The 3 R's of Selling Professional Services

"Launch your 6-figure coaching practice in 6 months or less." 

That was the headline of an ad I saw on my social media. So compelling, so attractive, and yet so shallow. 

These programs usually give some good advice, and some of them have had some great success stories, however, this is not the norm. I find them to be extremely tactical: do a webinar, launch your list, and run ads using this formula. 

These tactical approaches can be very attractive when you are starting. They are easy to do and they get you busy quickly, so you feel like you are doing something. There is nothing wrong with these tactics, but you need to understand that as a consultant or professional service provider, you will ONLY get clients in three ways: Relationships, Referrals and Reputation. Tactics can only help you reinforce the 3 golden R's (I first read of this concept in the book, How Clients Buy).

How to sell coaching services. The 3 R’s of selling coaching and consulting services.

It is all about TRUST

When you are the expert and you are selling professional services, your clients simply need to trust you. They need to trust that you will execute a good diagnostic process and provide a good solution that is in their best interest. You need to earn this trust.

Furthermore, there is information asymmetry - you simply know more about the work in hand than your clients do. Let's say you need a babysitter, how do you go about finding a good one? Do you ask a friend? Do you think of who you already know? Do you Google 'Best baby sitters in town' and read reviews?

Relationships, Referrals, and Reputation are just ways in which trust grows.

REMEMBER: If there is NO Trust, there is NO Transaction.

What you can do with this information

Here are some immediate actions that can help set your marketing in the right direction:

  1. The most successful coaches and consultants get their clients from sustained, lifelong professional relationships. 
  2. Activate your relationship network. It is best if you do this when you don't need anything from them. It only works when there is genuine and mutual professional respect for each other. Avoid salesy language; instead, ask questions or seek advice. "Hugo, I'm following my passion to help coaches do better marketing and wanted your advice on what really helped you get started." is a lot more compelling than "Hugo, I am opening my marketing practice for coaches. And would love to tell you more about it. Do you have 15 minutes to jump on a call?" See the difference? People like relationships, helping, and connection; they hate feeling transactionalized. 
  3. Master the art of building and maintaining relationships. This is an intentional act. One of my favorite tactics is to map my champions: people who just love working with me, refer me, and support me. 
  4. Craft an elevator pitch that clearly describes what you do, who you serve, and what sets you apart, so you always know what to say when asked.
  5. Getting referrals comes organically, but every now and then, you can ask for referrals. Most people don't. 
  6. Consider what elements of your customer journey are deterring your reputation. For example, a poorly designed website. 
  7. Evaluate things that build your reputation, such as speaking engagements, publications, mentions, articles, testimonials, portfolio, etc."

In conclusion, while flashy marketing tactics might grab attention, the cornerstone of a successful coaching or consulting practice lies in the depth of your relationships, the strength of your referrals, and the solidity of your reputation. These elements are the bedrock of trust.