What to Look for When Hiring a Business Coach with Heather Wylde Smith

Apr 11, 2022

Today's episode features ethical business coach Heather Wylde Smith, who talks about her journey as an online entrepreneur and shares some key insight into what to look for when searching for a business coach.

In this episode, we talk about some of the most common trends in the business coaching space:

  • Why you've not gotten the results you want even after investing in coaching and doing the work
  • How to tell when your mindset is holding you back...and how to tell when your mindset isn't the culprit after all
  • Why it usually makes sense to work 1:1 with a coach rather than signing up for a large group program
  • Red flags to look for when considering working with a business coach

Heather Wylde Smith is an Ethical Sales Expert for ambitious purpose-driven coaches and healers who want to effectively sell their services, without feeling like they are selling their souls. She specializes in consultation-style sales that use genuine human connection and positive sales psychology to enroll the most qualified clients in a way that is respectful, caring, and ethical.

Mentioned in this Episode:

 JACOB RATLIFF: I am here today with one of my absolute favorite people in the world, Heather Wylde Smith. Heather is an ethical sales expert for ambitious, purpose-driven coaches and healers who want to effectively sell their services without feeling like they're selling their souls. She specializes in a consultation sales approach that uses genuine human connection, and a positive sales psychology to enroll the most qualified clients in a way that is respectful, caring, and ethical. 

JR: Today, we are going to have a conversation together about our journeys as entrepreneurs, and how we both discovered that it's possible to have a successful business and to have an ethical business at the same time; the two are not mutually exclusive. Heather, I am super excited to have you here today, and I'm really excited for this conversation that we're about to dive into.

HEATHER WYLDE SMITH: I'm always excited to talk with you. We always have so much fun, and this is such an important topic of normalizing what the actual entrepreneurial journey looks like, as opposed to all the hype that's out there, and talking about the fact that making great money and being good to people are not mutually exclusive concepts. I'm really excited to dive into this with you. 

JR: Yes, I am so excited as well. Let's go ahead and dive in with starting to talk about what have been some of the biggest challenges for you, Heather, in your journey. What have you learned along the way that you think coaches listening to this episode right now might need to hear?

HWS: So, so much. I'll try to paraphrase here. My book is almost 300 pages now, where I really go into sharing my journey. My journey is so common to other people; it's not that my journey is special, it's that so many people have had this journey, so the book is all about showing people the pitfalls and showing them how to get around these pitfalls. 

HWS: But my biggest, biggest, biggest thing was that I hated the way that I was being taught to sell. The way that most coach training is around sales, it's “Read these questions and it will magically make the person talk themselves into working with you,” and then, “If that doesn't work, then you shame them, belittle them, push them, and gaslight them until they buy.” Just as much as I was a great coach, and I loved it, I could not imagine being a coach if that was the cost. That would have felt like selling my soul. So that was a huge, huge, huge problem on my end.

HWS: The other problem was—and I didn't realize this was a problem—that I kept buying these huge group programs, and getting caught up in their lunches and thinking, Okay, well, this one's going to be different. This is going to make the difference. What I didn't understand, because I was so brand new to online sales and marketing, is that a lot of times, the information wasn't that good. Sometimes it was good, but it was very incomplete. But no matter how much information or even if it was great information, there was not enough support to make sure that I was not only implementing it, but implementing it correctly. 

HWS: So that was a huge stumbling block for me. Unfortunately, I was very stubborn about that, and I invested in like five or six of them before I finally said, “Okay, I need a one-to-one coach,” and six months after, five months after I had a one-on-one coach, I actually started making high-ticket sales. But it took me 11 years to make that decision to get a one-to-one coach. Don't be like me.

JR: Yeah, but this journey that you had is so common for so many coaches. I see it over and over again. It sounds like you do as well. Why do you think people like us tend to fall for these coaching programs that aren't what we need in the first place?

HWS: We don't know any better. That’s the biggest thing, and they do a really good job with the production value, the quality of the graphics, the quality of the copywriting and everything, really making it seem like this coach who is at the pinnacle, all this. And now, there's a new model, where a lot of programs have multiple coaches, but there are problems with that as well. But they really hype this person up and make them seem like they are just a god, and it's very easy to get caught up in one of these launches—Back in the day, it was webinars. Now, they're free masterclasses.—and really see all the glitz and glamor and think, Well, these people have it figured out, so I need to go invest with them. 

HWS: Then, they'll say, “To work with this…” I know one of the ones that I did, to work with this coach one-to-one was, it was like $25,000 a year, or maybe it was $25,000 for three months. I can't remember. It was a significant number. But you could do this six-month group program for only $6000. So in my mind, one of the things that kept me from hiring somebody that was not doing all of this huge launch was, in my mind, I was afraid to hire somebody for $3,000 for three months because what if they didn't know what they were doing? It felt safer to buy from someone who seemed like they were very established and very successful. I talked about this in the book, that with these launches, no matter if it's a five-day challenge, a live, free masterclass, what have you, they use this very precise combination of motivation and shame. They're playing on your emotions. 

HWS: And this is really the dark side of neuro-linguistic programming. I was talking to somebody who is an NLP person the other day, and I asked, “Are trauma survivors more susceptible to manipulation through NLP?” and she said, in her opinion, absolutely. So many of us in this industry are wounded healers, are people that have found our way back from really hard things. And now we want to give back, but even though we've done the healing, we are still susceptible to this manipulation. That is my hypothesis about why this happens. I’m a very intelligent person, but I kept banging my head against the wall about this one thing: They sell us security as a lot of it, with the testimonials, and yeah, I could go on forever. I'll stop there.

JR: I remember I had an instance about three or four years ago, where the salesperson I was talking to was actively not encouraging, but pushing me to pay for their program using a credit card. Now, let me be very clear, there is such a thing as good debt, as leveraged debt, in my opinion at least, when it can produce that much-larger outcome. But he was really pushing me to do it and saying, “Just put it on your credit card. You’ll be able to pay it off in a month, and it'll be fine.” And did that happen? Of course not. I put it on my credit card. A month down the line, I'd made $0 working with this massive coaching program, and I just wasn't getting any results, even though I was working my butt off. 

JR: We have these two things we've touched on so far: There's how we as coaches can sell ethically and effectively, and also how there's this awful phenomenon that's happening, these massive group programs selling really awfully. I think it's really important to highlight the connection there, which is that the way that these programs are selling to you, the way that they're making you feel as they're selling to you, that's the exact way that they're going to teach you to sell. That’s so important to just to understand, at least.

HWS: Yes, which is why it was so important for me to write this book. This book started off, in my mind, as a five-, maybe 10-page lead magnet that I was just putting out for the purposes of educating people because, over the years, I did so much shaming and blaming of myself. Now, there are times in the group programs that I didn't put in all the effort, right? I have to own that accountability. But here's the thing: They talk about a lot of people, saying, “People drop out, or they quit showing up, and it's just their bad mindset.” That's not really true. 

HWS: It's not just big group-coaching programs. Some one-to-one coaches really don't know what they're doing either. Niche, ideal client, and avatar are amongst the most poorly taught subjects. If you're in one of these big group programs, or with anybody, but especially the big group programs, every lesson builds on the last. So if you don't nail your ICA or your niche in the two-week period that they're teaching that, you really can't move on to your content creation. I think people just get frustrated, and they get stuck, and they get overwhelmed, and they just give up. That was kind of a tangent. What did we start this on? Jacob, help me.

JR: Well, you totally hit on something that is so, so important, which is that a lot of coaches, who are maybe part of the big programs, sometimes not, like you said, they're using your “mindset” as a scapegoat. When you're not getting results, they're saying, “Well, your mindset’s off,” or, “You’re not showing up entirely,” even though you may very well be showing up everyday, doing the work. That’s, I think, what you're getting at, the beginning of our conversation, Heather, with them gaslighting you basically.

HWS: Yes, and that's a big thing. Mindset is real. Mindset is a good thing to do. If you're crabby and all you see is limitations, nobody in their right mind would say, “Yes, that person is going to succeed.”

JR: I'm going to give a really, really concrete example. 

HWS: Great. 

JR: For context, the way that Heather and I met was I actually was her client to begin with. When I started working with her, I was at this point where I had been gaslit so much that it was all about my mindset. That's what I thought I needed. I thought I just needed help with my mindset to the point where, prior to working with Heather, I had spent about $7,000 working with a “mindset” coach, and I came to Heather thinking that that's what I needed, when in reality, it wasn't. It was some of the tactics and strategies that I needed from Heather. And that's really what provided for me. We can get so caught up in this cycle of being gaslight and gaslighting ourselves that we don't even know what it is we actually need to take the next steps in our business.

HWS: Yes. And in the coaching industry, like I said, mindset is a real thing, but it gets twisted. There's the twisting that says, “It doesn't matter.” I heard a coach say that they signed up for a program, and they weren't sure if it was going to work, but instead of asking, “Is this going to work?” they decided it was going to work no matter what, and that's when they got results. I'm like, okay, you know, there's a little kernel of truth to that, but that's not the whole truth. If you believe in something with your whole heart, and you work your ass off, but what you're working from is bad information or bad mentorship, it’s not going to work. 

HWS: The other thing that I go the fuck off about is this whole idea that if a strategy something you're doing isn't working, it's because of your mindset. Here’s the distinction: If you are showing up and doing the work to the best of your ability, and it's not working, you do not have a mindset problem. What you may have is the wrong strategy for you. You may not feel good about the strategy and maybe unethical, and I would raise my hand with these mentors and say, “I don't find this ethical.” I was told that it was my money mindset. It was my success mindset. And then I went and I worked on my money and success mindset like a motherfucker because I knew there was some truth in it. 

HWS: But even after all that, I was like, this is still unethical. If somebody is telling you that you're not getting results because of your mindset, and you're actually showing up and doing the work to your best ability, it's not true. This is one of the ways that I really changed the way that I coach. I was doing some of this when I coached you, Jacob, but I really started doing that this fall. I realized that all the people that say, “I don't hold my clients’ hands,” I'm like, “Yeah, that's why 5% or less of your clients are actually getting these great results that you talk about, and the rest of them are struggling.” Marketing and sales, I say, is “simple-cated.” It's simple to learn, it makes perfect sense when you're watching a video, but it is incredibly difficult to implement effectively, if you don't know what you're doing. 

HWS: What I started doing is actually working during my sessions and pulling up Google Docs. I didn't say, “Just go post. Go write a value post. Here's a template.” We actually sit down and write the post together, so they can see how it applies. I could do mindset with them for four weeks about “Well, I didn't do it.” “Okay, well, why didn't you do it?” “Well, I don't know. Maybe I don't believe in myself” Like, no, let's just do it together. Then, you gain that confidence; you gain that competence. And then I know that, from the start, they're putting out really good content. Then, once they get used to it, they can do it on their own. Mindset would not be an effective application there. It's like, let's just hold your hand and not do it for them but do it with them until they get it, and this is the same way that I teach sales. I don't just teach it; we practice it. The mindset thing has just completely gotten out of control. It's just ridiculous. 

JR: Yeah, absolutely. It's not just about your mindset, it's not just about the actual tactics, and it's not just about having the guidance and personal attention and support. It's really all three of those things combined. 

HWS: Yes.

JR: As far as I see it, at least. 

HWS: Yeah, and a willingness, especially when we were entrepreneurs to roll up our sleeves. I know you do this with your clients as well because I taught Jacob sales, because that was my specialty. I'm weak in client attraction, so I've actually turned around and hired him because we're really great in different areas. It’s really fun, especially working with somebody that I already have this great connection with. Just be willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work with them, so you know that they're doing it right, instead of, “You've been posting five days a week for the last six months, and you haven't moved anywhere in your business? Well, it must be your mindset.” 

HWS: Well, have you read their posts? Are they structuring them effectively? Are they using value posts and story posts and engagement? Do they know…I don’t know. I get so frustrated. I talk to people who've spent thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars, just like you and I did, and they don't know what their brand topics are. They don't know. They don't have a sales structure for them to use. They don't know what a value post is, and I'm like, “Oh, my gosh. This is horrible.”

JR: Yeah, and it's so, so common.

HWS: Yeah. I don't really want the government to get involved. We're unregulated. Regulation comes with its own headaches, and it doesn't guarantee that things get better. It just makes them more complicated. But a large part of the problem is that there are no set standards for you being a coach; you don't even have to have training. And there are no set standards for what you have to know to be a business coach. I think a lot of people get into the industry, and they can't make their initial niche work, and they think, Well, I'm just going to go be a business coach, and that'll be easier. Yep. I hated business coaches, and I never wanted to be a business coach. I was transformational coach, I was a sex coach, but I couldn't figure out the sales and marketing. But once I started figuring it out, I was like, “Oh, my gosh. Other people need this because what I've created actually makes sense. What I've created is way better than all these people that are charging $50,000 a year,” so I kind of fell into it. 

HWS: But a lot of people, they go through one business program, and they just turn around and rewrite it, put their own spin on it, put their own jazzy little name on it, copy the launch that their mentor used, and they call themselves business coaches. And because they’re charging… “Well, it's $30,000 a year to work with me privately, but you could do this program for $10,000.” That price tag blinds people. “I made $50,000 last month while taking three-hour bubble baths.” It's like, oh, my gosh. Okay, guys. There's so much going on behind those things. There are so many assumptions they're allowing you to make. Sometimes it's meta, like they haven't had that $50,000 month while taking bubble baths, but they wrote that line, and that's what allows them to have the $50,000 month. 

HWS: The people that are really doing this work for the right reasons…In other words, “I want to make millions of dollars, but I'm not willing to do it if I'm not actually being of service to people”…I know you're the same way. Often, it's more difficult for us to market effectively because so much of what we're shown is to use hype, and that feels gross to us. I don't know about you; I've tried it, and it felt so gross to me that it was like, of course this is not going to work; it feels really gross. 

HWS: We’re not willing to lie to people and promise them “You're gonna be a billionaire four minutes after you sign up for my program.” People want to hear that it's going to be instant. You want to hear that it's going to be easy. The high-integrity people are not willing to lie, so people don't buy. It's harder to figure out how to market effectively and be honest so that people start buying from you. And honestly, it can take longer, but you can come out of the gate and be super hype-y, and I call it sociopathic sales, you know, the gaslighting, the bullying, the manipulating, the belittling, the shaming, all that crap. It doesn't necessarily guarantee success. I mean, it can be hard when you're high-integrity, and it sucks because people will pass us by to go work with the people who are telling them what they want to hear. They're spending way more money than they have to, and they're getting no results. It's just gross.

JR: These coaches, consultants, and healers who are basically getting conned, they're getting scammed, they're not getting the support or the help or the guidance they need. They're not having their needs met there. How can they get those needs met? How can they find that support and that guidance without falling for the big coaching programs out there that are pretty much scamming you

HWS: And it's not always the big coaching programs, right? There are one-to-one coaches that found a way to create success for themselves. Some of the success you see is complete and total bullshit. Some of the success you see is real, but just because they can do it, doesn't mean that they actually have methods of teaching you and helping you do it. There's a lot of people that are good coaches, but they're not good teachers, and that's one of the things that really sets you and I apart, Jacob; we’re really good at teaching this stuff too. So many coaches, you know, you sit down and they're like, “Okay, well, this is your next step. You're going to do this, this, this, and this,” and they explain, like, the five big steps of the process, but they don't explain step 1.a., 1.b., 1.c., 2.a., 2.b., 2.c.—and it’s those micro steps that actually make shit work. Most people suck at actually teaching that kind of stuff so it works. 

HWS: In my book, the first thing I talk about is where you are in business determines what kind of coach you need. If you are a brand new coach, you need somebody who's really good at strategy; you need somebody who's a really good teacher and can help you. Actually, before even strategy, you need somebody who's really good at helping you figure out your ICA, and your niche, and your first offer, and that can take a while. People don't want to hear this, but that can take a month, just to get clear on that. But if you get clear on that, then everything else is going to be much easier. If you just skip through that or the person you're working with doesn't really know how to help you with that, then nothing else is going to work; it's going to be way more difficult than it has to be. 

HWS: At any rate, I go through and I talk about, “If you're in this stage of business, or this is going on, this type of coach, you probably need…” and then I break down some red flags. Then, later in the book, I actually go into more of why those are red flags. I lay out a six- or seven-step process for researching a coach and vetting them and interviewing them. This is huge. In most people’s sales processes, the way that most coaches are taught to sell, we're told to show up in our authority and run the conversation and really not leave a space for the client to ask questions…to just keep the conversation going, and pitch, and then try not to let them have objections. It's a really toxic kind of sales training and stuff. I talk about these are the questions that you need to ask the coach on the sales call, and they're probably not going to have a space for you to ask those, but you don't let them railroad you through the call. You stop and ask, at the end of the call, “What is your specialty?” “What do you actually help people with?” 

HWS: A lot of people say they're business coaches. There are a lot of things within business coaching, and you need to be able to say what your specialty is and what it isn't. I'm brilliant at helping people with ICA and niche. I have a decent system for coming up with your offer. Jacob’s system is phenomenal. I'm really good at helping people with quality content creation, and I am the bomb.com at teaching you sales. When it comes to mindset, because some people really do need mindset, I will probably outsource that. Or, if that's all that person needs, I would find somebody. I would say, “Go talk to this person.” When it comes to client attraction, which is what I'm learning from Jacob right now, if somebody came to me, and they had really good marketing already, but they just weren't getting the clients. I would say, “Hey, Jacob. I've got a client for you,” because I know my strengths, and I know my weaknesses, and I don't want to take somebody's money. I've had that happen to me too many times and not gotten results. I don't want to do that to somebody.

JR: Absolutely. I’ve had a lot of similar situations. I think the first-ever investment I made in my business was for a coaching program, and the phrases “offer” or “ideal client” were not mentioned once…

HWS: Wow. 

JR: …and it kind of blew my mind at that moment. I was like, I feel like we need some work on that, but they didn't even blow right past it, they just pretended it didn't exist, which was so bizarre to me. I have seen this over and over again, what you're talking about here, and I'm curious. You've mentioned your book several times. Could you tell us a little bit more about that? I'm sure people listening want to hear about this amazing book. I've read it. It's really good. I will give that plug right now. But I'd love to hear a little bit more from you, Heather.

HWS: Yeah, so it's the Online Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide, and it's how to find the right business coach so your business can thrive, and you don't just end up with a bunch of debt and regret. It’s aimed at newer entrepreneurs, but it's also really valuable for more advanced entrepreneurs, especially the people that are still struggling and are like, “I don't understand why…I've invested. I've done the work. Why is my business not working?” It’s really going to pull back the curtain and show you we do have to take responsibility for the things we invest in, and we have to take responsibility for falling for the hype, because some part of you probably knew that what you were buying into was bullshit. I know with me, I ignore my instincts a lot, because I wanted it to be real, right? 

JR: Yes, wanted so badly for it to be true. Oh, yeah, that hits home with me for sure.

HWS: I think it hits home with a lot of people. We do have to take responsibility for our actions. This book isn't about going on a tirade and blaming everybody else for why your business hasn't worked. I kept buying into these group programs, and I should have known better. If you've done one or two of them, and they didn't work, stop. Go get a private coach or somebody who offers, I would say, for new, especially new, entrepreneurs or people that have just been struggling for years. Don't get in a group program with more than five people. You need a lot of one-to-one attention. You need a lot of hand holding. Don’t fall for the bullshit of, well, it's so helpful to hear other people ask questions that you didn't think of. Often, those people are more advanced entrepreneurs and the shit they're asking won’t apply to me for the next two years.

JR: Exactly.

HWS: If you're a long-struggling entrepreneur, it's really helpful because it's going to help you to understand why, even though you've spent the money, you've done the work, you're still struggling. You're going to understand why the stuff you've invested in and the things that you've been told haven't been helping. It’s even a really good thing for people who aren't coaches or healers or in the online world, but they're consumers of coaching and everything. Most of the principles are going to apply as far as the type of marketing somebody does, and what questions you need to ask them, and what you need to really look at in the testimonials, because there's so much fuckery around testimonials. It’s really breaking down what you need, when you need it, how to research, how to ask the questions, and then there's a whole lot about hype marketing. 

HWS: Good marketing is all about educating you about what somebody does. Hype marketing is all about using…and let me be clear: Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a very amazing transformational tool when it's used ethically and with consent. When it is used in marketing and sales, it's disgusting. Hype marketing is really about using NLP and other kinds of emotion-, mind-hijacking things to make you compelled to buy. I talk a lot about that, I breakdown all the really gross, sociopathic sales tactics, the shame games, the sneaky pitching, let's get on a coffee chat, and then the next thing you know, they're pitching you a $20,000 program and you're like, “What the hell happened?” Just so that people can understand this is the stuff that people are going to come at you with, and this is why you don't have to fall for it. This is why you can say no and know, in your soul, that you're going to be okay. You're actually going to be better because you didn't waste money on that. You'll be able to find somebody who's actually going to be able to help you and is going to treat you with respect, treat you like a human being all throughout the marketing and sales process, not just once you become a client.

JR: …and even then—treating you like a human being when you are a client.

HWS: That is a good point; I bring that up and that you don't want to buy from these people because not only is it disgusting, but if they're marketing and selling this way, they're probably going to be jerks in the coaching relationship too. There are other things I talk about: how we need to talk more about what's probable versus what's possible. I talked about is something uncomfortable on a line, or are we just expecting something for nothing? What are the lines on that? 

HWS: I talk about mental and emotional abuse and coaching because I have seen it, and it's out there. A lot of us are trauma survivors. We get into this fucked-up situation, and we're like, Am I crazy, or is this messed up? It’s hard for us to tell sometimes because we are trauma survivors. There’s a lot of good in the book, really just anybody who's involved with personal, spiritual, business, growth, health coaching, whether you're a practitioner, or a consumer, would get a lot out of this book. I could justifiably charge $50 for this book because it will save people ten of thousands of dollars, but I'm not going to charge that much.

JR: As we bring this conversation to a close, could you tell us a little bit about how people can find you if they want to connect with you, where they can find your book, and just kind of give us the overview of how people can connect with you?

HWS: heatherwylde.com. I'm on Facebook, mostly. There's going to be a mailing list that you can sign up for for the book to get some bonuses.

JR: I will make sure to put all those links—the Amazon link, your website, your Facebook—down in the show notes below, so you can click that easily to find Heather out on the great, wide interwebs. Heather, thank you so, so much for joining us today for this episode. This conversation has been everything that I had hoped and way more, as always. It's absolutely been a pleasure to have you today.

HWS: Always great hanging out with you, and just really happy that I found other people that I can speak about this really important thing, so that people know that they're not alone, that if you're working your ass off, and you're not getting anywhere, there's nothing wrong with you. It's not that you're not supposed to be an entrepreneur. There are a lot of shenanigans going on. Get the book, invest a little bit of money, and you'll understand things a lot better. Keep listening to Jacob because he's the real deal. Thanks, Jake.

JR: Yeah, thank you so much. Thank you for joining us today for this episode of the Client Attractor Show. I'm your host, Jacob Ratliff, and I'll see you tomorrow for our next episode. Take care.

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