A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to participate in a bachelor party weekend in Chicago, IL that included a charter fishing trip on Lake Michigan to catch some King Salmon and Rainbow Trout. I had never been sport fishing before and I didn’t know what to expect other than to catch a few fish, however, what I came back with was a complete revelation of what it really takes to become successful in the coaching business as a professional coach. Quite a catch wouldn’t you say for a bachelor party weekend? What I’m getting at is that the parallels between the work of an angler and a coach were amazingly similar and enlightening to a point where I thought I had truly had an “epiphany” on how to catch more clients (and referral sources) in the coaching business.
Over the past 10 years I had become a top salesperson in my own right. I had learned how to implement strategies, provide great customer service and I knew how to generate referrals. There was no doubt I knew the basics on what it took to succeed such as hard work and a lot of long days; however, I missed the big picture of how it all worked together and how to work smarter vs. harder. After my fishing trip I was much clearer on the journey to becoming a top performer the “right way” instead of the hard way and I wanted to share these strategies and tips with you.
The fishing trip started with us loading up on the boat early in the morning. The captain had assured us the night before that the best fishing happened early in the morning. Because we had paid big money to charter the boat the preparations needed for a successful fishing trip were already in place. The boat, the captain and his first mate were all ready to go. The fishing rods, reels, bait, cooler, etc we’re all in line for a great day of fishing.
As we pulled away from the dock and began to head out of the harbor we were limited to a slower speed due to the “No Wake” speed limit. Once we cleared the harbor we were able to pick up speed but interestingly enough we did not begin fishing right away. Similar to a new coach’s career they start off slow with some limitations (such as industry knowledge, limited database of referral contacts, etc.) that prevent them from catching the big fish. You see it takes some time to get into position and to find where the good fishing is located. The key is not to get frustrated. Know that your success is a process not an event. You’re in a marathon race not a 100 meter dash. It’s going to take some time to get prepared and to get into position to fish in the best possible spot. I’m not 100% positive but I’m thinking that if we would have fished from where we broke away from the harbor we wouldn’t have had the kind of success we had by heading out unto the deeper waters where the bigger fish resided.
Fishing Tip #1 – Be Prepared and Patient For Your Success - Prepare yourself for the opportunities by becoming an expert in your niche. Get the training and tools in place and then be patient for your success. The opportunity to catch a big fish (clients, referral partners, etc.) is just around the corner. There are many training programs that you can invest in to help you get the education you need to succeed in the coaching industry (see www.LifeCoachTraining.com and www.eLifeCoaches.com for more information). Even though you need to start fishing for clients early in your career to earn some money (unlike the fishing experience) you shouldn’t sacrifice training for client prospecting. Benjamin Franklin once said that “an hour of planning is worth eight hours of work.” You have a choice right now to get involved in a training course and start working smarter not harder.
Once we had driven about 30 minutes out into the deeper water the captain and his first mate began putting the fishing lines out. This is where I really connected my business to the life of an angler. There were four of us fishing that day so I would assume that they would put 4 fishing lines out, however the captain wanted to help us to catch the maximum amount of fish possible given our time table for the chartered trip. After everything was set up I noticed that he had put out 10 lines. Talk about doubling your production opportunities! This was my kind of captain. He knew that by helping me catch more fish he would earn my trust and respect and I would want to stay on his boat for our next excursion (hopefully you have a business coach that is doing the same for you).
Now here’s another interesting analogy. On each of the lines the captain put out he had used different strategies and tools. Each of the fishing lines he put out had a different type of hook or lure to attract different types of fish. Some of the lines were put at different depths and lengths as well, knowing that not all fish reside at the same depth and some fish scare off from the sound of the boat. The fishing lines also differed in colors to attract specific species of fish. Is this not ringing a bell on how coaches should market to their clients?
Fishing Tip #2 - Try Different Types of Bait - Do you have a coach that's helping you to expand your business and referral sources? If not it’s simply up to you to find out how to do so and if you don’t know where to start you need to find a mentor or coach to help you. Don’t navigate these waters on your own. There are proven strategies that have been tested for the best results by top performers. Learn these and then get creative by creating your own unique strategies. Now, if you’ve been depending on friends and family members to as your only line of business you’re in trouble and you know it by now. You must begin to diversify your lead generation strategies to include seminars, internet marketing, and referral marketing with professionals such as Realtors, Financial Planners, CPA’s, Attorneys, Corporations, past client marketing and more to continue your success in the industry. You also need to be equipped with different tools to attract different types of clients. This may include introduction letters, emails, forms, presentations, scripts, unique delivery tools, call capture systems, direct marketing pieces and other proven tools that attract your prospective clients and referral sources. There are many industry organizations that can equip you with these tools (see http://www.elifeplans.com/helpful/products.asp for more information) simply do your research and talk to some of their past clients before you purchase expensive lead generation programs. If they don’t offer you a sample product or trial for you to review or they don’t offer a money back guarantee of some sort don’t buy the program unless you know someone who has succeeded with it. Remember, success leaves clues not surprises.
Now, once our lines were in place our captain began to try numerous strategies to get the fish to bite. Two strategies that caught my attention were when he would turn change the direction of the boat by 10 degrees and when he would change the speed of the boat. I asked him why he did so and he replied that “you need to find the speed and direction that is attractive to the fish.” Here’s the most interesting part of my fishing experience. Every time we seemed to change directions we caught another fish.
You see your prospective clients and referral sources are like fish. They’re swimming along living their lives. Some of them are hungry for coaching (or referral partners) and some are not. As a coach you must make course and speed adjustments to get your tools (marketing and referral strategies) in place to catch a client or referral source based on their needs and not yours. You may have tried different strategies but from the wrong angle or perspective so the results were minimized. Are you asking your clients (and referral partners) questions and listening to their needs and desires or are you trying to fit them into a program or marketing strategy because it’s what everyone else is doing nowadays?
The key to marketing is staying persistent with proven strategies in your marketplace as well as knowing when to try something new. For example, calling on corporations sometimes doesn’t produce the most desirable results early in your career but if you stay persistent you will earn thousands of dollars in coaching services for the time you’ve put in. I once heard Ivan Misner, founder of BNI (Business Networking International) compare sales people marketing strategies to bad tree planters. His philosophy was that they plant a tree (or try a strategy) and then a month or two later they uproot it and move it to another location. They repeat this action until finally the tree dies. The key is to know when you’re in bad soil and when you simply need time for the roots to take hold. It may take a while for your referral strategies to catch the attention of your prospects. Some of your prospects my have gotten caught by another coach on similar strategy but it turned out to be a fatal relationship so they’re scared off. They’re simply standing back and watching to see if the bait is for real or not.
Fishing Tip #3 – If It's Not Working...Cut Bait And Try Something New - If you’ve been unsuccessful fishing for clients or referral partners it may be time to reel in that strategy or tool you’ve been using and try something new. Or you may just need to try it in a different direction with a new school of prospects. I tried for years to call on financial advisors and insurance agents and I never got anywhere with them until I began using different tools that met their needs. My sales calls, lunches and brochures were not catching the eye and heart of these highly desirable referral sources but once began reeling them in as strategic partners. Assess your current situation by asking for input on your strategy from a mentor, coach or experienced veteran that has implemented the techniques you’re trying to promote. Whatever you do don’t ask for advice on a marketing strategy from someone who has not been successful at implementing it unless you’re planning on giving up on it altogether. There is a plethora of opinions on how to fish for clients and what you need to find is someone who’s catching fish (or caught fish) to share their secrets with you and not another fish story from a coach hanging out in their office all day telling jokes to other coaches.
After about 2 hours of fishing we came home with 8 large fish each weighing in at 11-12 lbs. a piece. As we headed back to the harbor I began to recap the day and thanked the captain and his first mate for all of their help and I began to think of another comparison. Had we not had a captain to get us into position to make the big catch, to help us utilize the right tools and to coach us on how to reel the fish in (this is an art in itself) we would have come home with an empty stringer. Each of us needs a coach that can guide us to become a top performer.
Fishing Tip #4 - Hire An Experienced Charter Captain - If you’re serious about catching the maximum amount of clients possible you’re going to need a business coach’s perspective, encouragement and accountability to reach this peak performance level. You will earn back every cent you spend on these relationships. For more information on Advanced Business Coaching see http://www.elifeplans.com/elifecoaches/certification.asp to learn more about eLifePlans' certification and advanced business coaching programs for coaches.
David Bush is a speaker, entrepreneur, mentor, coach and consultant to business owners, managers and sales professionals across the nation.