How executive and leadership coaches can take the strongest strategic position in order to build a great practice

Strategic thinking enables the success of any business. Starting and growing a successful executive coaching practice is no exception. Unfortunately, many coaches don’t think strategically about their businesses. They seem content to position themselves as yet another generic coach, just like all the others that are out there competing for business. 

As a result:

– They don’t have an edge over other coaches.

– They are seen as a commodity.

– They price at the low end of the market, usually have short engagements, and don’t get a lot of long-term clients.

Ultimately, many of these coaches end up disappointed.

A couple of examples stand out of coaches that don’t think strategically, and suffer for it:

The first example is the executive coach that always goes through Human Resources of large companies for all of their assignments. This is no way to build a business. By going through Human Resources all the time, you have to endure long sales cycles, small budgets, and a group that typically doesn’t have a lot of power in their organizations (even through they play a critical role). Many engagements are for a few sessions at a set rate. To win them, you often have to compete against three or four other coaches that meet with the same client, in a series of chemistry meetings. This means that going into any engagement, you only have a 25% chance of winning, and you have to invest a lot of time for a short engagement anyway. Coaches who go this route end up feeling like they are on a constant treadmill.

A second example is the typical career coach. These coaches provide a set career coaching package to a client, until the client finds and succeeds in a new role. Then what? The coach has nothing else to offer, because they only do career coaching. By the time the client wants a new career, they have probably lost touch with the career coach or found someone else to work with as their career has evolved. There is no recurring revenue! Unless the career coach has built an alliance with a large group — like a recruiter, massive company, or organization — that feeds a stream of clients to them, they do not have a strong strategic position.

You don’t want to be like these types of coaches, and they make up the bulk of the market.

So what is the alternative? At the Center for Executive Coaching, we equip you with new ways of thinking about how to enter and succeed in the market for executive, leadership, business, and career coaching. No other program shows you these strategies and tactics. You can learn and get certified with us via our in-person seminar or join our online/distance learning coach certification program anytime.

We believe that a starting point is how you position yourself. Instead of positioning yourself as an executive coach, highlight one to three big problems you solve for clients, and the value you bring to them — and communicate why you solve these problems better than anybody else. Think of yourself not as a coach but as a solution provider, someone who gets great results for clients by solving their most pressing problems.

Once you do that, you might not call yourself an executive coach anymore, at least not as your primary title. Suddenly executive coaching becomes one of many ways you can deliver results. You can train, facilitate, consult, speak, assess, and run leadership circles and mastermind groups. Maybe you call yourself an Executive Advisor, Leadership Advisor, or Strategic Advisor. If you solve a specific problem, you could label yourself an expert: Influence Expert, Strategic Planning Expert, Change Leadership Expert. Think of these new labels as umbrellas. Under your umbrella title, which represents the highest strategic ground you want to hold,  you offer a range of solutions that solve problems for clients.

If you study any of the best-known experts, you will see that they follow this approach. Look at the people who started Crucial Conversations. They have a book. They train. They coach. They speak. They license their materials to other coaches and consultants. Patrick Lencioni has demonstrated this approach brilliantly, especially with his Five Dysfunctions of a Team. He helps companies build better teams through a variety of options, from coaching to speaking to licensing others to offer his content.

You can do the same. You don’t need a book (although it’s never a bad idea, and we work with you on developing one, as many of our graduates have done) right out of the gate. Start with smart positioning.

Once you do, you will find that the road gets easier:

– You can sell directly to decision makers. They have larger budgets than Human Resources, and you can tap into much larger consulting budgets with this strategy. This is especially true in the smaller to mid-size organization range. There are millions of these organizations, and they seek solutions that include coaching. I know, because this is where I focus my own professional practice.

– You open up entirely new markets and ways to serve clients.

– You keep clients longer, because you have the primary relationship with them, not HR.

– You become more of a trusted advisor than a coach.

Yes, you can still spend most of your time coaching. You can do pure executive coaching; or you can embed coaching in a hybrid approach that includes assessments, facilitation, training, and any number of other services your client might want and expect. It’s not a matter of what you do, but of how you position what you do. Meanwhile, career transition coaching becomes a tool you can offer to a client as part of a long-term relationship as their trusted advisor. Coach them in one role, help them transition to another, and coach them when they get there; this is a superior approach than a one-time engagement with each client that most career coaches have to tolerate.

It’s up to you. Most other coach training programs show you the foundations of coaching and then they set you loose. You are like those thousands of baby turtles that hatch every year on beaches. Most get eaten by birds and fish. Maybe 1 in 10,000 survive. When you join our program, that metaphor no longer applies. We show you strategies to do circles around the coaches who choose those other programs. We are a small, boutique program that gives you ongoing support directly from the founder, with tools and strategies to be a great coach and great at building a practice.

I guarantee that once you get the hang of thinking this way, it is not hard to implement. We are there with you every step of the way. And it will make a massive difference to your practice, especially compared to other coaches trying to make a go of it.

By the way, if you are an internal coach, these principles also apply to you! Too many internal coaching groups lack the credibility and respect they deserve and want. It’s because of how you have positioned yourself to senior leadership and the organization. If you want to change how you are perceived, you have to change the quality of your programs, the value you bring, and the way you communicate that value.

It’s not enough to know the basic competencies of coaching in today’s market. If you want to succeed, you need to think strategically. Join any of our coach training and certification programs today and learn how.

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