The role of a professional coach - in the context of companies' culture that encourages employees to question themselves and to always stay on top of the latest training trend - is certainly one of the fastest growing niches on the market.
In recent years, jobs related to coaching and relationship management have been booming.
In 2014, OpinionWay carried out a study on professional retraining: it appeared that 74% of the employees surveyed had already considered changing jobs or career and that 60% of them had already undergone a professional switch.
Given the current climate, how can a professional coach find new customers? Here are our tips for all the professional coaches out there.
Find Out Who You Target Is
It should go without saying that it is fundamental to ask who your future clients should be in order to find them in the first place.
As a professional coach, it will be important to identify who you can help and who you can not offer your services to. Otherwise, it is very likely that you will disperse your energy pointlessly and lose credibility.
When a potential customer comes upon your PR material - website, business card, resume, advertisement, etc. - they must feel involved and drawn by the profile of the coach.
So you will need to know who you are talking to because the challenge is to confer individual, tailored support to achieve the goals of the potential clients.
It is important to develop specific skills to specialize and know your "ideal client": managers, entrepreneurs, business coaches of a specific sector (bank, insurance, real estate, industries, etc.).
The more experience you will have the more you should be able to define your target market more precisely: general management, commercial management, political leaders, companies in difficulty, bankruptcy, etc.
Therefore, as a professional life and career coach you will have to refine your services: regain self-confidence, support for professional projects, switch to a new profession, support for change, help with public speaking, better stress manage, etc.
Future clients will expect the coach to have the ability to provide them with the professional support they need.
You must, therefore, establish a relationship of trust, which will be based- in the beginning - on emotional factors.
Transforming potential clients into customers involves actively listening to their problems and using an empathic approach to show them that we are up to the task of helping them achieve their professional goals.
But if for example, you are a specialist in stress management or conflict management, it will be difficult to present yourself as professional coach of nonviolent communication.
You must find a way, not to convince future customers, but to seduce them with your personality: in short, become the very archetype of the specific service you propose.
Research Your Market To Identify Leads
Doing an analysis of the potential demand is one of the fundamental steps to becoming a professional coach and fill up your schedule with new sessions.
This study should help you develop your marketing strategy, especially at key moments of the activity: inception of the business, the creation of your website, gaining visibility on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).
Knowing the realities and conditions of the "market" that you are aiming to take a share of is crucial to not fail before even starting.
More and more firms are setting up professional coaching departments, either by hiring self-employed coaches or by recruiting partners in a career management practice.
The market has become a highly competitive one and its segmentation and economic and sociological compartments must be known:
- Jobs in demand (employees, professionals, civil servants, business leaders, etc.),
- Customer ages (school coach, teen coach, adult coach, senior coach),
- Gender (men, women, parents, men and women entrepreneurs, etc.),
- The themes raised (changing lives, managing human resources, career management, managing emotions, accompanying change, regaining self-esteem, etc.),
- Personal (pain, trauma) and professional issues (frustration, stagnation, career prospects),
- The financial means of your target market: who can pay and who is inclined to pay for individual coaching?
The bad news is that professional coaching businesses respond to a very competitive market structure, where you risk finding yourself in the position of accepting market price for your services rather than setting your own rate.
In other words:
When you join a train in motion, you have no choice but to accept the rules of the game and follow the market as price goes down or up in order to stay in business.
If you are good enough to find your way in a specific, under marketed niche- provided that this niche has an important enough potential client base, you will be in a good position to get a stable and sustainable flow of work.
At this level, it is your speciality or specialities that will make you stand out of the crowd: get all the training certification you can, possible accreditation, specific training program, all professional skills conferring serious comparative advantages. The more you know the better your position in the market will be.
Choose And Develop Your Coaching Methods
One of the last step to become a personal coach and getting your first clients is to choose the most appropriate methodological approach for them to flock to your coaching practice.
First, you can develop your communication (website, blogs, social networks, references) and wait for customers to come.
You can also show that based on your professional experience, you will be able to bring concrete results to customers, with practical exercises (it can be questioning and develop their potential, teaching them how to manage their stress, etc.).
It is all about offering a real added value to your audience: and since you will be addressing a public evolving in a managerial or entrepreneurial environment, proposing a return on investment will be seen as a virtue.
All this is good but determining the right rate will make or break your business. Bases on hour-long individual coaching sessions or on a multi-session deal, your prices should be high enough that it will allow you to make a profit, but not too high as not to scare potential customers away.
Any potential client will certainly compare the profiles of many professional coaches, including the different degrees and training courses they have completed, as well as the methods they offer.
To motivate their customers, some value neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Others favour the systemic approach, nonviolent communication, enneagram, Process Communication, dynamic spiral, Otto Scharmer's U theory, Ken Wilber's integral vision, Maslow's pyramid, the contributions of transactional analysis, etc.
Optimise Your Networks And Cultivate Partnerships
It is true that collective intelligence has far more reach than individual action alone. Working together brings team cohesion, an environment in which sharing interpersonal skills benefits everyone.
We see it when we work in a team or when we create a new business: we have to surround ourselves with resourceful persons, having the key skills to get the company off the ground.
In order to find clients, partnerships are an excellent way to get continuous and sustainable work: your very first clients should help you build the rest of your business by referring you to their own collaborators. The biggest their network is, the more likely you will be to gain more clients through them.
As any business based on human interactions, the relationship you develop with your client will be paramount to the success of your work and the future of your professional coaching activity. Effective communication will be a key factor in making sure your clients achieve their goals and you meet your targets.
Far from constituting the guarantee of an everlasting business, a few customers will not and should not be sufficient in the long term. The whole purpose of professional coaching is to help people moving on, once your task is done and your clients satisfied, it will be important to have new ones to carry out your activity.
In this context, it is often necessary to cold call companies, rethink your communication plan, your marketing strategies, stay up to date on the recent development of your line of work and on the forever evolving company culture.
Finally, a good coach is one that maintains a strong relationship with their customers, which is why we often recommend attending or to organize webinars, seminars or to go to press conferences to find new clients.
Network and marketing will account for a lot of potential customers in your professional coach business.