2 biggest mistakes that coaches and those selling professional services make

Starting up in business within the professional services industry can be challenge for many as their skills and expertise lie in their professional knowledge. Many think that this is enough for them to be successful in running a profitable business. However, this is often not the case and I am going to share 2 of the biggest mistakes that I made when I first started out.

Having the wrong focus

  When I set up in business, I foolishly had an inflated opinion that because I was experienced, qualified and with a bulging tool kit, that my customers would be queuing round the corner for my services.  It didn’t happen!

You may be the best coach, trainer, copy writer in the world but that does not mean that your business will take off and grow.  Whilst it is important to work within and exceed professional standards, being the best, most qualified, most experienced in your field does not convert to being the best in business.

So whilst you may be a master in your professional field, there is another area to master and that is business building skills such as selling, marketing, networking, cash flow, budgeting. And personal skills such as presenting and speaking, building connections and relationships.

 Selling coaching / a service

 Yesterday I took my car to the garage as there was a fault with it. I didn’t ask what he was going to do nor did he volunteer to tell me!  And if he did, I am not sure that I would have been interested. My main concern was that he was able to fix it.

Reflecting those years ago, I unfortunately did bore my potential customers with details of processes of what I was going to do and how. And as a result did not convert many of them into clients.

There is an adage, when people buy a drill, what they are actually buying is a hole. Your business is the same. Clients buy solutions to their problems so market and sell your service as solutions and results.

What mistakes did you make and how you did you solve them?


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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8 Responses to 2 biggest mistakes that coaches and those selling professional services make

  1. Two really helpful points, thanks Vera, and relevant for so many of us beyond the coaching sphere too. I neglected networking when I was busy earlier this year and of course my busy phase was followed by a rather too quiet one, which meant I had to get straight out there and let people know about my services again. It was a salutory lesson in making sure that however busy you are, you also make time to keep growing your business.
    On the second point, as I copywriter I often write copy for websites and it’s not unusual to find that the client has focused on the wrong aspects of their business in their key statements on the home page – what is of most concern to them instead of what they can do to solve their customers problems and needs. I love the idea of selling a hole not a drill, I guess I think of myself as selling words but in fact I’m selling a way of getting my clients products and services noticed. Not as succinct as the hole/drill analogy but the same principle.
    Michelle (www.michellehodgson.co.uk, new website going live shortly http://www.key-words.co.uk)

    • verawoodhead says:

      Hi Michelle
      Networking is definitely a good way of growing relationships which has an impact on the business. Marketing your business is something that you actively do throughout the year and not as a one off. This means communicating the right messages to your target audience using different mediums to obtain maximum exposure and presence all year round.
      Great that you are now not selling ‘words’ but selling rapport, connection, empathy, impact, visibility…

  2. Great post Vera and your experience I am sure has been had by many who offer Professional Services as their own business. The focus aspect is a big one as so often people have a passion and love for what they do, which is all they want to do. What they are not warned about is in your own business, you only get to do that once you have positioned your offering, converted it into a profitable sale and managing the cash flows of delivering the sales relative to paying the costs required to produce the sales. I have seen many a “great product” not get anywhere purely because the owner did not know how to sell it.

    • verawoodhead says:

      Excellent points Thabo. Selling is an essential part of any business but seems to be a big challenge for those who work in the professional services industry especially coaches

  3. James Mayes says:

    The “old adage” is rubbish, I’m afraid. You’re buying a drill. It, on it’s own, does nothing. It still needs someone to get off their backside and apply it correctly in order for the whole to be created.

    Thinking that you’re buying a hole is akin to outsourcing your IT Services and then thinking it’s no longer your responsibility to make sure it continues to perform…

    • verawoodhead says:

      Hello James
      Thank you for your comment.
      I have used the analogy from a marketing and selling perspective – highlighting the need to sell solutions to the customer’s problems. That is, the benefits that they will gain from buying your service.
      Using your example, the person who sells IT services, may want to promote and sell the benefits of having one’s IT services outsourced and not just about the service itself. What solutions will such a service bring to the client?

  4. elaineonyc says:

    Hi Vera, great post and very relevant in these current times. Lots of people currently at risk of redundancy will be looking at self employment as the way forward and this sort of advice is just what they need.

    • verawoodhead says:

      Hello Elaine.
      Thank you for kind comments. I have certainly seen a rise in the number of people who have contacted me this year wanting to know more about coaching, the different types of coaching, training and qualifications, setting up a coaching business…

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