Finding the right business coach is a tricky thing.

A few weeks back I came across an interesting discussion on Facebook. Someone had made the decision to move forward with getting support with growing their business. They met a popular business coach and everything sounded great! It was an investment, but this business owner knew she needed to invest in their business to take it to the next level.

But as their coaching experience started it felt… off.

Instead of a personalized approach, she got a series of calls full of exercises and homework that were time-consuming and didn’t get results. She sometimes felt like she was being sold to, and at the end of their time together she hadn’t met any of the outcomes she and her coach had agreed would be exciting goals.

I was sorry to hear this story of underwhelming results from business coaching, but unfortunately, it’s not unique.

Many women I speak with have spent thousands of dollars on disappointing coaching experiences. Their coaches ask them to set intentions, track results and do basic ideal client exercises but unless you’re a beginner, their work doesn’t get big results.

There’s a simple reason for this that we need to talk about:

Most business coaches are life coaches with business experience. They have little to no training or experience in improving business results.

Want to hire a business coach, but don't know where to start? Ask these five simple questions to make sure your business coach is the right match for you.

Does this mean that a life coach can’t be helpful to a business owner?

Hell no! A skilled life coach can help you stop sabotaging yourself, process your feelings about your work, and design a way to work that feels better to you.

Does that mean that your life coach should help you with your marketing or profitability problems?

Hell no! Someone without business or marketing training – life coach or not – may be helpful if they’ve made a study of business and you have a similar style of business and target market. Otherwise, at best you’re getting armchair psychology and personal opinion.

Fact: Marketing, profitability and conversion optimization – turning views into customers – are specialized, learned skills that take years to understand and apply in real time.

When we ask for advice from people who haven’t studied marketing, that person does not have the tools to tell you why your sales page doesn’t sell, why your launch is faltering or why your social media fans aren’t turning into customers.

Their good results will not necessarily become your good results. You may not pass Go. You will be lucky if you only spend $200. Believe their lengthy disclaimer.

The bottom line is that we can all do better.

As customers, it’s our job to ask questions that make our consultants think. We owe it to ourselves to find out who sounds good, and who really is the right business coach for us.  As ethical professionals, it’s our jobs to be clear about what we can and cannot help with.

That way everyone wins.

Here are five BIG questions I wish everyone would ask to make sure they hire the right business coach for them:

  • “What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve experienced in your business, or that you’ve helped clients tackle?”
    Ask for specific stories or examples, beyond buzz words like “I’ve helped to increase sales.” For what kind of businesses? Over what time frame? How many people did they have on their team? Using what methods?
  • “How do you market your business?
    What is the time commitment for them, and do they have support? What other approaches do they recommend for clients who don’t have the same expertise and support as they do?Inexperienced coaches apply one tactic to all clients. No matter what that client’s resources, target market, or work style is.If a potential coach doesn’t have other strategies to suggest, it’s likely that their methods only work for some of their clients. Ask for clarification on why, how and when they recommend a specific approach. If it sounds like they don’t have other ideas or can’t explain the principles on the fly, run.
  • “What kinds of activities do your clients do between calls to meet their goals?”
    A potential coach should be able to name specific examples of actions would help you step toward your business goals. Setting intentions is a great first step in a first phone call, but you already have the intention to increase sales! You don’t need someone to tell you to cultivate that. Concrete changes like adjusting your sales page based on your work and monitoring conversion rates are what you should be listening for.

  • “What kind of training or continuing education have you done?”
    If you’re looking for help with audience engagement, listen for mention of community building, marketing messages, and engagement. Engaged coaches and strategists attend conferences, read books, take courses, and run experiments in their business all the time.
  • “Do you help with improving sales, profitability, or traffic generation?”
    When most people work with a business coach or business strategist, they’re looking to grow their business. Ask directly if a potential coach can help with that. Business models, sales forecasting, monthly recurring revenue plans and profit margins should all come with the territory.Remember: You don’t have to know about these things to ask the questions. You can say, “I don’t know much about marketing math, but I want to make sure I hire someone who does!” If their response is lukewarm or they dodge the comment, notice that.

I want to be clear: life coaches who work with business owners are amazing. There are amazing business coaches out there who are self-taught, and who have formal training. The right business coach for you might be untrained. Only you can decide that. And to be fair, for coaches, deciding what to call yourself when coaching and business intersect in their work is sticky. None of that is the problem.

The problem is charging for help without actually being able to deliver.

That’s unethical, upsetting and expensive for clients, and there’s no excuse for it. It seems to me like we should stop letting it slide by!

I hope that speaking plainly about this helps you find the right business coach faster, with less wasted money and frustration.

And of course, I hope it helps ethical, kind coaches, consultants, and advisors continue to rise to the top.

Are you in the market for coaching? Try something different with the Indie Business Intensive: A 90-Day, one on one program with group support