5 Key Challenges Facing Business Coaches and Consultants
In a post COVID-19 world, there are a multitude of key challenges facing the business coaching and consulting sectors. Many job markets have had to make some serious pivots to align themselves with this new era and adjusted accordingly. But have the key challenges facing business consultants and coaches really changed all that much in comparison to other sectors? Or have those same challenges always been there, unlikely to change. You might be forgiven for thinking that with the advent of 2021 the worst was over and that the most disruptive aspects of the pandemic had been handled. The reality is that it will constantly be evolving for many sectors in the months and indeed years to come. I think the major challenges for the business coaching and consulting sector will remain steadier and are a little more stalwart.
What makes this interesting is that if you as a consultant or coach can master these challenges head on and with fortitude, you’re well on your way to developing a successful business. Alongside adopting ongoing personal development which is discussed further below, it means that the key challenges you face are less volatile than in other sectors and the prospect of some stability is within reach.
WHAT ARE THE 5 KEY CHALLENGES FACING BUSINESS COACHES?
Breaking them down broadly, the key challenges facing business coaches and consultants can be identified in these areas:
- Ensuring you know your market and who you serve
- Having an identifiable product or vehicle
- Embracing technology without fear
- Making continual investment in yourself
- Smarter marketing
DO YOU REALLY KNOW YOUR COACHING MARKET?
This is such a fundamental point that it had to be number one on this list. Because getting this wrong will lead to a host of other stumbling blocks that can and should be more easily avoided. This absolutely has to be something you get right, and ideally the first time!
Having posed the question “What do you think the key challenges are facing business coaches and consultants today?” to professional groups on Facebook, we got an overwhelming response.
The groups we contacted included The NLP Life Training Community, The Coaching Academy, Online Coaches and Consultants, and The Coaching, Therapy and Mentoring Group.
I’ve compiled the most popular answers from all of the groups and they included topics like: struggling to niche down, standing out, achieving credibility, the loss of face to face networking, and building trust with clients after a client having previously negative experiences.
In an interview with Rebecca Bonnington, CEO and founding partner of Tricres, I discussed these answers in detail. Rebecca said one thing was abundantly clear, and that is being able to ask yourself these three questions, and answer them with confidence. “If you can say definitively that you know what type of coach you are, that you know your specific market, and know why you’re targeting that market, the rest of those concerns will fall into place.”
By falling into place, that is to say you will naturally build everything around those answers. And in doing so, things that feel like a ‘challenge’ should be less of or even a non-issue. They are all fundamentally linked together. Knowing your market is key.
You really have to identify what type of coach you are, and what methodology you’re going to adopt. And since you can’t be all things to everybody, you will avoid the trap so many coaches make by staying too broad. Therefore, the importance of niching down becomes increasingly apparent, and this will also enhance the credibility everyone wants to have when building and developing client relationships.
If you can be honest with a client that you can’t help, that goes a long way toward building trust and credibility also. Being able to refer a client to others better suited to their needs is an asset, not a failure. Because people buy from people, and honesty will serve you better by way of word of mouth in the long run.
As you build confidence in your platform and with your targeted market, it creates a virtuous cycle. With that you build credibility, trust, and gain expertise as well as breadth and depth of experience. All of these concerns go hand in hand and can be minimised when you can confidently say what type of coach you are, your market, and why you are targeting that market.
HAVE YOU GOT THE RIGHT COACHING VEHICLE?
In my interview with Rebecca, I asked her what, if anything, she wishes she knew years ago when starting out her coaching and consulting business that she now knows today. “That’s a really good question!” she replied. “My answer would be that I would have started with the products.”
But what does that mean exactly?
Rebecca explains that in all forms of coaching and consulting, there is a need to deliver your client from A to B. There is a need for them to be left in a better place and standing than they started out with prior to your coaching relationship. It’s about taking them on that professional journey.
In order to take them on that journey, you need the right vehicle, which is in essence the delivery mechanism. Key to understanding this is that most coaching and consulting vehicles and concepts are too broad for clients to understand what it is you’re going to do with them. The challenge is how to best package what you do as a coach as a product. How are you packaging yourself as an authority that can elevate their business in a way that is relatable and tangible?
If you can create programmes first that integrate key principles of your methodology for your sector of expertise, you go a long way to establishing a framework for potential clients to grasp what you’re going to do with them.
As such, offering introductory programmes and free webinars and other forms of free resources can help increase your networking list. In order to grow your network, which is your most valuable resource to finding clients either in person or over online links, you will need to demonstrate that you have expertise and experience in whichever business sector you have chosen to coach. Your vehicles should help support that.
As Rebecca pointed out, “If someone wanted me to consult and coach them in manufacturing, or the spa/beauty sectors, I couldn’t offer my services, I know nothing about them. But ask me about accountancy, law firms, or surveyors and that I can do!”
FEARLESSLY EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY
Another important aspect which is even more relevant than ever before is adapting to new technology. Technology should not be feared!
At a time when working from home has become more prevalent than any time in recent modern history, it’s been technology that has allowed successful coaches and consultants to thrive. In many ways the coaching industry itself is well suited to the recent changes that the pandemic has imposed upon our new ways of working. You don’t have to be face to face to work with clients in a coaching capacity. Consulting can be trickier if processes and workflows need to be observed, but they’re not impossible either.
The challenge facing coaches and consultants today should be thinking of innovative ways to integrate new technology into your offer, your product, your vehicle.
Technology has also enabled the market to become truly global. There are freelance portals connecting coaches, consultants and potential clients internationally, so there truly are no boundaries to where you might market yourself to chosen niche, language being perhaps the only exception.
ARE YOU INVESTING IN YOURSELF?
Coaches and consultants must also recognise that there is an ongoing need to reinvest in themselves.
You cannot continue to grow and develop as a business or expect to maintain your reputation and market share if you do not grow and develop yourself and your products. Something Rebecca was adamant about as one of her own key personal resources was a never-ending curiosity and thirst for knowledge.
“It’s so important to want to learn more about your niche, and your areas of expertise. Coaches who stop learning and rest on their laurels are the ones who get left behind every time. It’s my responsibility to my clients, and to uphold my reputation to stay 12 steps ahead of my them. Otherwise, what are they coming to me for? I need to be ahead in awareness, in leadership thinking, in new strategies.”
If you or your clients have questions you can’t answer, you need do your homework to figure them out. Look things up yourself and learn. Never stop asking questions, and ask yourself good quality questions! Get additional coaching for yourself, do the research and reading and you won’t be left behind in this dynamic sector.
Speaking to Peter Dickinson of KUB UK, a Digital Marketing and Business Coach, he describes the coaching sector as a very fragmented market, which Rebecca wholeheartedly agrees.
The reality is that the market is becoming an increasingly populous one. As Peter pointed out, most coaches become coaches by default, often at times of redundancy and it becomes a quick solution to try and freelance because people have experience to offer. But is the market oversaturated? Truthfully, no, because the market is global and as Rebecca offered, there are enough people and businesses on the planet to go around! In addition, you only need 4 or 5 clients at any given time to have a sustainable model for a decent lifestyle.
This again brings us to the fact that the fragmentation creates opportunity because coaching can be so specialised, such as coaches for exit strategies only. Others still only work with fledgling start ups. There is room for everyone if you are willing to get serious about furthering your own training and development. The market has a way of filtering out the good coaches from the weaker ones so over saturation isn’t a given despite the mass unemployment we are seeing globally due to the economic woes caused by the pandemic.
All marketing revolves around finding someone’s pain, and offering the solution to fix it. You need to know your audience, your target niche, and provide the benefits. Marketing yourself and your coaching business is definitely a key challenge for almost everyone in this sector.
In coaching, there are multiple experts who can provide a similar service. This is unlike someone selling a physical product that fills a specific gap in a bricks and mortar setting. So how are you setting yourself apart from the competition? How are you promoting your coaching and consulting products or services? What makes you stand out? Why should a prospective client choose you over the next coach in a search engine results page?
It’s worth considering getting an expert to help maximise what your offer is, because most coaches are not naturals at marketing themselves. It can also be intimidating to ‘name your price’.
An interesting point put forth by Peter during our conversation was the general unwillingness of coaches to set a daily rate for their services. It’s important to remember to set a rate that is worthy of you, because being the ‘cheapest’ to be competitive isn’t saying a lot about how you value yourself or your expertise. Likewise, being the most expensive without the back up of demonstrable case studies and and an experienced track record could make you look like you’re taking someone for a ride.
Another idea is to consider exploring a retainer instead of a daily rate. After assessing your potential clients needs and the timeline it would take along with the work involved, you could work out a monthly rate that makes the cashflow easier to manage for both yourself and your client. This can be a neat solution worth looking into without selling yourself short.
For smarter marketing, it’s also really important to decipher which social media platforms your business is going to sit with, because it isn’t going to work if you think you can use any and all of them effectively.
First of all, different niches will suit different platforms outright. It should come as no surprise that a business coach for the beauty/spa/salon sector would be better off using Pinterest or Instagram instead of LinkedIn. The visual nature of those forums partner nicely with the very visual type of marketing typically used for beauty and personal care where the before and after or desired result sells. And those platforms would attract users in those fields who could be potential clients.
It would be much harder to quantify a business coach and consulting company visually on a regular basis in terms of what they can do for you on those platforms, and therefore something like Linked In or Facebook might be a better match.
The bottom line is that a big mistake people make is trying to spin too many plates on too many platforms and doing none of them particularly well, so ensure you choose wisely and then invest the time to learn how to use them the most effectively and efficiently for your business.
CHALLENGES ARE A GOOD THING
Finally, it’s worth remembering that challenges in general are a part of everyday life, and while they are exactly that – challenging – that doesn’t make them a bad thing. It would be erroneous not to correlate the challenges everyone faced in 2020, and continue to face this new year, as an unexpected springboard of opportunity. Job changes, company pivots, and changing trade formats were happening everywhere.
Opportunities abound even in challenging times. Many learned the value of a better work/life balance. Working from home WAS achievable for a vast majority, and the gains in personal time without the need for daily work travel a bonus. More time with family, the kids, pets. Time to exercise. Picking up new hobbies, making time for the things that we always put off because we didn’t have enough time. And those who were financially challenged learned a lot about conspicuous consumption and how much we could learn do without. Paring back what were once necessities may seem now like a real luxury.
Keep challenging yourself even when things are going great. If you don’t set goals, how will you ever know how far you can go? If you can accept and work diligently on new challenges whether they crop up unexpectedly or you set them yourself, you will grow, learn and expand your skill set.
For everyone who is a business coach or consultant, this is indeed a very good thing.
Tricres are seeking talented business minded people to join their Partner Programme. If you have what it takes to be a successful business coach and consultant, we’d like to hear from you. Our model is based on a license fee so you need to be open to self-employment.
Tricres give you the training, marketing and ongoing support you need to build a very successful business coaching and consulting practice. Giving you the freedom of self employment and the community that being part of something bigger brings.
Visit www.tricres.com or email our Tricres Team Manager, Sally Davies: firstname.lastname@example.org