I'm getting pretty good at figuring out what sets apart coaches who earn big dollars from those who struggle or give up. Following are five additional things (and one bonus) that seem to set the more successful coaches apart from the rest:
1. Stand for something that becomes your brand. There are too many generic coaches. Be memorable by being somebody that people will remember. Dominate a niche — whether in an industry, a specific solution, a geography, a demographic group, or a psychographic group. Even better, combine a couple of these. My favorite example is Marc Pitman, The Fundraising Coach. He actually specializes in a narrow niche within fundraising, the face-to-face ask. But he dominates that niche like no one else, and the red bowtie that dots the "i" in his logo is memorable, because he wears it in his photos and tv interviews, too. Judge Judy, Martha Stewart, Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs: All are memorable because they are great at something, stand for something, bring value, and are consistent. Why not you, too?
2. Coach prospects to buy from you, without giving free consulting. We practice selling conversations on our telecalls, and I'm amazed at how readily some coaches dive into problem solving with prospects. Never, ever, do that or you are giving the milk away for free before they buy the cow (and you thought this old saying only applied to dating!). Instead, coach people on what the problem is costing them, how ready they are to hire an outsider, whether they are ready to take action, whether they can afford it, and what they want to have, be, and feel like after you are done. That way, you get the prospect to the point of being ready to buy, or learn that they aren't really ever going to buy.
3. Finesse the objections. This is one of the hardest things for coaches to do, and many never quite get the hang of it. Propsects, like clients, throw us all sorts of curve balls. You have to be ready. You have to be ready to change scope and budget on a dime, offer installments, figure out how big a check they have authority to write, answer tough questions about why you are the right person to help them, and ask (or re-ask) questions that remind them of how big their problem is and why they asked you to call them in the first place. There is no perfect answer. The most successful coaches practice this again and again, until nothing phases them, and they have turned this part of the selling cycle into a science.
4. "No" is a welcome word. Many coaches can't take rejection. For some coaches, a single "no" from a prospect can ruin their day. Many coaches give up their dreams of becoming a coach after only a few "no's" — and some never even strike up the courage to get out there and take a "no." The successful coaches know differently. A "no" is great. It frees us from wasting time with fence sitters who keep looking for free coaching, or who want unlimited additional information. It gives us an accurate look at how much marketing we really have to do to get a yes. It helps us be more efficient. And it gives us important feedback about how we can better attract qualified, great clients. When I first started, I got hundreds of rejections. One rejection in particular hit me like a pile of bricks, and forced me to take a stand as a coach (per #1, above). That "no" changed everything for me, and I had a full practice within two months of being rejected so harshly. The market is never wrong!
5. You probably need to increase your business development efforts by 3 – 5 times what you initially thought. The biggest shock in starting your own practice might be how much business development it really takes, especially in the beginning. It gets easier once you have your niche and marketing message down, and can start building referral relationships and alliances. But until then, it feels like pushing a boulder up a hill, and you put in lots of energy to see much in the way of results. You need a mindset that is ready for this reality. I spoke to a business developer for a major, publicly traded talent development firm, and she shared that she needs to get in front of 15 decision makers a week to hit her sales targets. Even I was a bit surprised by that number, and feel fortunate to have a referral-only coaching practice. But early on, be ready to go for numbers that ambitious. That's what it takes to get momentum, like it or not. You might see results in a month, or in six months, but give it everything you have to make it work.
BONUS: You are never done building. As I write this, I am on the phone with a coach who is asking me about his website. He makes a great point: "I am never satisfied and want to keep making this better." He is 100% right! Some coaches wait for everything to be perfect before jumping in, and they never get started. Others get stagnant, creating something decent, but never going further. You are always adding new services, programs, products, and solutions. That way, you keep growing and getting better, and your clients keep hiring you, while other coaches stay where they are and have too many "one and done" clients.
At the Center for Executive Coaching, we give you more than practice in asking open-ended questions. We give you coaching frameworks that you can use immediately to help clients get results and build up your credibility as someone with proven methodologies. You don't pay any royalties to use these. We also give you weekly marketing calls and pep talks to help you succeed when most other coaches will fail. Take a look at our website and sign up today. Whether you are already coaching or want to add coaching to what you do now, you will be glad you did.