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.
10Nov/110

Are you 20/80 or 80/20? by Ken Ingram

Posted by Ken Ingram

To run a successful and competitive coaching business or any business for that matter it is essential to follow a set of rules, principles and laws. Failure to do so will result in a short and regrettable business venture. That being said, it’s interesting to learn that one of the laws that can have the biggest impact on your profits is being ignored by most businesses. Are you aware that in 1906, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical rule of thumb that states 20% of something will result in 80% of something? As an example 20% of your clients represent 80% of your revenues and the inverse is also true: 80% of your clients represent only 20% or your revenue. It’s come to be known as the Pareto Principle, and if you’re not employing it, you probably should be.

As a Coach, the value of applying the Pareto Principle in most aspects of your business is that it should remind you to focus on the 20% that matter the most. This means you need to take the time to identify and focus your energy on that group because during any given day you’ll end up fire fighting and this will saps your time. So you must remind yourself that your top priorities always need to be addressed first. If something in your schedule slips, or if something is not going to get done, make sure it's not part of that key 20%.

The importance of using this system is to remain focused on ways to increase your coaching practice revenue without working harder. You can make equal or greater income in less time; reduce the stress on the business and all your team if you have one by working smarter. If you have the option, and I believe that you do, develop a strategy for choosing your customers or clients. Reflect upon where you can get the best return on your investment of time, energy and marketing dollars. I know as coaches most of us want to help everyone but strategically it may not be in the best interest of your business.

So what can you do?

Profile the top 20% of your client base who represent 80% of your revenue by:

  • Uncovering existing ‘marginal clients’ who have the potential to become profitable clients’ and open the door to selling them more products or services.
  • Define what constitutes a profitable client based on your ten clients who give you the most business each year.
  • At every opportunity ask the people in your network for someone to contact who match your criteria.

If you could develop and groom 10 more clients just like the ones in your top 20%, you would see a huge jump in your revenue.

So what's holding you back?

Why aren't you already leveraging your profitable clients and reducing the time you spend with marginal clients?  The process makes perfectly good sense, but very few coaches - set themselves up to win by creating a strategy focused on the high payoff group of clients. As a bonus you can now pay more attention and provide WOW coaching to the people who earn you the most profit. I assure you, they’ll love the special treatment.

In reality, you probably can't convert all of your marginal clients and maybe my suggestion doesn't even make sense in your business. But I challenge you to take a good hard look at where you are spending your time.

If you are hesitating, determine your real reasons for not pursuing this strategy with enthusiasm.

Below are Five Steps to help put Parato`s Principle at the top of your agenda:

  1. List all your clients - preferably in a spreadsheet program. Enter the clients’ name, the revenue that they generated this year and last year. Estimate the average revenue from them over the past five years and the potential revenue for next year. Is it going up or down? What percentage of your total revenue does this client represent for your coaching business?
  2. Sort your columns by the margin of revenue and you should be able to identify a pattern. Who are your profitable clients and who are your marginal clients? If something is changing, what are the reasons? Predict which ones will be in your group of profitable clients next year. Do you have all of their business or are you sharing it with others coaches? What percentage of their business do you have now?
  3. To determine what are the common traits of your profitable clients consider:
    • What types of coaching products or services they purchase?
    • Do they have untapped potential?
    • What is the strength of your relationship with them?
    • How did they become a client?
  4. Look at your marginal client group to see if you've overlooked people who, with some effort, could be moved up into the profitable client category in order to increase the amount of business they do with you.
  5. Develop a specific plan to give away, or manage your marginal clients in a way that is relative to their business value.

Also consider what benefits your profitable clients are receiving by dealing with you. I suggest that once you have identified this niche group, call and ask them to help you define your business more clearly. Every important client will value the opportunity to help you grow your business and appricate that you value their suggestions and feedback.

If you react blindly to your customer base and treat all clients the same, then you are definitely working harder - not smarter. Therefore develop a client strategy that enables you to intelligently identify your top clients and spend more time with them and others like them. Are you 20/80 or 80/20?

If you wish to reproduce this article in any material form, you must first contact WABC for permission.
27Oct/110

Traditional Sales Calls Don’t Work for Coaches, But What Does? By Kerri Salls

Posted by WABC

In classic sales training, we learn that there are five simple steps to selling. If you follow the steps, you get the sale. They are:

  • Opening the call
  • Investigating needs
  • Giving benefits
  • Handling objections
  • Closing the sale

But as some coaches have been so vocal to bemoan, they aren't getting sales using this approach. So what's happening? If coaches are selling a big ticket item, like an executive coaching program or an assessment program for a corporate management team, the selling cycle no longer fits the traditional model.

The selling cycle for business coaching has four characteristics that make traditional selling techniques ineffective:

  1. Length of Selling Cycle
    The selling cycle may require many calls or connections. Multiple sales calls have a completely different psychology from a simple single-call product sale.
  2. Size of Customer Commitment
    Large purchases involve bigger decisions. This alters the psychology of the sale. As the size of the sale increases, successful salespeople must build the perceived value of the service.
  3. Relationships
    Most large sales involve an ongoing relationship with the customer. This is where multiple offerings that represent different pricing levels, what some call your "marketing funnel," come in handy. Why? They must get to know, like and trust you before they will invest greater time and money in your offer.
  4. Risk/Return/Resistance
    In small sales, customers can afford to take more risks and try something new on the spot. Consider offering something of value, like an e-book or teleclass, for less than $50 on your Web site. The consequence of that risk is relatively low. Each larger purchase represents a bigger decision and a more significant risk. The perceived value of a $250 program package and the pain it will solve must be more explicit, it must be targeted and it must promise greater results. When you expand that to a $999 package or a contracted fee for $5,000 to $10,000, the customer becomes more cautious with each increase in the size of the decision you are asking them to make.

You Need Different Selling Skills For Major Coaching Sales

There are four distinct stages of a sales call when dealing with the large sale. This simple model was developed by Neil Rackham in the book SPIN Selling and became the foundation for the Huthwaite Corporation's research and training services.

Preliminaries
In large sales, preliminaries do NOT have the influence on success that they do in small sales. The more senior the people you are selling your coaching to, the more they feel their time is at a premium. So your objective in the preliminaries is simply to get the customer's permission to move to the next stage.

Investigating
This involves asking lots of questions, collecting data, uncovering needs, and understanding the customer and their organization. In fact, for higher value selling, investigating is the most important of all selling skills and can increase the overall sales volume by more than 20%.

Success in larger sales like coaching depends on how you handle this stage. Successful calls entail asking a lot more questions than we were trained to ask in traditional selling. Uncovering implicit and explicit needs is the sole objective of the Investigating stage of the call. This is where you build the relationship before the sale is made.

Demonstrating Capability
There is no surprise here--you must demonstrate to each prospect that you have something worthwhile to offer. You must prove that your solution will address each customer's unique problems. Selling a solution is not the same as rattling off a list of features and benefits. Connect with their pain and offer a solution that makes you exceptionally qualified to meet their need.

Obtaining Commitment
Obtaining commitment is not the same as your classic closing script. Remember, the bigger the decision and the more sophisticated the buyer, the more negatively they generally react to pressure and closing techniques.

In larger sales, there may be a whole range of other commitments you must obtain before you reach the order stage for your coaching program. Your call objective may be to get the customer's agreement to attend a teleclass or workshop. Larger sales contain a number of intermediate steps. Rackham calls these steps "Advances": they advance the customer's commitment toward the final decision.

Next Steps to Get it Right

What I've described is only theory until you put it into practice. Here are four rules for learning any new sales skills:

  1. Practice Only One Behavior at a Time
    Focus on one new thing at a time.
    For example, work on asking more and better questions of prospects.
  2. Try the New Behavior at Least Three Times
    Never judge whether a new behavior is effective until you've tried it at least three times.
    For example, focus on a specific Advance (e.g., subscribing to your newsletter, attending a teleclass, working with a specific assessment tool) you want as an outcome from your calls.
  3. Quantity before Quality
    When you are practicing, concentrate on quantity and you'll get the results you're looking for. Use a lot of the new behavior. Don't worry about how smooth it is; use it often enough and the quality will look after itself.
    For example, if you are learning to connect with the client's pain to offer a solution you may get tongue-tied as you develop the conversation down new unscripted paths. Do it anyway.
  4. Practice in Safe Situations
    Always try out new behaviors in safe situations until they feel comfortable. Don't use important prospects to practice new skills.

Try just one of these ideas and see if it improves your prospecting results and lead conversion for your high end offerings. My experience has been that if you apply this unique selling cycle strategy in your coaching practice, you will see more doors open and more clients moving deeper into your marketing funnel.

This article first appeared in Business Coaching Worldwide (Spring Issue 2005, Volume 1, Issue 3). Copyright 2011 WABC Coaches Inc. All rights reserved.

Resources:

Lee, Andrea. Multiple Streams of Coaching Income. (2005).

Rackham, Neil. SPIN Selling. (1988). McGraw-Hill.
Kerri Salls, MBA, founded Breakthrough Business Enterprise to train, consult, and coach business owners, CEOs and sole proprietors on how to create more profit in less time. She publishes Breakthrough Success, a weekly e-zine that provides tips, tools and ideas for leadership. Kerri may be reached by email at kerri@breakthrough-business-school.com.

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