Following are 8 ways to make sure that your coaching practice builds momentum and succeeds.
One: Have enough runway. We get too many calls from would-be coaches who say, "I'm going broke soon. Can you help me get a coaching practice up and running immediately?" These people have come too late to the game. A coaching practice, like any business, takes time to build. You need time to build relationships, establish your credibility, and develop the competence and confidence to be successful. I know one coach who will make $650,000 this year. However, his first two years in business were difficult. He and his wife fought often about whether he had made the right choice. He stuck with it, and now he is making far more than he would in a corporate job. You have to have enough runway to succeed, and it is impossible to know whether that means a couple of months or a couple of years. Many of our members are working full time while building a coaching practice on the side. Others have a spouse who is working. Still others have existing consulting or clinical practices and are adding coaching to an already successful business. Be smart. Don't get sucked in by get-rich-quick conmen who will tell you that this is easy and fast.
Two: Go for the fast nickel over the slow dime. Don't put all of your eggs into going after a single, large Fortune 500 client. Large companies take forever to make decisions, and we have seen over-confident coaches put their personal finances at risk while hunting the giant elephant. It is fine to go after one or two gigantic clients, but get a foothold first. Work with as few as one executive for your immediate engagement, instead of going for the multi-million dollar deal by coaching the entire executive team. Then expand based on rave reviews from your initial client. At the same time, go for lots of smaller clients to establish your credibility in the market, build a referral base, and learn everything you can about coaching.
Three: Get in the proper mindset. Building a coaching practice, as with building any other business, at first feels like pushing a rock up a hill. It takes 5 units of energy to get one unit back. Be ready for this. Don't give up. Keep pushing by being visible and active.
Four: Get your marketing foundation and message in place. Before you waste time chasing prospects, make sure you have your marketing message down. You must be able to explain the problems you can solve, for whom, the benefits you provide, why you are the perfect person to provide these benefits, and prove that your claims are accurate. If you have this kind of message in place, it becomes much easier to have prospects come to you, and to convert them to clients. It also makes it easy for people to make introductions for you, because they understand the types of people you want to meet and who will value your solutions. Many coaches come across as generic, superficial, and — as one executive called his coach — "an expensive waste of time." Don't fall into this trap. Take the time to clearly articulate your value proposition.
Five: Don't waste time with people who will never hire you. Some coaches get so excited when people express even a little bit of interest, that they assume they will get hired. They end up wasting their time giving away free coaching and advice. Don't let this happen to you. There are simple conversations to have with prospects to know whether they will hire you or are wasting your time. By having these conversations, you can get a realistic gauge of how strong your pipeline really is, and make more money in less time.
Six: Practice, practice, practice. If you are new to coaching, practice coaching with everyone you can. We give you specific, easy exercises and templates to use with practice clients, so that you feel more confident — and have the competence to back it up — when you get paying clients. The more comfortable you feel as a coach, the easier it becomes to mean it when you are asked, "How can you provide value to me?"
Seven: Get out there in ways that bring clients to you. When you first start out, use any spare time you have (e.g., time when you are not working directly with a client) by getting visible in the market in low-cost, high-impact ways. Examples include: speaking, writing, having referral and introduction conversations, taking on leadership roles in places where people in your market hang out, building your online and social media presence, and creating educational products that demonstrate your value. You have to make ongoing business development your top priority.
Eight: Get support. At the Center for Executive Coaching, we provide you with personalized support to make sure you do the right things to build your practice. We keep you focused and on point, whether with our manuals, coach marketing calls and pep talks, or one-on-one reviews of your marketing plans. We even guide you through specific prospect and client situations. We also set you up in mastermind groups with fellow members. At the same time, we encourage you to form your own mastermind groups, and build a support network that keeps you resilient, strong, and focused.
You can start a successful executive- and leadership-level coaching business, and we are here to help. However, generating momentum in your practice takes the right mindset, strategies, tactics, and commitment. We wish you the best of success!