“Grow your email list.” “Speak in your community.” “Get active on social media.” “Meet people at events.” “Start a blog.” These are all recommendations a coach will hear when exploring how to build a coaching practice.

There’s nothing wrong with this advice. Each one of these approaches has the potential to bring a coach more clients. But there’s another factor in the marketing equation, and it’s probably the most important. That crucial element is you.

Having hundreds of people on your email list won’t help you if your inner critic or fear of rejection keeps you from asking for their business. If you resist meeting new people when you go to events, attending those events won’t be a successful strategy. And blogging will only be useful if you actually write regular blog entries instead of putting them off.

Are Saboteurs At Work?

Where might fear, resistance, procrastination, or the inner critic be slowing down – or even stopping – your marketing and sales? Sometimes these saboteurs are easy to spot. For example, let’s say you have a hot lead you’ve been meaning to contact for the past two weeks, but it’s just not getting done. In this situation, it’s obvious even to you that you’re procrastinating or feeling fearful.

At other times, though, marketing self-sabotage can be more subtle. Perhaps you’ve been spending an hour per day lately liking and commenting on social media posts. Meanwhile, you claim you haven’t had the time to compose and send emails to the people you met at last week’s networking event. You tell yourself this is okay, because your time on social media is marketing time, isn’t it?

Maybe it is (depending on whose posts you’re interacting with), but is that truly the best use of your marketing time? Or is it possible that your sudden interest in social media is an excuse to avoid writing those potentially confronting marketing emails?

Get Curious about Your Marketing

As a coach, you know the value of tracking and reporting actions. We ask our clients to note how many times they went for a run this week, or to notice how often they ducked a compliment, and then report about these events to us. This helps our clients in three ways. First, they raise their awareness about what they’re doing. Second, having to track and report holds them accountable. Third, they learn what it might take to do things differently.

Adopting this simple practice of tracking and reporting can have a powerful impact on marketing and sales, especially when it comes to defeating saboteurs. Start the week with some measurable commitments. For example, commit to placing five follow-up calls, writing ten marketing emails, and meeting three potential coaching clients at an upcoming networking event. Share these commitments with someone and promise to report back in a week. Then keep track of what you actually do.

When your tracking uncovers a gap between what you committed to and what you did, get curious. What did you do instead of placing the phone calls you intended? What was the story you told yourself about why those emails never got sent? What thoughts and feelings did you experience when you chose to hang out with your friends at the networking event, instead of trying to meet anyone new? If the accountability partner you chose is a coach, have him or her help you find answers to these questions.

Sidebar: Change Your Marketing Habits

According to effectiveness experts James Clear, B.J. Fogg, and Charles Duhigg, successfully changing your habits requires three steps that Clear describes as reminder, routine, and reward.

Reminder: Choose something to remind you of the habit you wish to change. For example, perhaps you’ve been putting off making follow-up calls. Select a reminder to which is something you always do or always happens. If you routinely drink a cup of coffee or tea each morning, finishing your first cup could be the trigger that tells you it’s time for your first follow-up call.

Routine: Establish a routine you follow as soon as you get the reminder. For example, you could design a routine to place two follow-up calls immediately after you drain your mug.

Reward: When something positive happens after you complete a behavior, it reinforces that action and makes you want to take it again. The reward for placing your two follow-up calls could be tangible (you get to have a second cup of your favorite hot beverage) or intangible (you acknowledge yourself for placing the calls and know you;re that much closer to your next client).

Behavioral psychology researchers have proven that this sequence, when followed over time, allows you to transform long-standing habits into new behaviors.

Routing the Saboteurs

The first step toward eliminating saboteurs from your marketing is getting to know them. Once you recognize they are at work, take responsibility for them. The next time they show up, don’t try to deny or push through feeling anxious, resistant, or inadequate. Instead, acknowledge what’s happening, and name it: “Oh, there’s the fear again” or “Wow, I’m really feeling resistant right now.”

Then make a conscious choice about what to do next. Try to find one action step to take that’s in the direction you want to go. If a particular call seems too scary right now, choose a different call and make that one, instead of avoiding calls altogether. When you’re feeling resistant about writing a new blog post, try to spend just five minutes on it.

Every move you make in the direction of overcoming your saboteurs will strengthen your marketing muscles. Over time, you’ll find you have increased confidence and effectiveness in areas beyond marketing as well. You’ll be building yourself up. And that’s one of the best things you can do to build your business.

This article was first published in the Summer 2015 issue of Choice: The Magazine of Professional Coaching, and has not been printed elsewhere. If you would like to print it in your publication, please contact me for details and permission.

C.J. Hayden, MCC, CPCC, is the author of the bestseller Get Clients Now! A 28-Day Marketing Program for Professionals, Consultants, and Coaches, Since 1992, she's been helping entrepreneurs survive and thrive. C.J. is the author of five other business how-to-books, and has taught marketing at Mills College and John F. Kennedy University. Find out how you can work with C.J. as your business coach or strategic advisor or attend one of her upcoming programs.

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