Part II: How to avoid typical mistakes in early-stage coaching marketing and sales
This is the second part of my tips for those of you who would like to become professional coaches, but are not sure where to start. In Part I, we discussed how to pick your coaching courses, choose a supervisor, find your first coaching clients, and start charging them. Today we will talk more about marketing your services and building your business.
Congratulations, you are now a certified coach – what do you do to make your coaching a business, and not an expensive hobby?
Do not get into coaching if you don’t like selling. As simple as that. If you are determined to become a life coach or a career coach, selling has to become your second nature. I am primarily talking about ‘solo’ coaches, but even if you get a permanent position with a big organization, you will still have to “sell” your services internally and convince people that they can trust you their deepest concerns and aspirations. In this profession, it’s not enough to be a good coach; you also need to become a top notch sales person.
The good news is that when you love what you do (most coaches do!), selling feels not like selling, but rather like a pleasant talk. Selling coaching services is about explaining very clearly to your conversation partner how you help them or their friends/colleagues. If you have an offer compelling enough, they will finish the selling pitch themselves.
Remember from Part I, coaching is never about you, it’s always about your client. You therefore need to be very clear in your head about how you can add value to your potential clients or contacts. A very typical mistake most aspiring coaches make is telling their clients about coaching or themselves. No one is interested in you, coach! People only want to know how you can help them – so talk about it!
Coaching services sales is not something you can easily forecast. A sales cycle can take months from the moment you first meet a person and build trust with them until they decide to purchase something from you. They might not actually ever purchase anything, but refer you to someone who will. Sometimes you will close the deal straight away, sometimes it will take weeks and months.
So start getting comfortable with an idea of constantly telling the world about how you can help. Talk about your potential clients and their interests and concerns, and not yourself, and you dramatically increase your chances to succeed.
Tip 7. Build your network BEFORE you leave your current job.
Your sales start with your network. Before you launch your business, make sure that your network is abundant and supportive. If it’s not, do NOT leave your current job until you’ve got your supportive network in place. It will take you anything from 3 to 12 months to build a powerful network, depending on how good a communicator you are and where you are based.
One of the coaches I know used to schedule 15 to 20 informational interviews with prospective clients and leads per week at the early stages of her transition into coaching. Another friend of mine, also a coach, got challenged by her supervisor to schedule 50 sample sessions within a month. Sample session is a free taster that allows your client to experience your coaching style and is normally offered by most coaches. Whereas 50 sample sessions in one month sounds like a bit of an extreme number to me, think whether your network can realistically deliver you that amount of leads. If not – do your homework, circulate, network, share your knowledge.
How exactly do you network? You shouldn’t be constantly thinking about closing sales when networking, people hate sleazy salesmen. Quality networking is about providing real value to others – making introductions, giving tips when you are asked for them, and generally being a nice and pleasant person to be around. If you do something for people in your network, they will give you something back in return. Obvious as it may sound, aspiring coaches often forget about this simple rule and overuse their network in the first few months of building their practice without giving it anything back. Do not make this mistake and make sure you’ve got enough credit with your network – if you ask your contacts for favors (i.e. introduce you to their mailing list), make sure you offer something in return (a free coaching session, perhaps? Or something not related to coaching).
This is the ABC of marketing, but even marketing people miraculously forget about it once they get into coaching. As a coach, you cannot be of service to everyone. Some people will like you and some will not. Some people will understand you and some will not. Some will want to work with you and others will not. You need to understand from the very start who your customers are and what’s unique about your value proposition to them.
If you try to target everyone and please everyone, you will not sell anything. The narrower your niche is, the better sales you can expect.
There are a number of ways to determine your coaching niche and I will cover them in a separate blog post. One little tip for now – think why clients come to you and what they would say about you as a person, and professional if I asked them about you. For example, clients often come to me because I have been through multiple transitions in my life, changing jobs and countries, and am not afraid of change in most forms. Therefore, my primary target audience is people who are going through major transitions, but are unsure how to handle them and need some encouragement and guidance. This is a very broad definition, but you can start with it and then narrow it down.
If you are an ex-lawyer, chances are many of your clients will be lawyers – not because you’ll be able to give them some law advice (it’s actually a very bad idea to do so if you are a coach!), but because they will find you credible.
Life coaching is not a niche. Career coaching is not a niche. Helping ex-bankers find a fulfilling career elsewhere is a niche. Helping divorced middle-aged women get into a new long-term relationship is a niche. My favorite life coach Marie Forleo has a very timely niche of helping aspiring female entrepreneurs build and promote their business online.
Tip 9. Do NOT get into coaching full-time if you need money
There is nothing worse than a desperate coach. I remember the time when I badly needed at least one client to be able to pay my rent, and guess what – of course I couldn’t close any deal. Clients do not like coaches desperately chasing them to close a sale, so if you feel under financial pressure, you are likely to fail in your sales. You should make an impression of a happy and fulfilled person to be able to coach somebody – and you cannot really imitate that.
So please make sure you have some supporting revenue while you are building your coaching practice. Only after you gained the momentum and a constant flow of clients, I would advise that you get into it full-time.
Tip 10. You are your ultimate barrier.
All coaches have moments of self-doubt and low self-esteem, especially if something isn’t working out with a client. However, good coaches do not get stuck in these moments and are able to move on. Most people I got to know during my coaching studies are amazingly talented coaches who made a big difference in my life during our training, however only a few of them really went for it and started building their practice. Others kept finding pretests why they could not launch their practice now, signing up for more coaching courses to become even more qualified and regretfully never made this step to building their own professional coaching practice, something the world will hugely benefit from.
You will eventually face a moment in your coaching career when you are done with all your studies and all your existing client leads are gone, and you cannot think of new marketing strategies. This is your biggest opportunity – if you get through this moment, you will become an amazing coach and will be able to motivate others to become their bigger selves.
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