If you want to set your consulting and coaching practice apart, you should be able to explain exactly the results you get for clients — and those results should be compelling.
What keeps executives up at night? I guarantee you that they are not thinking, “Gee, I wish I had another business advisor on my payroll.”
But they are thinking about how to increase cash coming in, decrease cash going out, stand out in a crowded competitive field, and raise the value of their enterprise.
Too many coaches and consultants get fuzzy when it comes to the results they provide. They focus on things like improving communication and teamwork, building leadership capabilities, introducing new and supposedly more effective behaviors, and serving as a sounding board to help executives test new ideas and feel more confident.
All of these things can be useful, but they are not compelling enough to get you hired. They are not primary benefits.
If you want to make it as top-tier coach and consultant, you need to be able to convey the results you get in terms that matter to busy, bottom-line driven executives. The closer you can come to showing how you increase revenues/cash coming in, decrease costs/cash going out, raise the value of the enterprise (for for-profit executives), make it easier to recruit and retain amazing talent, or help dominate the competition, the more successful you will be.
Don’t take real money for pretend results.
At the same time, there seems to be too much worrying among professionals about the differences among business coaching, executive coaching, consulting, training, facilitation, and mentoring. Your top priority should be getting results for your clients, not obsessing about distinctions that will always be a bit fuzzy around the edges.
To achieve results for your clients, you may need to wear multiple hats. Sometimes you are a business coach (e.g. focused on specific business performance metrics to improve profits). Sometimes you work with your client on leadership and communication skills, which are the traditional executive coaching domains. If the need emerges, you might conduct a research study or analysis like a consultant. You might also train your client to help the management/leadership team develop new skills, or facilitate a one- or two-day meeting to set priorities.
In other words, you structure your work to solve client problems with the right solution for that client. There is no cookie cutter solution for getting results. That’s why only seasoned businesspeople should step into the business and executive advisor role.