How to adopt a coach mindset and grow your business

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We live in a consumer culture. On the one hand, the creation of commodities has always been the raison d’être of capitalism, and the concern with commodification is as old as the market itself. But under advanced capitalism, we have seen commodification take a new form. Today, almost anything can become a commodity, from knowledge and experiences to culture and (if you’re Paris Hilton) even the self. This change also means that “market talk” is being applied to some of the most fundamental facets of business, including customer relationships.

Looking for evidence? Consider that companies have increasingly relegated customer success and education to a discreet team of representatives. According to a 2021 LinkedIn analysis of more than 15,000 job titles, sales and business development roles (for example, sales consultant, sales operations specialist, and strategic advisor) experienced one of the fastest hiring growth rates high year after year with 45%. By flattening the customer-business relationship in this way, companies are sending a message: customer education is a tick box.

This is a very short-sighted approach to driving business growth. Instead, I recommend a relationship building coaching model. By nature, coaching is collaborative. It’s about working with clients to become trusted advisors. And if you’re interested in establishing and maintaining a coaching-oriented client education model, implement these practices today.

Related: Why small businesses need to prioritize continuous learning

1. Play the long game

I’ve made something of a career out of giving the farm away, so to speak. What I want to say is that I am not stingy with free advice because I know that sharing my experience will be worth it, even if it does not generate immediate profit.

For example, I recently had lunch with a business owner who was interested in our application consulting services, but still couldn’t afford to partner with us. Some business owners would have you believe that meeting with people who don’t pay you is a waste of time, but I knew it was an opportunity to show my value and build trust, which could lead to future business. After all, PwC found that nearly 50% of consumers point to trust as the reason they started patronizing a business.

So I sat down with this person and talked about his business as if he had an equity stake. We cover everything from current industry forces to the unique ways we work with our clients. And at the end of the meeting, this individual thanked me profusely. I left feeling confident that he had forged a new relationship rooted in trust and respect.

Food to go? Be kind with your time and talents. For one thing, it creates a sense of reciprocity: most people will remember your generosity and look for ways to work with you in the future. But even if they don’t, a positive experience built on trust will help increase your brand exposure, strengthen customer trust, and even increase loyalty.

Related: I talked my way out of winning $50,000. Here’s why it was a good business decision

2. Create an educational library

In sales, there is an inherent power imbalance: Salespeople have expertise that customers don’t. This is what is called information asymmetry, and customers must trust that the vendor will exercise that power responsibly. But when companies value deals won over relationships built, they incentivize sellers to abuse this information asymmetry, inadvertently or not. That manifests itself when salespeople withhold essential information or misrepresent the company’s abilities to close the sale.

This kind of practice goes against a coaching mentality. Instead, pave the way for valuable, long-term relationships by empowering employees to lead customer education, give feedback, and provide ongoing strategic guidance. To help them in this effort, create training materials and customer-facing content to explain not only your product or service, but also your business philosophy. For example, we create and publish content on the Site explicitly geared toward customer education. Salespeople and account managers can take advantage of this guarantee to reset customer expectations.

Don’t overlook the value of general education, either. We find that potential customers use our blog to learn about broader topics like software development. Similarly, Progressive’s business division publishes blogs aimed at helping business leaders deal with challenges ranging from data loss to HR errors. Building this library is time-consuming, but it’s worth the effort considering that Demand Metric found that 80% of people prefer to learn about a company through personalized content.

Related: 3 Ways to Educate Online Shoppers

3. Integrate coaching into everything you do

We incorporate a coaching mindset into everything we do: our ceremonies, demos, processes, deliverables, etc. Doing so reinforces the idea that client education is not relegated to the beginning of the relationship. Rather, it is a passing line. Ideally, you should be teaching customers something new every few months. That’s the difference between a supplier and a partner: partners continually add value; providers provide a one-time service.

Continuing education also helps you manage customer expectations and course correct when things go wrong. This is especially pertinent in my industry because our clients rarely understand the ins and outs of working with software: Why do I have to pay to correct errors? Isn’t that your job? Why did this thing break even though we tried it? These are very common questions in my line of work, so education is vital to maintaining trust, which, according to PwC, 73% of business leaders agree promotes greater customer loyalty.

At this point, it’s almost easier to name what hasn’t been commodified than what has. But just because we they can Commodifying something doesn’t mean we should. Transactional relationships with customers breed short-term transactional commitments. Instead, business leaders can set themselves up for sustained success by designing and maintaining a coaching culture.

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