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7 Steps to Creating a Winning Coaching, Consulting or Service Business

WinningLots of folks are joining the ranks of “business owner” as a career path these days. Some by design and some, unfortunately, because they have little choice. Many of these business owners are choosing to open up coaching, consulting and service businesses in part because it’s so darn easy to do. The barrier to entry is sometimes little more than printing up some business cards.

Now, I’m not suggesting that people who start these kinds of business don’t have incredible experience and expertise to offer, far from it. But, because it is so easy to start a business offering consulting, it’s more important than ever that you find a way to differentiate your coaching and consulting business so prospects can understand your unique experience and expertise.

The following seven steps offer a road map for creating a winning practice.

1) Turn your service into a product - selling services is a little like selling air. By making your offerings more productlike you can create something tangible while your competitors continue to offer solutions driven, customer centric services. Give your services a name – install your solution – offer a set deliverable, with set outcomes at a set price and watch how easy it becomes to explain and sell. The other advantage of a packaged program offering with a set price is that it allows you to rise above the hourly wage. When you sell your time you are capped and compared, when you sell a product or program, you are free to sell the value of the program without regard for the cost that goes into making it. As you become more effective at delivering your program you create the greatest path for getting paid on value delivered rather than hours input.

2) Develop a suite of tools and systems – to compliment your tangible product offering you must surround it with documented systems, tools and processes. This includes processes for lead generation, lead conversion, evaluation, service delivery, and results reviews. By creating tools that allow you to communicate and deliver a result in a consistent manner, you will immediately rise above 90% of your competition. Making it up over and over again with each engagement, writing proposals and reacting to client demands is a very tiring business. When you can guide a client logically through the path to success with a professional process your business will become more profitable with each new engagement.

3) Build a brand that’s easy to talk about - one of the things that step one did for you was create an immediate point of differentiation. In order to create true momentum you must focus on a brand building strategy that makes it very easy for your prospects, customers, and partners to talk about what you do. You must simplify your core message to the point where anyone can understand it and communicate it. Again, you can lean heavily on your tangible offering here, but this is the place to add your story as well. In addition to the results you can bring, a strong brand is often accompanied by a strong vision and story. It’s crucial that you can tell a story worth repeating and make that a foundational marketing element.

4) Push out lots of expert content – Let’s face it, people hire people who are considered authorities and they often pay them a premium. One of the ways you develop your authority is to speak and write every chance you get. Authoring articles in publications, consistently writing engaging blog content, and presenting your point of view live or online is how your raise your authority. As a practical matter pushing out education based content is also how you win search engine results. I don’t think you can overdo this point and it never stops. You simply continue to raise your authority with a best selling book and national speaking engagements.

5) Lead generate from multiple outposts – One mistake some consultants make is to rely on one or two ways to generate leads. In many cases there will be one of two ways that seem most effective. Speaking for example is a great way to present your ideas and brand to willing prospects. But, to build a winning practice you need to generate awareness and trust by appearing everywhere. This means speaking, writing, advertising, PR and referral generation. The impact of multi-faceted lead generation is that it speeds the sales cycle dramatically and often removes price shopping. A prospect that sees an ad, reads a white paper and finds your quoted in an industry journal can effectively sell themselves. If you rely on one form of awareness you may indeed get attention, but the education process will be much greater.

6) Perfect your lead conversion close – I sometimes get a little push back here, but I’ve found that writing proposals and reacting to what a client thinks they need can drive you nuts. When you take the tangible product approach married with the expert content approach, lead generation is more about getting in front of the right prospects and explaining “this is how we do it” in a way that addresses what you know they need. Add to that an elegant process that enrolls and orients them to your system and you are on your way to delivering a lead conversion experience that’s a joy for all. Winning profitability relies heavily on your ability to close more of the right deals and that includes knowing how to spot and move quickly away from the wrong deals. A systematic lead conversion process is the best tool possible for this strategy.

7) Construct a killer network – one of the best ways to make yourself more valuable to your clients is to become a source for everything they need to succeed. The best way to do this is to develop a network of best of class providers that you can refer and introduce whenever the need arises. By being the “go to” resource for your clients you become irreplaceable and ultimately highly referable. In addition, when you court and nurture these network partners with an eye on learning how to refer them to your clients, you set-up paths that make you an obvious referral choice for their needs. In fact, I would go as far as creating formal ways to build and enhance your network. Develop a plan to hold each other accountable, create and write a blog jointly, and freely offer each other an experience of your products and services. A strong network is also a powerful business tool for the solo entrepreneur to use as a sounding board, sanity check, and social outlet to replace the interaction that often comes with working with an internal team.

Image credit: joiseyshowaa

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  • http://joejacobi.com/ JoeJacobi

    Thanks for the great post, John (and not just talking about the cycling pic :) – good advice and good timing too.

  • http://www.iqresource.com/ Pawan

    How can to Collect some Good and effective sales lead database that will give you a satisfactory result.

  • http://www.jimkukral.com Jim Kukral TheBizWebCoach

    Bah, quit telling people our secrets! GREAT article. :)

  • joecostantino

    Type your comment here.

    John,

    Great information here. I believe the most important step to developing a successful consulting or coaching practice is to become really good a converting your leads into paying customers or your #6.

    Sometimes, I find coaches do fairly well at the other points in their practice but when it comes to the moment of truth, or the close, the coach may not do a good job at addressing the needs of their prospect and it turns into a one-sided sales pitch, rather than listening and responding to the issue that enticed the prospect to call the coach in the first place.

  • rabiya

    Great Article ! Love the practical advice.

  • http://www.clemensrettich.com Clemens Rettich

    Bingo!

    That is one of the most elegant pieces on the right flow between commodity and relationship I have read. You make matter/energy/matter conversion seem easy!

    Thanks for that!

  • http://www.radicalbusinessmakeover.com/ David Jehlen

    Excellent post John. The concept of sharing “this is how we do it” with a client in a kind and empathetic way puts us in the best position to serve them and is one of the differences between a consultant and a coach. Thanks!

  • johnspence

    Great post John:
    I have been a corporate trainer, executive coach and professional speaker for the past 14 years, and I am constantly approached (even more often recently) by people who say they want to do what I do for a living! So I wrote a very honest and frank blog about EXACTLY what it really takes to succeed in this business — as you'll see – we have some very similar views!!! Here is a link to my blog — I think that any of your readers who are interested in this topic might find this extremely helpful:
    http://johnspence.com/blog/?p=21

  • JeffMack

    Very very sage words of advise John! Thanks a bunch for the great post.

  • BigDaddy00

    Your blog was listed in Technorati and the duct tape name made me laugh and I just had to visit.

    Your blog content is excellent, well written and very readable. Thanks for great info and I look forward to reading more.

  • http://www.solo-e.com/ Terri Zwierzynski

    Excellent outline of the success factors of the solo entrepreneur, John. If I may, I'd add one more:

    8) Assemble a strong support team. You can't do it all yourself! You're going to need help setting up speaking engagements, posting articles, corresponding with prospects and clients, and setting up your systems. A great team can do all the work that you aren't good at or just don't like doing…leaving you free to spend your time doing what you are good at: delivering your solutions to current clients and converting future clients.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Terri – I wouldn't argue with that a bit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1374322144 facebook-1374322144

    I think #1 is crucial and when you say “products” I assume you mean things that can be reproduced with no additional time spent by you? So easy in coaching and consulting to find yourself working constantly…you can't outsource what you do! So you MUST develop products like teleseminars, ebooks, training programs, etc. that do not require you to always be present for your customer in the moment. Managing time is one of the biggest headaches I've encountered though I love what I do!

    Great post!
    Steven

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1374322144 facebook-1374322144

    I hope in #1 you mean to also turn your content into marketable products that don't need YOU to be present to sell? I've found the biggest challenge of being a coach/consultant is having enough time. I'm not the originator of this idea, but by converting a lot of my existing content into various products (e-books, teleseminars, print books, Web-based training programs, etc.) I do not always have to be present to generate income. There is no outsourcing coaching or consulting and, much like retail, you have to always be available so I agree with #1 but think you might expand it. Besides you are already doing all of these things!

    Thanks for the post!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1374322144 facebook-1374322144

    Sorry for commenting twice. Thought the first had disappeared! And not sure why I'm showing up as a blockhead instead of my FB photo…

  • pbekkum

    Thank you for all your spectacular information.

  • lisatholen

    Thanks for this very helpful post. I have been struggling at some level with nearly all of your points. Starting the business was easy, and I get a lot of positive feedback on being a LEED AP and green building consultant. Lead generation and conversion is much more difficult! Thanks again!

  • christopherpetersen

    That was a superb post! Definitely worth the read and of course the implenentation!

  • http://www.business901.com Joseph T. Dager

    Good leading edge thoughts John and in nice bite size chunks that you can practically make a task list out of!

  • http://www.rsscctv.com/ cctv camera34

    Pretty cool post.This was a very well-written and enjoyable post to read.I like the way you describe all the things and the examples.Thank you so much.Keep it up.

  • martydasilva

    Great Article. There is some wonderful info here that I will definitely apply in my own business.

  • martydasilva

    Great Article. There is some wonderful info here that I will definitely apply in my own business.