In a recent coaching class, the students were asking about marketing, specifically how I get clients. I told them that for me as an external coach, I spend 30-40% of my time every week filling the pipeline and keeping it filled. For those of you who haven’t heard that term, your pipeline is a group of people in varying stages of a relationship with you and your business.
Someone at the very beginning of your pipeline might have found you in a Google search or met you at a local networking event. They’re essentially a stranger. A level higher than that would be someone who was introduced or recommended by someone you know or someone who attended a free talk you gave for a local group or association, or online.
As you keep in touch with these people through the methods we’re about to discuss, they become less and less like strangers, and more and more like friends, fans, or followers. The more they get to know you through various channels, the farther down the pipeline they move towards possibly becoming a client – or referring a client to you.
The goal is to be continually adding new people to your pipeline and then cultivating a relationship with them. One student was shocked that after 20 years I still spend so much time on my pipeline. I think what really shocked this new coach was that he would have to do that much.
Filling the pipeline
For me, this includes everything that keeps relationships warm, from writing blog articles and posting on social media, to picking up the phone once in a while to ask someone how they’re doing and if there’s anything I can do to help.
I also give free 30-minute presentations about coaching? “Still?” they asked, incredulously. Yes, because there are still a lot of people who don’t understand what coaching is.
Keeping it fresh
Some people ask how I can keep doing the same types of things over and over. One answer is that I don’t – I’ve continued to reinvent myself. Another answer is that I seek outside perspectives from experts who specialize in other things, like writing, so I can focus on what’s most important to me and the people in my pipeline.
The truth is I actually enjoy this piece of the business. I like people. I like staying connected to people. Shortly before I started working on this article, I thought about someone I hadn’t talked to for a while. I went on Skype to see if he was online, and he was! We had a nice three-minute conversation and that was that. There was nothing salesy about it; it was almost like calling a friend.
You might be surprised to hear that I’m actually a mild introvert – I need time alone to recharge. Even as an introvert, though, I like to stay connected with people. Part of what I like as an introvert is that I get to choose who I’m going to call and when. I get to do it when I’m in a good place.
How business building builds you as a person
By recognizing that 30-40% of my time needs to be dedicated to my pipeline, it forces me to not over-book or over-coach people. This keeps things fresh in my coaching as well.
Making time for business development makes room for new ideas, new connections, and reconnections. Developing my ideas to write blog posts encourages me to step back and reflect on what’s going on. So what starts as business building, ends up building me as a person.
As I’m making my calls, sometimes to students or graduates of our program, I’ll often get this response, “Oh wow, it’s you!” People aren’t expecting the owner of a company to follow up or check-in. Going this extra mile will give you a huge edge because many other business owners aren’t doing things like this. People respond to that genuine touch.
How can you turn business development into something you enjoy?