How A Good Business Coach Can Be A Great Source For New Referrals
For all the poor business decisions I’ve made in my career, two decisions have turned out well.
The first was adding structure, order, and discipline around my marketing consulting practice by joining the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network. I’ve defined my point of difference, figured out my ideal client, and have started providing on-going relevant services that solve problems for clients whom I like. I’ve stopped trying to be the solution to every problem and started to be the best marketing solution to privately held companies who are too big to do it themselves, but too small to be properly serviced by a traditional agency.
The second was hiring a business coach.
For a long time, I used to think of a “business coach” as similar to a “life coach” or a “multi-level marketer.” Somewhere along the way, I developed a stereotype that business coaches were just selling some canned advice they picked up from someone else and just sprinkled in a few overused business clichés like, “think outside the box” or “skate to where the puck is going.”
There probably are some coaches out there that are that way, as there are charlatans in every profession. But it turns out there are people out there who are really good business coaches because they have the experience, the aptitude, and the character to be incredibly effective.
Four Things To Look For In a Business Coach
Real Business Experience
Sounds obvious, but there are coaches out there that only know the business of coaching. They may be well intended and they may have read all the best books they could find. But if they never actually sat in that chair where they had daily accountability to a P&L, a payroll, a bank, and the IRS, it’s really hard for them to be truly effective at coaching somebody who is sitting in that chair.
When interviewing prospective business coaches, ask them about their business successes and failures. Find a coach that learned the hard way by building their own brick and mortar business that had employees, customers, goods or services, bankers, lawyers, accountants, and all rest. And they don’t necessarily have to be incredibly successful at every business they built. In fact, if they had a few fails along the way, all the better for the lessons learned. The only way to truly understand the business of business is to have sat in that seat.
It’s worth the premium to pay a business coach who has a full roster of clients. A good business coach is able to be selective about the clients he or she takes on. If it’s a coach who just bought into a popular franchise like Vistage and offers you a big discount to be her guinea pig, you will likely get what you pay for. An established coach with a roster of clients has proven himself to those clients over time. Most coaches charge their clients a month-to-month fee, with the client free to cancel with 30 days notice. Ask them about their client load and go a bit further to get a picture of their turnover rate. A low turnover means that those clients are getting value and sticking with it.
Your business coach’s job is not to do your job of finding new customers. But if you develop a positive relationship with your business coach, they can be a great source for referrals. The key here is to find a coach who has a lot of clients and colleagues who could be good clients of yours when your coach is ready to recommend you. But remember, you will need to earn those referrals. If you aren’t getting any new leads from your coach after a while, there is probably a reason. You will need to find out from your coach what that reason is, and ask her to help you with your lead nurturing strategy.
Peer Advisory Boards
Good business coaches are often affiliated with a peer advisory group like TAB, Vistage, or YPO. Peer boards usually meet once a month and the groups are facilitated by the business coach. It gives you the opportunity to test the theory of your coach’s recommendations with the other members of your board. Your board also makes you more accountable to yourself as you tell them what you plan to do and the following month you have to tell them if you did it or not. Peer boards can also be a good source for new business, but it’s important to build trust and credibility through your participation and advice to your peers. Don’t make the mistake of “selling from the table” and lose credibility with your peers. Just share what you know and they will connect the dots on their own.
The combination of working with my business coach and implementing the Duct Tape Marketing System now has my business on track for a 50% increase in revenue this year, and my two-year forecast shows my revenue double what it was before my coach and Duct Tape joined my team.
So, if you are serious about building your marketing consultancy into a bona fide business selling tangible products with predictable revenue, go get yourself a coach!
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Referrals.
About the Author
Tom Shipley is a Certified DTM Consultant from St. Louis, MO. He spent the first half of his career as a beer marketing executive at Anheuser-Busch and has been consulting since 2010 when he founded Cole-Dalton Marketing Services.