By Andrew Neitlich, Founder and Director, The Center for Executive Coaching
Many training professionals have gotten into coaching. This makes sense, because coaching is a powerful agent for sustaining results after training. Also, coaching is a growth field for trainers, especially with the rebound in the economy and studies that prove coaching gets great returns for clients and their organizations.
Given these facts, one would expect that people in the coaching field should be making a fortune. Sadly, this is not the case. Many coaches struggle to attract new clients and earn the income they want.
People in the training field know what it takes to build credibility and grow a successful practice, and it should not be too difficult to add coaching to your solution set. However, to succeed in this field—whether as an internal coach or entrepreneur—you need to follow six steps. If you do, you can build a thriving coaching practice.
Warning: First you have to know how to coach.
Before describing each step, beware! This article assumes that you are a competent coach. If you are already coaching clients and not getting repeat engagements, a stream of referrals, and generally rave reviews, you might need additional training in best-practice coaching skills. Despite oversight by coaching associations, many coach training programs are either too academic or too superficial, and don’t give you the tools and skills you really need to be successful.
If this warning does not apply to you, then you are ready to implement the six steps to a successful coaching practice:
Step 1: Lay a solid strategic foundation.
In training and in coaching, you can’t be all things to all people. Before promoting your services, answer these questions: Who is my target audience? What are their most pressing problems? How can I solve these problems via coaching or a hybrid coaching/training model? What is a marketing message that will compel people to take action, by speaking their language, calling out their problems, and showing them a clear path to results and value?
Note:Instead of marketing yourself as a trainer who does coaching, consider marketing yourself as an expert coach and solution provider. This opens the door for you to be a true trusted adviser!
Step 2: Use low-cost, high-impact tactics to get clients.
Successful trainers already know you don’t have to spend much to attract clients. Proven tactics start with referrals from your current training clients. From there, you can: achieve expert status through information and education; do online marketing; build alliances that bring a stream of clients; become a leader in relevant associations and organizations; and test a variety of creative strategies to reach top decision-makers.
Step 3: Close engagements.
Some coaches just can’t seem to close a deal and get paid to coach people at the price they want. Closing engagements requires the ability to engage prospects authentically; have open and honest conversations with prospects to figure out whether there is a good fit or not; develop a solution that works for both parties; handle any objections with finesse and grace; and explicitly ask for a decision. Once you know how to close engagements, business development becomes easier, more natural, and even fun.
For trainers, there is great news here: By being able to offer both coaching and training solutions, you can be more agile in responding to the prospect’s needs. You can offer coaching, training, or a combination of both—along with a mix of any other solutions you might offer. You are a true expert who can customize your solutions, and this opens up huge new possibilities for you!
Step 4: Keep clients for life, or at least for a long time.
You already know this as a trainer, and it is equally true for coaches: The best source of revenue almost always comes from current clients. The most successful coaches understand the value of the first client, and every client that follows. They understand what it means to deliver value and create raving fans. Finally, they are diligent when it comes to anticipating client needs and finding new ways to serve them, as well as other people in their organization, professional network, or life.
Step 5: Build a firm to enjoy lasting wealth.
To earn breakthrough revenues, think like a firm builder. Eventually, every coach hits a revenue ceiling where trading their time for dollars constrains what they can earn. As a trainer, you have an advantage over most coaches. That’s because you know the importance of developing proprietary methodologies and valuable intellectual property. Once you do, you can turn them into a portfolio of additional programs and products you can offer the market. Examples include books, membership programs, information products, tools to help your clients assess and improve their situation, and licensing arrangements. You also can contract with other coaches and experts to create larger teams that get bigger engagements. Meanwhile, all of this work continues to set you apart as the go-to training and coaching professional in your market, and lets you to charge even more money for your time.
Step 6: Create your million-dollar business plan.
None of these steps matter if you don’t make a plan and take action. Marketing and firm development must be a top priority. Hope and prayer are not viable business development strategies. Without a significant commitment to marketing, you will not attract clients or earn the income you want and deserve.
If you have solid coaching skills and you are willing to follow the above steps, then you are ready to build a million-dollar coaching firm. As a training professional, you already have a leg up over people starting without a training background. Now is the time to ramp up your practice and get started!
Andrew Neitlich is the co-author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Coaches: Six steps to building your million-dollar coaching practice.” He is also the founder and director of The Center for Executive Coaching. For more information, visit http://www.centerforexecutivecoaching.com.