5 top tips to business development for coaches

Students on our Executive Coaching programme often ask us for tips on business development to aid them with starting or growing their coaching business.  So here are our five top tips to BD – a task that should never be far away from the minds of any consultant or coach.

1. Differentiate – Have a Unique Selling Point (USP)

At Tavistock Consulting our USP is enabling clients to understand what is really going on.  Being confident about your USP and standing by it is key.  The fact that we are confident about working and engaging with emotions, allows us to work in depth in a way that we are told time and time again, other coaches just don’t do.  This is what differentiates us and makes such a difference to our clients.

From a selling point of view, without “tasting our wares”, how can potential commissioners really understand our USP?  Whilst ideally we would give them an experience of our approach, what we can say is that we will help our clients to understand repetitive patterns of behaviour that cause them difficulties.  We will also enable them to get a better grip of the organisational dynamics that prevent them and their teams from functioning as effectively as they could.

Our advice: know your USP, believe in it and feel confident about it.

2. Recommendations

Nothing opens a door wider than a recommendation.  A satisfied client is our best advocate.  Over time we have increasingly utilised recommendations as sound bites on our website, publicity material and via social media.

At the end of a coaching contract (and even during the life of the contract), we review our work with our coachees, often in conversation within the session.  However, we also make use of evaluation forms.  One question we ask our clients is whether they would recommend us to colleagues.  If they respond positively to this question, there is no harm in exploring whether they could offer an introduction with whomever it is that commissions coaching.

Our advice: don’t be shy about asking clients for testimonials and inviting them to engage in your social media marketing campaign.  In our experience they rarely refuse.  Satisfied clients are usually only too happy to engage with you at this level.  Better still, they might be willing to make referrals and recommend you to colleagues and friends.

3. Network

There are those, who are natural networkers and those who find the idea of networking daunting.  Like it or not we all have to network.  Social media makes the concept of networking slightly less daunting.  It’s important to understand what frame of mind someone is in when using social media.  Are they using it for professional or personal reasons, or perhaps a bit of both?  Understanding how your clients like to engage with different forms of social media will assist you in crafting the right message and frequency of communication, which should be two-way.

Another form of networking is what we term “Thought Leadership” - whether it is a short piece in the trade press, a blog, a longer article for a refereed journal or a paper at a conference; writing is a way of raising awareness about the important aspects of your work and the value you bring.

Likewise running seminars, breakfast talks, open evenings and taster sessions are all ways in which you can invite people to find out more about what you have to offer.  These events also provide you with an opportunity to illustrate how you work.

Our advice - there is nothing like a well-timed conversation.  Of course there is an element of luck or being in the right place at the right time.  However, for that to happen we have to get out there and work our networks.


Elsewhere, I’ve written about the importance of listening well to your clients.  As management moves increasingly into performance-monitoring mode, clients often describe to us their disappointing experiences of remote and even disinterested management.  This causes stress and disenchantment in the workplace.

Increasingly, clients feel like commodities or cogs that are interchangeable.  As teams become increasingly virtual; strong, meaningful work based relationships become relegated.  This can result in the workplace feeling like a lonely and isolating space.

The idea of offering a client a listening ear – a really good listening ear that illustrates that the client has been heard - provides vital respite to clients whose experiences are often so different.  By reflecting back what has been said, clients feel able to reflect and view their situations afresh.  It is a vital offering and one that will immediately create results.  What it enables is the creation of the ‘third position’, which can help clients, and their organisations move through what are often rather entrenched positions.

Our advice – once in front of the client invite them to describe what is going on in the organisation and their experience of it.  Show them your capacity to listen, reflect and understand what they are conveying.  They will feel helped and understood and it will give them sense of how you work and enable them to imagine how this can improve morale, thus reducing the risk of attrition and organisational burn out.

5. To Niche or not to Niche?

Michael Porter said, “Being all things to all people is a recipe for mediocrity and organisational burn out”.  If that is correct, is our USP enough?  Perhaps.  But at Tavistock Consulting we also train future generations of coaches and consultants – our potential competitors – people that can make the same claim.

Within the organisation, we’ve gradually decided to focus on specific areas of interest and expertise.  There are those that specifically focus on the commercial sector, health sector and Executive Education.

Our advice – focus and develop a niche offering or identify a sector that you have a passion for.  It doesn’t prevent you from branching out, but it will enhance your credibility and enable you to develop a proven track record.  In time, if you do want to broaden your horizons, you can think about how to describe the transferable skills you’ve developed. 


Tavistock Consulting has been running a systems psychodynamic Executive Coaching programme for over 10 years - it is accredited by the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) at senior practitioner level.

We are inviting applications for the May 2016 cohort.  Click here to find an overview and application link for the Executive Coaching programme.

Attend our free Open Event on Wednesday 21st October, starts 6.30pm and ends 8.00pm, at Tavistock Consulting, 94 Belsize Lane, London, NW3 5BE. 


Click here to register 



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