could be making the same amount of money with half the effort. This realization allowed me to show up even more focused and engaged for my clients.

With just a handful of 1:1 clients, I had created a simple coaching business that generated $170k per year and effectively replaced my sales executive income while giving me a huge quality of life upgrade.

Money is a neutral resource we use to exchange value in our culture. You, and only you, decide how much you want to charge for the products or services you deliver.

If you compete on price by thinking of your product or service as something that will be compared to others, then by definition you’re positioning yourself as a commodity.

There’s a 99.9999% chance that you have money hangups. We all do. 

I know an executive coach that raises her rates 10% for every three clients that say “yes” to her offer. Is that bold? It depends. 

All I know is she makes really good money and her clients happily pay her for the amazing results she delivers.

Tip: I challenge you to double your prices. I realize this probably sounds crazy, but even if you lose half your clients, you’ll be making the same amount of money and working half the hours. And if you dread saying your new price, practice saying it out loud. Literally, look in the mirror and say, “I charge $XXXX for you to work with me.” Do this until there’s no hesitation left.

Building a sustainable and life-giving business doesn’t have to be hard.

In fact, it can be far simpler than most people think. We tend to unknowingly complicate things, overthink things,  and make the process way harder (and slower) than it needs to be.

I’d love to help. I have two private coaching spots opening up this fall. If you’d like to explore a simpler and easier way to build a purposeful and profitable business that reflects the work you are most called to do then schedule a discovery call or learn more about the Impact Accelerator coaching program.

To fewer business blunders,

Michael

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