GET THE EDGE
You're A Great Business Coach? It's Not Enough!
by Suzi Pomerantz
Being a masterful business coach is not enough. Being a great leader is not enough. Being a good person is not enough. To create meaningful change in organizations—global monoliths, public sector not-for-profits, sole proprietorships, or even families—we must network, market and sell. It's not enough simply to know how to integrate networking, marketing and sales. Business professionals must personally integrate these principles so seamlessly into who we are being that we no longer think of them as separate, independent, and somewhat unpleasant tasks, like taking out the trash or paying taxes.
It's crucial for business coaches to find the 'sweet spot' where these three domains of networking, marketing and sales intersect. Every business coach must understand the distinctions and master the activities associated with each part of this critical trinity in order to 'seal the deal.' Any deal.
If you're a solopreneur or small firm delivering business coaching, you must find and engage clients to have opportunities to deliver your services.
If you're an internal coach or human resources director in a large organization, you must create visibility, sell ideas, and garner support for programs to have opportunities to deliver your services.
If you're an organizational leader (particularly if you are directing an internal coaching program), you must influence other leaders, lobby support for initiatives, and communicate your vision so effectively that you inspire engaged, motivated followers.
If you're a successful business coach, you must help your clients to create opportunities for the delivery of their services—to influence others, to sell their ideas, or to manage their careers for increased visibility and promotion.
The success secret in each of these scenarios is the ability to master, implement, and lead from the sweet spot mentioned above. Without mastering the distinctions between networking, marketing, and sales, and the ability to teach those distinctions, we cannot help our clients move past their fears of asking for what they want. This is not just about finding and retaining business coaching clients. Our ability to seal the deal—at will—is largely determined by our understanding of the systematic, repeatable process behind it all.
Here are specific tools in each area of the 'critical trinity' to help you (and your clients) get the edge:
Networking (building relationships as the foundation for every business activity):
An informational interview is a powerful networking tool. This conversation is designed to gather information about what an individual (or his or her company) does. Since it's not a sales meeting, the encounter is non-threatening for the interviewee. In fact, most people are flattered when asked to provide this small dose of mentorship.
Informational interviews can be designed around anything your clients want to learn. You'll collaboratively co-create questions which your clients will ask people in their networks, helping to gain new perspectives and shed light on particular challenges or growth areas your clients are facing.
For business coaches, networking is a doorway into the sales process. The informational interview keeps pipelines sustainably fresh, with new things coming in continually.
Marketing (messaging about you or your business, service or product):
Marketing consists of anything you're doing to promote your business or ideas, excluding activities that directly involve relationship-building or asking for a specific outcome.
Rather than creating opportunities to deliver your services, marketing activities allow you to actively create opportunities to deliver your message.
Think strategic leverage when you generate your marketing materials. In other words, create them once and use them in several ways. Develop your message for a speech and repurpose it for an article. Write a book and repurpose the content into speaking engagements, appearances, and articles. Develop your website and use it to showcase your articles, speaking engagements, blogs, and other materials. If you create something and use it only once, you are leaving money on the table and wasting your own time.
Above all, remember that messaging and marketing should support your business development efforts, not be them. You don't get more clients by having more materials—technically, you only get more materials!
Sales (asking for what you want):
We all know this frustrating cycle: Our marketing and networking efforts create a full pipeline of leads that suddenly pop like popcorn, generating business. While we are focusing time and energy on delivering client services, we lose momentum for networking, marketing and sales activities. The result? We find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of completing projects with no further engagements on the horizon, requiring us to start generating new business all over again. Our excuse sounds like this: "But, I'm too busy to do any marketing or sales now. I need to focus on billable hours, and the time I spend selling is not billable time!"
Try Lessons Learned Meetings as a strategy to generate business while billing time. Lessons Learned Meetings are structured interviews with your clients and key decision-makers in the organization that take place midway through and at the end of the engagement. You'll check in to learn what is working and what can be improved. You'll tell your clients what they can do to help you to do your job even more effectively. Typically, these become mutual admiration sessions, which create fabulous opportunities for you to a) ask for testimonials, b) ask for referrals, and c) ask about your clients' upcoming challenges, projects or needs, so you can shift the lessons learned conversation into a sales conversation. It is a highly effective tool to actively, strategically and consistently build your business while reducing the cycle of non-billable time between engagements!
Go Get 'Em!
We often think in a box when it comes to our business development mindset. 'Rainmaking'—generating new business—is similar to the need within organizations to influence others. Rainmaking requires a systematic business development process entailing concurrent, seamlessly integrated action in the areas of networking, marketing and sales. When we recognize our innate strengths and eliminate our self-deception in these areas, we can get out of our own way, allowing ourselves, our clients, and the organizations in which we coach to easily seal the deal.
Suzi Pomerantz, MT, MCC, is the CEO of Innovative Leadership International LLC. Over the past 14 years, she has helped 120 leaders and organizations worldwide to find clarity in chaos. She is the author of the highly praised Seal the Deal: The Essential Mindsets for Growing Your Professional Services Business (HRD Press, 2006). Suzi can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.