What Do You Do?

Every coach has to build a book of business, a fancy way of saying you have to get clients who will pay you for your services. So how do you do that?  Building a book of business takes two steps, marketing and selling. Marketing involves letting people know that you have something to offer, what that something is, and why they should want it (in other words, how it can help them). Selling is closing the deal.

Let’s talk about marketing this time. Or really, marketing prep.

Marketing probably makes you think about websites, Google ads, and other forms of communication. But that’s the wrong starting point. Those things are all about getting your message out. But first you have to know what that message is. What do you want potential clients to know that will make them want to come to you?

To begin to find out, answer this simple question:What do you do?” You might say, “Why Dana, I’m an executive coach! That’s what I do.” And I might say, “Well, that may be who you are, but that’s probably not going to be enough to pique the interest of potential clients. They’re going to want to know specifically what you do, how you do it, how it will help them, and why they should choose you over your competitors, who are legion. In other words, what do you have to offer?”

Figuring out what you offer, preferably in a way that sticks in the minds of potential clients and client organizations, takes a good deal of thought and clarification. Let’s get started with some organizing questions.

What is your mission? This is the “why” of your work – why you are in the coaching business. Organizations often spend lots of time and money trying to figure out their missions. Don’t despair if you struggle with this for a good while. The struggle is worth it, because everything else is so much easier to solve once you get this settled. You have to know what you are trying to accomplish.

Please allow me to use my own journey to illustrate. As I was getting interested in evolving away from the traditional practice of clinical psychology, and toward executive coaching, I had a vague idea that I wanted to work with leaders to help them succeed. I’d had numerous formal and informal leadership experiences myself, and found leadership exciting. Thus, helping leaders succeed became my “why” – why I was in the coaching business. This was what I was trying to accomplish.

What is your strategy? This is the “how” of your work. How do you go about fulfilling your mission?

At first, I had no clue how to operationalize my “why” in a way that would build my book of business, that is, attract clients and establish a place for myself in the market. Yes, I wanted to help leaders succeed, but how would I do that? Obviously, I wasn’t the only guy who had thought of coaching leaders. As I said, competitors are legion. But actually, that’s a good thing, for two reasons.

  1. Competition creates more business. If you are the only one with a particular service or product, you have to convince the marketplace that your great idea has value. When you have competitors, they are doing some of that work for you.
  1. Competitors can teach you a lot about your market place – what works, what will flop, etc.

When I looked around at successful coaching firms, I could see that they had created identities for themselves, that is, particular approaches that set them apart, at least a little, from their competitors. The firms I studied all wanted to help leaders succeed, but each developed a different way of doing so.

During the time I was struggling to determine my “how,” (how I would I help leaders be successful) I got interested in the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ). (Given the name of my company, you can probably guess where this is going.) It was clear to me early on, in the late 1990s, that EQ was a skill set that was essential for leaders’ success. Somehow helping leaders get more EQ became part of my “how.”

But it wasn’t enough. Again, I was not the only one wanting to deliver EQ services. I had to figure out what I could do to create an identity in the market place. What would set me apart?

I saw that many EQ oriented firms focused on delivering workshops on EQ. But history has shown that the half-life of the impact of a workshop is about twenty-one days. Chief Learning Officers were beginning to lose interest in EQ, because they did not see lasting results, despite some large financial investments. EQ was in danger of becoming the latest “flavor of the month.”

I knew that EQ skills had great promise, and I didn’t want the concept of EQ to get lost in the back channels of history. As a psychologist, I knew what was required to create sustainable behavior change – change with a half-life of way more than twenty-one days.  Using that science, I figured out how to solve the problem that Chief Learning Officers had with EQ. That solution turned into the EQ Leader Program. If you have looked at it on our website, you know that it provides a step-by-step science-based approach to building EQ skills in leaders:

  1. A workshop to win the hearts and minds of potential participants (a beginning, not an end)
  2. For participants, an assessment to gather data for planning, and to establish a baseline.
  3. Development planning to determine goals and methods.
  4. Coaching to execute the plan.

Building a book of business is a challenge that never ends. To start, you need to do at least three things:  (1) Know your “why” – why you are an executive coach – what your purpose is, (2) Figure out your “how” – how you will accomplish your purpose, in general and in detail, and (3) Ensure that your “how” solves problems decision makers care about – i.e., is something people want. To do that, you will have to do research into what decision makers in your target market are worried about, the problems that matter to them.

That is your marketing prep. Now you are ready to figure out how to get your message out.

The EQ Leader Program2.0 may be able to help you. You and I probably share some version of the same “why,” – to help leaders succeed. The EQ Leader Program2.0, used by coaches around the world, can be part of your “how.” Even if you have a different favorite theory (not EQ) about how to succeed, the program is built so that you can customize it to solve problems that your client organizations’ decision makers care about.  And you can use some of the same marketing ideas I used, as well as some of my ideas about selling (see pp 417-433). Explore it for yourself at EQ Leader, Inc. to see if it can contribute to your “how” and beyond.

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