Coaching that sells itself

This past week I sold significant add on work to a client that basically sold itself. It didn’t feel like I had to do anything. The client told me that they wanted to hire me, they told me what they wanted me to do, all of the decision makers were there, and now all I have to do is get out a 2-page invoice/proposal. And this is for the C-level executives of a large publicly traded company.

When you know what you are doing, it is easy to sell coaching services.

I did it without talking about NLP, emotional intelligence, transformational technologies, ontology, neuroscience, brain-friendly coaching, or any of the other popular buzzwords that coaches are circulating these days.

Here are five ways that this happened, and whether you are an internal or external coach you need to know how to do this:

One: Don’t lead with talk about coaching. The client didn’t want coaching per se, but rather solutions. They have some significant issues that are holding back growth for their company. Some of these issues have to do with the way that their executive team interacts. Some have to do with alignment. Some have to do with execution. And some are serious strategic issues. I never once mentioned coaching. We talked about problems and solutions. This might mean that you have to be flexible, and provide a solution that combines coaching with other services, like facilitation, interviewing team members, and assessment tools. Most coaches provide these services, too, so this should not be a big deal for you.

Two: Don’t talk about trends that coaches care about but clients don’t. I never once mentioned any of the buzzwords that coaches toss around. The vast majority of clients couldn’t care less about the buzzwords that coaches care about. They do care about getting to the root of the problems that are hurting growth and profitability, and finding solutions. Therefore, that’s what you should be discussing.

Three: Tie your work to the key strategic initiatives of the company. As part of my work with the client so far, I introduced them to an assessment tool that they really liked. In our discussion, the client shared that they now wanted to use this tool with the whole executive team, as one part of the new engagement. What “sold” this for them was my insistence that we only use the tool to help the client understand how to work better together in order to achieve their top strategic priorities. This is probably the most important point of this article. If you worry less about coaching and more about helping clients with their top strategic initiatives, you will never lack work.

Four: Let the client do most of the thinking and talking, and listen like your life depended on it. I didn’t sell. I used powerful questions and good listening – in other words, coaching! – to ask questions and have the client tell me what they wanted from me. When I pitch or sell, I usually don’t get the work. When I coach the client through the buying process – again with an emphasis on how to deliver value and results – I get hired every time (as long as they have money).

Five: Show that you get results. Finally, this client has already seen the results that I get with one of their most senior executives. The results were not only focused on improving this person’s leadership, but also his ability to drive the strategic growth of his area of responsibility. The results were tangible, and the client wanted to see more results like this. How did I get this client in the first place? By asking great questions that showed that I know how to think strategically and bake significant business results into my work.

Lots of coaches don’t get the above points. At the Center for Executive Coaching, this is the heart of what we teach. We show you how to be a great coach, but even more than that, how to build a strategic relationship by getting significant results senior leaders, managers, and up-and-coming talent.

It’s a client-centered view that you don’t see enough in the coaching world, partly because many coaches don’t have a grounding in or the stomach for business (which is a great opportunity for those of us who do), and partly because so many coaches are enamored by the latest buzzwords, fads, and academic jargon. I teach what I have learned after 20 years of doing this – and I still spend about half my time working with amazing clients.

If you want to be a coach, or sell more coaching, consider joining the Center for Executive Coaching.  

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