1Nov/120

How to Use Online Social Networks to Grow Your Coaching Practice

Posted by Dean R. DeLisle

By Dean R. DeLisle

It's not a new way of doing business; however it's a brand new way of acquiringnew business. It's the Online Social Network phenomena. We often see many of our coaches come through and ask us point blank, "Can I really grow my coaching practice using Online Social Networks?" Our answer is always consistent—yes!

Mindset

Then, of course, comes the "how" question. We begin by telling them that it's similar to when we are coaching: it all starts with the right mindset. First of all, make sure you are ready to do some new things. It's like when you take that bold move to switch from a conventional cell phone to a Blackberry® or iPhone—you want to make sure you are ready to commit. Just like that example, when you make the change, you accept the change, and when you work with the change, it works for you. However, I always repeat this: only when you commit to it are youreally making the change!

Social Networking

Now that our coaches are ready for something new, we tell them that they already know how to do most of this. They look puzzled and we continue to explain. Remember when you first started out in business and you joined a chamber, network club, private club, leads club, association, or even a health club? You most likely did this because you wanted to connect and network with "like-minded" people, people who had something in common, whether it was at a career level, industry level, belief level, health level, or charity level. Then, based on that foundation, you built trust and connected to those with whom you found similarities, who you liked, or who you would consider doing business with until given a reason not to.

The Right Club

Online Social Networks function the exact same way. So let's go through the basic steps of being successful with what you already know. First and foremost, find a club or social network that you think will be the most successful with your "like-minded" people. We recommend you ask those you respect and find out where they hang out. Most of our coaches gravitate toward LinkedIN, as it has a very professional flavor and maintains a high level of integrity with its members. However, you have to like your "club" and Online Social Network, so make sure you know others who are there as well.

Your Image

After you have made your choice(s), make sure you are ready to complete a full profile. Do not skimp here, for if you are complete and relevant to what your website and articles say, and connect this to your coaching practice, the networks will typically do a ton of work for you. Make sure you don't leave anything relevant out of your profile.

Some key areas NOT to overlook in your profile:

  • Picture
  • Full Professional Description
  • Professional Postion(s)
  • Board Position(s)
  • Charity Affiliation(s)
  • All Education
  • Military Background
  • Awards and Certifications
  • Special Interests and Hobbies

Remember, when you fill these out, do not cut and paste the old stuff. Make sure you are extremely current and relevant. We also recommend that you freshen up this area quarterly as you progress with your practice. You are likely to expand your methods, techniques, accomplishments, and approach-update this information on your profile. You might also speak differently depending on the ever-changing economic climate. This will begin to build your Internet footprint and as we like to say, your eReputation!

Your Hard Work

We are not really sure why, but it seems that everyone always forgets their hard work. They write so much web content, articles, Powerpoints, speeches, emails, blogs, etc. and take so many pictures and videos that they actually forget to usethem. Take all this hard effort, your expertise, and your knowledge and extend your reputation to the network that is looking for you. This is the most common part overlooked. People forget to continuously post their hard work all over the Internet for people to find. The network you choose will most likely allow you to feature your items prominently for your new prospects to find.

Start Talking

Remember that social networking the "old way" or the "new way" only works if you are active. Just like everything else in life, you get out what you put in. Decide where you should go within your new Online Social Network and start talking. For instance, there are very relevant groups, subgroups, discussion boards, and blogs in which to partake. If you're new at this, you can simply jump into an existing conversation, making it easy and fun! If you are not sure or are hesitant, then watch others' conversations, responses, comments, and replies first, then begin when you are ready. However, do not wait too long, for while you were reading this article, someone already found a coach just like you because they responded to a post or answered a key question. Don't forget, people are on the Internet because they are "looking for answers"!

Acquire New Business

The last and very important step is that we are doing all this not only to build our reputation, but also to obtain new business, right? It is quite simple. Let's go back to the first section of this article and get back to what we know. Now take those people who find you online based on your complete and relevant profile, content, or expertise and conversations, and take that connection out of the online network to an offline phone call or even an appointment. How? Ask!

You will do fine from here!

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (June Issue 2010, Volume 6, Issue 1). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

 Dean DeLisle has proven his ability to accelerate contacts, business development, and operations with sound business practices, the ever-evolving power of technology, and his consulting, coaching, and training skills over the past 25 years. More about Dean in the WABC Member Directory. Contact Dean.

 

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
3May/120

You’re A Great Business Coach? It’s Not Enough!

Posted by Suzi Pomerantz

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.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (2007, Volume 3, Issue 2). Copyright © 2012 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

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 suzi@innovativeleader.com.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
5Apr/121

Tips for Marketing Coaching Services to Small Business Owners, by Linda C. Hess

Posted by Linda C. Hess

With the number of small businesses in the United States soaring annually, there is a huge opportunity to offer business coaching services to these entrepreneurs.

Many of these owners started their business because they had a strong technical skill (programming, painting, being a doctor) or a hobby (cooking, fixing things) that they thought they could turn into a profitable business. The problem is, where there may have been passion, there wasn't business acumen. This is where small business coaches can fill a vital role.

The business size this article will cover is a company with between 5 and 50 employees where the owner is very involved in the day-to-day operations. The kind of services needed by many of these companies are business improvement services—how to implement a marketing plan, how to control the finances, who/how to hire, deciding what to delegate, etc. While some might call this consulting, I believe it's better called coaching, because it generally entails helping find the problems and sticking around to help implement the solutions. This is a step beyond what most typical consultants do.

So what are the challenges in selling business coaching services to this market segment? These companies are generally tightly controlled by the owner who gave them birth. They've managed to get this far in life by relying on themselves. This mentality creates special hurdles when trying to sell services that they may desperately need but don't want to admit they need.

Given these unique challenges, I'd like to offer some tips I've learned about marketing to small business owners.

  1. Face-to-face.
    Meet them face-to-face. Because so much about improving their baby (their business) involves trusting you, owners have to believe they'll be able to work with you. They want to meet you, test you, and see if they think they can trust you. While stay-in-touch mailing programs can be used as a follow-up tool, there needs to have been a face-to-face experience initially.
  2. Target market.
    In order to meet people directly, select a target market that you can regularly see and have access to on a consistent basis. This generally means picking an industry that has an association where members have monthly meetings and their membership list is available to members. Attend meetings, become involved and contact this group regularly.
  3. Good target market.
    Select a target market that has a problem they are willing to spend some money to solve. And then, make sure this problem is one that you are equipped to help them solve. For example, if knowing where their cash is going is a key issue to this market, you must have a strong financial background.
  4. Be an expert.
    Another reason to find a niche market is because you must become an expert. People won't pay big bucks to a generalist. You will need to understand the owners' industry and know the pains they experience trying to grow a business in their market. With credibility, you can establish yourself as someone who knows what they need.
  5. Offer faster fixes.
    Self-starting business owners generally think they should be able to read a book and figure out how to 'fix' their businesses. While for some this may be true, the best thing to do is to appeal to their sense of getting it fixed faster with your services. How will they know what book to use? How will they know what part of the book to apply? How will they know how to use skills they haven't shown they have to date? An outsider can quickly determine the top areas that need help and get to work on them in a unique way for their company.
  6. Clear prospecting process.
    Have a process that you follow to take people through your qualifying phase. Use steps like: initial contact, short introductory phone call, face-to-face meeting and then contract signing. Make sure the prospect knows your process. This will put you in charge and help you control the time given to prospects as well as make you seem like a real pro.
  7. Use an assessment.
    Most people aren't familiar with business coaching and want to understand how you'll work together. I use a full-company assessment to find strengths and weaknesses and then turn these into a 90-day goal-setting tool. This is also a good selling tool. People like to do assessments on themselves and see where they stand.

As well as tips, here are some marketing cautions:

  1. Don't work with start-ups. They don't have much money and really don't know what they don't know yet!
  2. Don't work with companies that have been in business for more than five years and are still smaller than five employees. If the owner hasn't figured out how to let go and grow in that amount of time, he/she won't with you either.
  3. Don't take everyone as a client. Make your prospecting process be a hurdle that prospects must follow in order to be your client. If they miss appointments with no explanation during this phase, odds are they're not going to follow through on larger assignments.
  4. Don't make your fee a big secret. If that part is going to scare them away, do it as early as possible in the process.

While this is a challenging market with whom to work, the rewards are significant because you're dealing directly with the person in charge. Once you've earned their trust, chances are you'll be their friend and advisor forever.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide ( 2008, Volume 4, Issue 1). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

 

Lynda Conrady Hess is the owner of Alpha Business Coaching, LLC a small business coaching practice. She works with business owners who are frustrated because they are working too hard, not seeing enough money flow to the bottom line and don't know why. Lynda can be reached by email at LCHess@AlphaBizCoaching.com and also at www.AlphaBizCoaching.com.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
9Feb/120

The Power of Partnerships: Your Key to Greater Client Satisfaction, Referrals, and Retention, by Denise Trifiletti

Posted by WABC

In my last column, I explained how partnerships in business can be the key to increasing sales, margins and profits. This article takes the next step by discussing how to increase client satisfaction and retention, obtain business referrals, and increase your client revenues through the power of partnerships.

First, you know it is a tough world out there, and you face a lot of competition. Your competition is knocking on your clients' doors and seeking the same returns that you are looking for. In view of this fact, it only makes sense for you to forge as many strategic business partnerships as you possibly can. This is already a strategy of virtually every one of the Fortune 500 companies—why not a strategy for you?

A "Power Partnership" in business is one in which you and your partner leverage each other's talents for the benefit of both. It is a partnership in which you leverage what you each bring to the marketplace in order to add value for your respective clients. Let's explore this from the perspectives of client satisfaction, referral business, and client retention.

  • Client satisfaction: An axiom of business is that a satisfied client is "gold in the attic." Another axiom is that every client has the potential to become dissatisfied with your products and services. Never assume client satisfaction. Remaining client-centric and keeping in close contact with your clients is key. Continuously ask and learn about their changing needs—then meet them, either through your own products and services, or through those of your Power Partners.

Present your value proposition clearly and frequently, and measure your progress with your clients. Do you have an ongoing client feedback process? Do you have a written tool to capture quantitative and qualitative data about how you are addressing your clients' needs? Do you solicit feedback about what they like most about your products or services, and in what areas you can improve your offerings? Do you ask about their greatest challenges and the ways in which their businesses have changed so you can continually and creatively find ways to add value and provide solutions to their problems? Do you satisfy their needs by referring your clients to your Power Partners if you cannot solve those problems on your own?

  • Client referrals: How often do you ask your clients for referrals? Do you have a scheduled process and system for doing so? What if you combine your feedback and referral process? If your clients are highly satisfied with what you do for them, that's surely the time to ask for a referral. How about asking for a referral when you first establish your business relationship, during the "honeymoon period"?

How much is a qualified referral worth to you? If you are maintaining excellent client satisfaction, and continuously assisting your clients in growing their businesses and meeting their objectives, they will be delighted to share the great news of the results they are gaining with you! They will be your champions, your ardent fans—and you will be amazed at just how many referrals you can garner. If you refer your clients to your quality Power Partners, your clients will be even more satisfied, and so will your referral partner, resulting in an "all-win" situation! Here is some food for thought: If you are highly successful in giving and receiving quality referrals, and those referrals in turn become the source of more referrals, how much business could you handle?

  • Client retention and revenues: How much is your average client worth revenue-wise on an annual basis? What is your average retention (i.e., how long does an average client do business with you)?  What if you could double the lifetime of your client relationships? That additional retention could increase your revenues by 10, 20, or even 50%. If your network of Power Partners helps you by providing solutions for your clients, you are differentiated as a "value-added" solution provider in the marketplace.

Would these strategies allow you to realize increases in client satisfaction, retention, referrals, and revenues?

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide ( 2006, Volume 2, Issue 2). Copyright © 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

 

Denise Trifiletti, a business coach and an accomplished leader in the fields of sales and training, is the co-founder of Dynamic Destiny Partnerships, LLC and the founder of Women's Community, LLC. Her most recent book is Create the Business Breakthrough You Want: Secrets and Strategies of the World's Greatest Mentors (Mission Publishing, 2004). Denise can be reached by email at denise@womenscommunity.com.

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.