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Here at the-Coaching Blog-run by Gerard O’Donovan, our aim is to constantly bring value to those seeking to improve their lives. Therefore we have a policy of publishing articles and materials by guest authors whom we value and appreciate. Today’s guest author is Kevin Oubridge (United Kingdom).
Relationship selling really comes to the rescue of executive coaches struggling to sell your services. Why? Because it gives you a route to winning clients that play to your strengths as a coach. However, even relationship selling can trip you up if you are not comfortable with all the stages.
A typical relationship selling cycle goes something like this:
By design, if you get it right, you end up going in circles. You go from the first contact to build relationships and then repeat. Of course, for executive coaches, the next time around should be easier because you have built the relationship with individuals in your client company (coaching participant, line manager, decision maker) and can win further business off the back of it.
It all looks very straightforward doesn’t it, and I’m sure you can see how, as a coach, all the stages play to your strengths. I mean, basically, they all involve asking questions and listening, with a bit of information giving from you.
What could be easier?
To which I hear you respond, virtually anything that doesn’t involve a ‘close sale’ stage.
And I take your point. Unfortunately, though, at some stage, you have to bite the bullet and close the sale.
Well, let’s assume you have decided to sell your coaching to the programme. Selling your coaching by the programme, by the way, is what I advise all executive coaches to do. It is better for your client because you can agree coaching outcomes aligned to business objectives, monitor progress, and measure results and, through doing this, maximise the difference the coaching makes to the coaching participant, the line manager, others around them and the organization as a whole.
It is also better for you because you can use case studies of previous clients to sell your coaching and then, when you have delivered coaching in your new client company, you can use the results achieved to sell further coaching. Plus, you can charge more and invoice it all in one go or a couple of payments.
Anyway, back to the sales cycle. So, you sell your coaching by the programme and you have been through all the pre-sales stages of the sales cycle. You have absolutely breezed through these stages, firstly, because they have involved focused conversations with lots of questioning and listening on your part and, secondly because you have not felt the pressure to ‘sell’ anything on the way.
Not until, that is, you inevitably arrive at the CLOSE SALE stage. The pressure to sell something is suddenly on. All feelings of breezing through are out the window. You are sitting in front of your potential client, regarding the not so crazy pattern on the carpet, mildly gibbering, hoping she will say:
Can I pay you a large amount of money for some coaching, please?
And of course, she might.
More likely she won’t though. She will be thinking about one of the million and one things she’s got on her plate at that moment, expecting you to take the lead or just leave so she can get on with it. If you don’t say something now, you will miss your chance. Instead of blurting out the 50% discount you can give her, just because it is a Tuesday, you could say:
Are you ready to make a decision about whether to go ahead with a full coaching programme?
The beauty of this approach is, although it is a closed question, requiring a yes or no response, it leaves plenty of room for your potential client to take time to think about her answer and it also leaves you with scope to follow up with another question.
Let’s say your potential client says:
No, I’m not sure, I’d need to have a think about it and ask a few people what they think. Can you leave it with me and I’ll let you know?
You can say:
Yes, I can do that, but what needs to happen for you to get a decision?
And say she replies:
Well, I need to talk to my line manager, ask whether I can have coaching, although she did say she’s got the budget, so that should not be a problem. I think she would still need the OK from HR. Then I need to think through the time commitment – there’s just so much going on at the moment, although that’s part of the reason I need coaching. And I don’t know how to set up a purchase order, but I suppose I just go to finance and check it out. Then…
All of a sudden you have started the sales conversation and it was not half as bad as you thought it would be. Better still you are back on safe ground for a coach. From here you coach your potential client through the decision-making process, asking questions to help her come up with the solution.
This approach works because, if you have done the previous stages in the sales cycle properly, your potential client will understand the difference your coaching can make for her. She will want coaching or think she might want coaching, but she might not be prepared to say so on the spot for all sorts of reasons.
Your job as the coach is to help her make the decision.
You can coach your potential client to help her identify all actions she needs to take to get a decision, you can agree timings for these actions and schedule in calls to review how she’s getting on in achieving them. It takes as long as it takes but all the while you’re getting closer to the sale and building the relationship. It’ll be worth it in the long run because, once you’ve closed the sale, you have a new client company with whom you can continue to build the B2B relationship and win further business from year on year, possibly for years to come.
About Kevin Oubridge
Kevin Oubridge is a ‘tell it how it is’ blogger on marketing coaching and mentor to just starting out and experienced coaches who want to grow their coaching practices.
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