Story 1: A leadership coach sits next to an executive at a seminar where they exchange business cards. Three years later, it turns out the exec, who now works at a $100b+ annual revenue corp, has consistently read the coach’s weekly newsletter since. A recent article resonates and the coach is hired to speak on the topic in front of 40 top execs. That engagement in turn results in multiple long-term coaching engagements with execs from that BigCo.
Story 2: A few years ago, Ann and I went to a block party where we hit it off with a nice couple. A few months later, we get referred to the husband’s largest client for a major website project, which results in five more non-trivial engagements, and a dozen or so smaller projects, mostly through the social media and content agency we worked with on that site project.
If these stories happened by dumb luck, we’d be off the hook for reproducing similar results consistently.
But they were not random. These wins were inevitable.
The leadership coach had to go to the seminar. Then she had to knock the speaking engagement out of the park to get a bunch of coaching gigs from it.
Similarly, we had to meet our neighbor, have a successful site launch to become the go to referral over other web designers in the agency’s network.
The takeaway: “meet people, keep in touch in a way that fosters credibility/trust, and be good at what you do.”
Yuck. It’s obnoxiously simple. I wish it was less simple but also easier to implement.
And yet some version of this pattern keeps popping up in my research.
In half of my recent interviews with coaches making $200k+, they put time (years) in at chambers, boards, and committees associated with or adjacent to their target industries (meeting new people and staying top of mind with them).
They honed their crafts, figured out a way to use the web to keep in touch with past clients, took speaking engagements, often for free or even a nominal fee (as long as it promised a relevant audience).
Here are the ingredients to this formula:
- meeting someone new precipitated an opportunity that otherwise never would have happened
- the resulting network access opened a doorway to an array of opportunities
- being top of mind (like the coach’s newsletter and for us, the neighbor proximity, and continued work on website with the agency over time) until an opportunity came to fruition meant we did not get lost in the shuffle
- sufficient credibility/trust for the initial opportunity
- quality of work to enable subsequent opportunities once in the new network
That is literally the formula. It inevitably results in relevant opportunities that can be seized, which in turn, springboards you into even more meaningful opportunities.
Ok, great. Now you’re convinced I’ve found the formula/pattern that leads to inevitable success. So why is it so (at least for me) unexciting?
I don’t want to be nice to lots of random people for years.
I know. What a jerk. But I don’t want to join a chamber of commerce, be nice to a bunch of random people, “give without expecting anything in return,” and then rinse and repeat for… YEARS.
Of the coaches I’ve interviewed taking this approach – only one of them made it sound like they had fun doing that and even she was like, “yep. it was hard as dirt, but that’s how i do.”
Now here is the maybe exciting part. We can take the essence of the pattern – the key features, and instead of brute forcing it with a sledgehammer, we use a scalpel.
My point about success being inevitable is sort of like anything – if conditions are ripe for something to happen, it will happen. In that case, it’s a matter of ripening conditions.
Let’s go back and refine our ingredients to the core essence:
- meet someone new with relevant, meaningful network access
- do things to be top of mind and increase credibility/trust with them
- do good work once access is given
The winning coach approach is a bit too spray-and-pray for me, and I’d argue, most of us.
And it’s not just successful coaches who have to endure this inefficiency to reach success, it’s all the “overnight successes years in the making” out there.
Once these coaches reached a measure of success, they went through a “refinement” period. I don’t know why I put that in quotes, it’s my words, not theres’.
But they all got to a point where they had to learn to say no to not great fit clients and hone in on the types of orgs they would serve and stay close to, orgs that aligned with their target client profiles:
- The local commercial real estate leadership coach.
- The local non-profit leadership coach.
- The local high powered attorney career coach.
Clearly, that positioning/refinement/niching process made it easier to network with people in the right networks. But even then it’s still… kind of inefficient to me.
More later, maybe!