Image: Matthew Ball via Unsplash
A vetting system for true credibility
What are credentials worth anymore?
Look carefully at the people who are deemed to be thought leaders.
I see very young business coaches living with their parents yet coaching startups and executives. How do they have the credentials to do this without first accomplishing it on their own? It isn’t about age as much as years of real-time experience.
To get featured in major publications, experts often pay. This is called Public Relations. I have been solicited several times because of my activity on Linkedin. Next time you see people featured, you will know it isn’t mostly organic.
I had an unethical experience with a coach who was certified by a major accredited body. I thought this certification was a seal of approval in quality, but I’ve met a few coaches, certified or not, who are only in it for the money.
Many people with a high following in a short time on any social platform game the system. It is just a fact. When someone says they are proud to build a following in a few months, you may ask them point-blank if they used pods, bots, or paid a company to grow their account. It’s not always a sign of thought leadership, and it is good to know the difference.
I got ripped off in 2019 not once but THREE TIMES…but people who appeared very credible online. They all had the accolades to impress. I do believe it was entirely my fault, as I write about here. Luckily, these were minor experiences compared to the majority of great experiences. I sincerely believe in investing in one’s personal development so a few bad apples only made me wiser. But I am not alone. Many have similar experiences, so online credibility is clearly not a good metric to rely too heavily on.
Often, I’ve found the least credible, least experienced experts tend to be the most visible. They are running Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram ads from the very beginning of their business. They hire PR teams. They have a lot of followers and likes and will do everything to make sure you see them. Their mission is to convince you that they are a big deal.
The most credible may not do as much for their personal brand or business visibility. Why not? They usually have already built a solid reputation, have enough clients and may have even a waiting list, so they are not as needy or desperate to run ads.
Or, if they are highly visible and credible, they are often very expensive and not easy to get access to, especially as a new entrepreneur.
How do we find the good, reasonably-priced experts and coaches then if the loud-mouthed ones are usually not the ones you’ll want to hire?
Here are some red flags to identity experts who most likely will not be good to work with:
1/ They promise to help anyone and everyone
True experts define a specific target audience and make it crystal clear in all of their marketing and sales pages who their programs and services are built for. Usually, the more niche, the better a program will be.
2/ They don’t offer vetting calls and they pressure you to sign up for their program without all of your questions answered
Legitimate experts take care to make sure the right people get into the program. They do this by offering a free fitting call. If you are buying any type of coaching and expert service, you are entitled to such a call. These calls serve two purposes: to ask questions and to understand if you can communicate well with the coach or expert. Experts with honest motives will offer help and refer you elsewhere if they believe you aren’t ready for their programs. The bad ones will take anyone who they can convince to pay.
3/ They call themselves Influencers, flaunt their numbers, humblebrag, or often talk about their wealth
True influencers may also acquire many followers but usually never as many as scammers because they don’t game the system. Regardless, they rarely talk about that. Instead, they are too busy being amazing, helping others, producing great content, and displaying thought leadership. The ones who have a lot of time to declare themselves influencers and dangle their numbers like a credential for influence are often not the ones you’ll want to hire: all hype, little substance.
4/ They are vague or secretive about how they get their clients results before hiring them
Real experts are all about methodology and solutions. They will explain free-of-charge how they are going to help clients in order to produce the results they are after. This is very important to know upfront since some scammers announce to their surprised customers they now must purchase additional software or other services of their affiliates to “make the program work.” Of course, these tactics are dishonest but to a new client, they would not usually know to ask upfront. Also, some experts use tactics that clients will hate. For example, one of the three programs I fell for required me to spam my audience’s Inbox every day and cold call them. As someone who teaches Inbound Marketing, my entire being repelled against these slimy tactics. Ask upfront to make sure you understand what you are getting into as well as the total cost you’ll need to invest.
5/ It is hard to find people who have gone through their program, aren’t affiliates, are like you, and have proven ROI
One of my bad coaching experiences was with a coach who had many positive reviews from “groupies” who turned out not to be clients but affiliates. I’m not against affiliate programs, but the problem is honesty. Give people the program for free to teach them how to sell for you. It is a win-win since they learn tactics to sell plus they can make commissions later on for every sale they do for this coach. The problem is not disclosing it to customers they try to sell into the program. Once I joined such a program and paid full price, only to discover I was one of the few ones who did not have an affiliate deal with the coach. I felt jaded and jipped when I found out the truth, to say the least.
Another reason to seek out clients before purchasing is to make sure you are in the right niche. A dishonest expert will take your money even if you are nothing like the others in the group. I once joined a mastermind as a serious, full-time business owner with many years of experience while the majority were stay-at-home mothers trying to make some side money without any prior experience in Marketing. I felt like a fish out of water because the coach was not upfront about whom the program was for.
Are you wondering what kind of questions to ask a coach you are interviewing to hire? Check out this video for a few key questions.
Were you ripped off and wondering what your options are? I have a few tips.
I wish I had a one-step formula to save people from disappointment, but ultimately look past the bling and use your better judgment! There is an expert for everyone. There are good people out there. It is all about fit. I don’t see it getting any easier to vet credibility either. More scammers will appear, not less. The truth is that anyone can build a persona online, and it will get more difficult to find the high quality from the bogus experts. So the earlier you apply these tactics and stay alert, the better. If this saves even one person from making a bad investment or losing money and time, I will say I succeeded in my mission.