In sales it’s said that people only buy from those they know, like and trust, which is kind of stupid because you have to know and like somebody to trust them. Nobody’s ever said, “I don’t know that guy, and I kinda hate him, but for some reason, I trust him.”
People are definitely not going to buy your coaching services if they don’t trust you. To be an effective coach, people have to trust you personally and professionally.
We all know that not being a weirdo can be hard for some accountants, but by and large, we’re far from shitty at our job. The readily available advice to build trust is “be consistent,” “be professional,” “exceed expectations,” and “communicate effectively.” These things make you RELIABLE, not necessarily trustworthy, and there’s a big difference between reliability and trustworthiness.
Being reliable means that people know that when you say they won’t have to extend their return, they won’t have to extend their return. Being trustworthy means that they can tell you that they missed that appointment with you because on the way over they sneezed weird and pooped their pants.
When you’re coaching you need your clients’ TRUST. Don’t get me wrong. You still need to be reliable, but they need to trust you enough to open up to you and they need to trust you enough to take the risks that you’re coaching them to take.
So here are some hacks to build actual trust with potential coaching clients.
It’s spooky how powerful this is. Experiment after experiment shows that people interact and engage at a deeper level with people whom they perceive to be similar to themselves. If you use similar words and expressions or even repeat back what someone says (active listening, like your marriage counselor taught you), they will perceive you as similar to themselves and trust will be augmented. Similar body language does the same thing.
One psychologist even did an experiment where two people sat on opposite sides of sound-proof glass. A familiar song was played such that both people could hear it, and they were told to tap their finger along with the melody. But sometimes the experimenters threw somebody into the mix and told them to deliberately tap wrong. After this they tested the perceived trustworthiness of the subjects. Those who tapped the same were shockingly more trusting, whereas those who didn’t tap in unison had much less trust.
And that’s all stupid superficial stuff. Take this to the big leagues, and search for potential coaching clients who you know are similar to you in more meaningful ways than mannerisms and clapping on two and four. Target coaching clients who have similar interests and hobbies as you. At this time of year, find out what your clients’ New Year’s resolutions are, and share yours with them. Those who are trying to reach the same personal goals as you will see you as similar and will trust you more as a coach.
Trust is reciprocal. If I don’t trust you, you’re less likely to trust me. However, if I demonstrate to you that I trust you, your reflex will be to trust me more.
One way to do this is to swear. For real. Drop an F-bomb or an S-hit. I’m not necessarily saying that you should start reciting Pulp Fiction, but the ways that you swear in real life with friends and family, swear like that with the customers you’re trying to build trust with. They will see it as a risk and feel as though you trusted them enough to cuss in front of them.
An even better way to be vulnerable is to share stories of your abject failures. Especially your business failures. Like that time you thought a great niche would be Spanish-speaking drywall professionals, even though you don’t speak any Spanish. If you tell me about that, then I’m so much more open to telling you about my struggles and failures and fears. This is stuff you may want to keep locked away, but if you really want to build trust (and you can’t effectively coach without a foundation of trust) then you’ve got to do it.
If we’re in the jungle, and there’s a rickety bridge, and you tell me that I need to cross that rickety-ass bridge, I’m not going to cross that bridge. You can tell me as much as you want about how stable it is, but if you’ve never crossed the bridge, forget you and forget that bridge. But if I can watch you cross the bridge, then I’m right behind you.
Arguably, the biggest part of coaching is challenging the people you coach to take big risks. If you’re a giant wuss, you can’t challenge people to do scary stuff. They won’t trust you. If you can tell them the story of when you took the exact same risk, then they’ll trust you and gain confidence from your experience.
By highlighting similarities, being vulnerable, and leading by example, you’ll become more than reliable to your coaching clients, you’ll gain their trust. And you should also stop being a weirdo.
Greg was born in Akron, Ohio, in the shadow of the Firestone tire factory. He began to swim competitively when he was eight, swimming for the Mountlake Terrace Lemmings. He graduated in 1995 from the University of Washington with a math degree. He chose math for the ladies. After serving ten-years as an 8th grade math teacher, he decided it was time for a career change, mainly because he “couldn’t stand those little bastards.” He began his accounting career with a local CPA firm in Orem, Utah, where he consistently failed the QuickBooks ProAdvisor advanced certification exam. Greg currently works as the Controller for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza. He lives in Utah, but manages to make it to Greenville, SC once a year to emcee Deeper Weekend. He enjoys eating maple bars, drinking Diet Pepsi, and swearing.