This article as well as insights about coaching from other coaches can be found here.
Whether you are a talented networker or a new coach responding to a need, intentionally sharing your message via networking events, professional associations, and even recreational activities has great potential to contribute to your success.
When I left my position as an internal coach to start coaching independently, I had a lot to learn about business. I moved back to my hometown leaving the professional communities which had naturally developed over my 20-year career. I am not a social person; my connections were built slowly over time, based on commitment to common interests. My world had evolved around my ‘thing-centered intelligence’; my ‘people-centered intelligence’ was not nearly as developed!
Starting a completely new endeavor in a place I had not lived for over twenty years prompted the thought, “How can I authentically and effectively meet people, and build my coaching business?” I went to different local networking events and began a relationship building journey.
Trust is built over time with consistent engagement. Weekly or monthly meetings provide an effective means to demonstrate your ability to show up consistently and meet expectations. Whatever networking method or organization you prefer, recognize that increased frequency has the potential to build trust quickly. The other factor to consider is your intention. When you meet others find ways to show you are not only there to build your coaching business, but to support them in any way you can. A trust curve applies to different types of businesses. One does not need much trust to make a purchase in a coffee shop. Coaching is a profession which requires a high level of trust; the investment may take months or years to be realized. I have clients that started working with me after 3 and 4 years of weekly BNI® meetings. We talk to many individuals who say, “I know someone who could really use coaching.” The number who immediately schedule a session is a small fraction. Being reliable is a powerful trust builder, and frequent visits increase the likelihood that you will be front-of-mind when you are needed.
Coaches often work out of homes or in larger office buildings; networking helps avoid getting lost in the shuffle by increasing the number of people that recognize you as a coach. Attending networking events gives you the power to be seen by and connect with many people. This is not a one and done proposition; plan to attend these events strategically to establish your presence in the community. If they are offered weekly or monthly, make it a point to attend regularly to meet new people, touch base with people you have already met, and be seen as a professional in the community.
How might this look?
After going to several different events, I was able to discern my needs. Open networking opportunities often confound me; the weekly meetings and agendas of BNI® (Business Network International, www.bni.com) provided predictability and support for the work of messaging, speaking, and interacting with other professionals.
Being a member of a networking group helps to increase visibility with your clients in mind.
I am a Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce member; thanks to my BNI experience, I am better at advocating for my business as well as supporting the people and businesses I visit.
As a development specialist who loves to learn, I also joined a local chapter of ATD (Association for Talent Development, www.td.org, https://www.atd-duluth.org/); there I experience monthly luncheons with interesting speakers, and I visit with and learn alongside an engaged group of human resource professionals whose organizations may benefit from my expertise. I am now a part of the Board, increasing my visibility as well as credibility.
Build credibility with membership (commitment) and participation and demonstrating expertise in a variety of settings. The professional associations to which I belong provide me with development and credibility. I have volunteered presentations at both ATD and our local Chamber, providing visibility for Perception Coaching LLC as well as personal credibility as a resource valued by these entities.
Referral marketing creates a mutually beneficial relationship between businesses. I was able to develop my ‘elevator speech’ while developing relationships and growing my business. The benefit I found in BNI® included the weekly opportunity to see and be seen by the same people. When fellow members encounter someone who wants to get more joy out of their work, my name comes up because they hear the many ways I support clients, and they just visited with me or would in a day or two.
As a member of the APA (American Psychological Association, www.apa.org) in the divisions of consulting psychology and educational psychology, I continue my professional development and garner credibility. Similarly, I am Gallup® certified and attend their Summit and Learning Week opportunities as well as interacting with the Gallup® social media outlets for continuous access to development. I joined the board for our local trail running group to give back and support well-being in our community (nmtc.run); this affiliation actively demonstrates commitment to our community through leadership. Each of these brings visibility and provides opportunities for meaningful interactions relevant to my mission as a coach.
Through the process of joining different professional, networking, and even social groups, I found a few key strategies to guide my interactions. Start with intention; networking efforts are especially effective when you participate fully in events and meetings. Belong to organizations you value. Your consistent presence and engagement will effectively build visibility, credibility, and trust with those you meet. Through these interactions you may also discover leadership and speaking opportunities. Networking has potential to increase visibility, provide opportunities to demonstrate capabilities, and build trust. Be highly engaged in both learning from others and sharing your message to get a great return on your networking investment. After years of engaged participation in these various groups, I have developed enduring social and professional relationships; I hope you find similar success.