One reason that coaching is a great profession is that it is still in its infancy. Many coaches who are practicing now lack substance, even if they have a designation from one of the coaching associations. Professionals who are smart and have a track record of achievement can jump in and be successful. Here are five ways to succeed in the market:
1. Offer solutions vs. simply promoting coaching. Coaching is a feature, not a benefit. Everyone knows from Marketing 101 that you don't promote features, you promote benefits, and yet the feature of coaching is exactly what most coaches promote. If you come from an executive, leadership, or consulting background, you can win in this market by focusing on problems that you solve and solutions that bring great benefits and value to your prospective clients. When working with clients, talk first about practical solutions to pressing problems.
2. Stop speaking coach speak. In your marketing materials and with clients, talk their language, not the language of the latest best-selling transformational author or weekend coaching seminar you have taken. Clients wants practical, efficient, effective ways to solve their problems. For instance, a technology CEO having trouble working with people doesn't want to hear a bunch of Human Resources mumbo jumbo from the latest HR association newsletter. He is thinking, "I love technology but I get frustrated when I have to talk to people and my team is doing what I need them to do. Help!" It's as simple as that. If you want to work with this CEO, you need to get into his world and speak his language. I know, because I got one of my very first clients this exact way — by dropping the jargon, listening, and then talking his language.
3. Stop doing the same old marketing tactics that every other coach is doing. This past week I was coaching a coach who had a big vision for her practice. She wanted her name to be synonymous with solving a particular problem in a particular industry. She wanted executives in that industry to call her first when they had that problem. When we talked about who needed to know her in that industry, she mentioned some big names — CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. However, when we talked about her current marketing, it was the same old junk: Go to local ICF chapter meetings; write articles on LinkedIn and her blog; hope to break into a company at a low level and work her way up as a coach. During our coaching she came to the realization that she was holding way back on her approach to getting visible in the market, and really walking on tippy toes instead of being bold. If you want to work with executives, you need to stand out and reach out in ways that other coaches cannot or do not dare to do. The Center for Executive Coaching has the tools and support to help you do this, so long as you have the track record and substance to back up your aspirations. You can stand far apart from most coaches today — if you have the substance and are willing to do the work.
4. Provide maximum value to clients. Coaches often get caught up in fuzzy thinking and a love for feel-good approaches that seem wonderful in the short term but that don't provide long-term results. Work with clients up front, during, and after each engagement to make sure that results are baked into each engagement. Then track results and follow up to make sure they are sustained. I won't take an engagement unless the client and I can agree that there is an opportunity to achieve AT LEAST a 5-10 times return on my fees and our time during a coaching engagement — and that is the minimum. Coaching is not meant to be a luxury, like a massage or a trip to Bali. It should bring massive value to our clients that is measurable and sustainable. When you focus on this with clients, I would estimate that you can beat out 90% to 95% of coaches in the market today. Sometimes it means breaking out of a pure coaching role, and also serving as a facilitator, trainer, consultant, and advisor; if that is what the client wants — do it! We ultimately report to our clients, and the market is more right than a coaching association!
5. Earn the right to be a trusted advisor to your clients instead of just a coach. Focus on reaching the highest strategic relationship with clients. A coach starts out as a vendor. Over time, if you build the relationship with a client, they open up to you and trust you as a confidant. Once that happens, you have a long-term relationship with a client that is priceless. You have created what the strategy consultants call a "barrier to entry" that will keep your competitors locked out for good — as long as you keep delivering results.
If you focus on these five points, you can do circles around the vast majority of coaches today.
Meanwhile, the Center for Executive Coaching is here as a resource to assist you. We respect and teach the core competencies established by the International Coach Federation, and also realize that coaches need much more than these to succeed. We provide practical methods, materials, and toolkits to help you succeed — along with proven marketing guidance.
Please explore our resources at http://centerforexecutivecoaching.com and contact us at anytime.