One of my clients coaches high net worth individuals who work in Fortune 50 companies. Their companies pay for senior leaders to have personal coaching.
His clients love his coaching and almost all of them ask how to continue working together after the professional agreement is complete.
But something interesting happens each time he tells them his coaching rates. These senior leaders (many of whom have million dollar plus salaries) express incredulity and shock at the thought of investing even $20K or so for personal coaching.
My client had the realization that these are individuals who have never before had to pay for any professional or personal development out of their own pocket. So, while they might spend five to ten times that amount for a new car—and some of them wear watches that are the equivalent of 6 months of coaching—none of them have a budget for coaching. And so they will walk away from a potentially life-changing experience.
“What do I do about this, Rich?” He asked me.
The job of a great coach isn’t to answer their clients‘ questions. It’s to help them to live into better questions.
So, I used the power of metaphor (an excellent coaching tool) to turn the question back on him:
Imagine an incredible entrepreneur who founded a very high-end driving school…
His clients are 20-somethings. But his customers (the people who pay him) are their parents.
Now, he’s chosen to make this a really exclusive driving school. So every car is a Porsche. And he attracts extremely high net worth parents as customers.
After his twenty-something students pass their driving test—and they always do—they tell him how amazing the experience has been. They tell him that they’re really excited to start driving. And then they say that they’d like to purchase a Porsche from him, to continue the amazing high-level driving experience…
So he tells them the price of the car.
And their eyes open wide in shock.
And he never hears from them again…
He’s extremely frustrated. Because he knows that many of these youngsters actually have the means to afford one of these cars. They’ve just never spent money on a car before so it sounds really expensive and they walk away…
Metaphors are a great way to help clients find a solution to a challenge they’re facing.
Before I make suggestions for how to enroll high-end corporate clients—what guidance, coaching or advice would you offer this driving instructor?
Now, let me help you understand why even millionaires may tell you that your coaching is too expensive…
1. Nobody has a coaching budget
While it may appear that people not ready to invest in coaching is a problem exclusive to the corporate world, I can tell you that over the years, I’ve had several millionaires tell me that I was too expensive to work with. Conversely, I’ve had many clients who didn’t have the funds to hire me as a coach, who went away to do what it took to create the resources to become my client.
Stop filtering for clients with resources and filter for clients who are resourceful.
Resourceful people will do whatever it takes to work with you. And this is the very quality they need to accomplish the goals they most want to achieve. So this filter has the added benefit of creating excellent clients.
2. Set the scene
Great storytellers and filmmakers set the scene before the plot begins. You need to do the same.
While you’re coaching a corporate leader (or giving someone a pro bono coaching experience) find ways to tell stories about your clients—and make sure to describe the kind of time, energy and money that they invest in their professional development.
Tell stories, too, about your own coaching experiences and the amount of time, energy and money you invest in your own professional development.
In great restaurants, waiters attend menu tastings, so they are educated enough to make better decisions to assist their diners.
Every great coach I have ever met invests significantly in their own coaching—and has for years. In fact, one of the reasons that so many coaches struggle to enroll high-fee clients is that they’ve never invested much money or time in their own coaching.
3. Improve your filter
It might be time to up the filter for who you will take on as a client. Look for clients who already invest the kind of time, energy and money that you do in their personal growth and professional development.
I hired my first ever coach for $50,000. And that was back in 2007. I had to sell my home in order to do this.
Now, I’m not recommending that others do the same but for me it was simply the next logical step in a lifetime of investing my personal time and money in my professional development.
Back when I was a (poorly paid) high school teacher I was already investing significantly in my personal growth. I once flew to Singapore for a workshop to be a better educational leader, completely at my own expense.
I purchased hundreds of books on leadership and self-development. I spent hundreds of hours studying for a Master’s degree in educational leadership and studying for a professional qualification to be a headteacher. I invested my time. I invested my money. I invested it without question because that’s who I am.
I recently received an email enquiring about working with me from a woman who is the first person in her family who went to university. She also has a Master’s degree and she’s working on her PhD. And she paid for her entire education herself.
Now that’s someone who walks her talk.
If that’s who you are, start filtering for clients like you…
One of my favorite questions for a potential client, once they’ve shared their dreams with me, is “What have you done about that?”
Their answer will let you know if they’re ready to invest in coaching. If they respond, “I’m really excited but talking to you is the first thing I’ve done about it…” they’re not yet ready for coaching. If, however, they tell you about all the time, energy and money they’ve already invested working on their mission, now you can begin an interesting conversation.
The market of leaders in the corporate world who would benefit from coaching is very large. But the market for people willing to invest in high-end coaching is relatively small.
Your challenge is to stop trying to sell to a massive group of people who have never before invested in themselves. And, instead, to engage with—and then sell to—the tiny group of people who are fascinated by what you do, with a track record of investing in themselves…
4. Become a Micro Thought Leader
Tim Ferriss is a thought leader whose podcast has more than 500 million downloads. Jay Shetty has over 10 million followers and 1 billion views of his videos. Marisa Peer regularly has over half a million views of her videos. Prince EA, whose real name is Richard Williams, is a thought leader—a rapper, spoken word artist, and civil rights activist—whose top 20 videos have each had between 4 million and 26 million views.
You don’t need to be Tim, Jay, Marisa or Richard in order to create a thriving coaching practice with a handful of high-performing, high-fee clients.
You do need to be known by your people.
Find a way to become an internal thought leader in your organization.
I was doing this 20 years ago, as an educational leader, when I created The Wednesday Night Club for teachers who wanted to be the best professionals they could be. I did this 12 years ago, when I was on the faculty of two coaching schools. I was writing and sharing ideas—both my own and other people’s.
Become a micro thought leader… If you’re hired to coach the 9 senior leaders of an organization, create a weekly newsletter just for them—and become a thought leader with an audience of nine. If you’re hired by a high level corporation, start to send a weekly report to the CEO on her team—and become a thought leader with an audience of one!
Signing high-level executives as coaching clients is a long term game. Signing high-performing, high-fee clients is a long term game. And it’s never too soon to start playing a long-term game…