Using influence in your training business

How to have a strong training business

By | Growing your consultancy | No Comments

We know it’s not an easy road setting up as a freelancer or starting your own training consultancy business.  Whilst it’s a given that as business trainers and coaches we have the required knowledge, and that we have the skills to deliver that to our clients (although we believe that we all learn and improve here as we get more varied experience) when it comes to selling ourselves and our services we can often find it to be a bit of a challenge.  But in an industry where reputation and trust is key, how you come across in all of your business dealings is critical.

“In an industry where reputation and trust is key how you come across in all of your business dealings is critical.”  Tweet this

Why do we jump ship?

There are many reasons for people stepping into the world of freelance business training and coaching.  Many of us start in the corporate environment with the safety and security of a regular salary, related benefits, professional development that is paid for and a good team around us.  But then we get the urge to go it alone!

It might be through a change of circumstances such as an internal re-organisation, redundancy or maybe changes to the senior team.  Or it could be for a more personal reason such as frustration with office politics, a need to have more freedom and control or perhaps a life change such as family needs.  Whatever the reason, many of us make the break only to discover that being your own boss is harder than we imagined!

The reality

Working as a sole trader or running our own business can take up an unexpected amount of time.  On average income-generating working days for consultants are typically around 100 days per year.  The other days need to be spent finding new business, making connections, raising our profile and focusing on personal development to keep up with pace of change on the L&D industry.  And then of course there is the dreaded admin and record keeping.

The reality of the day-to-day can also throw up a number of personal challenges.  Suddenly we are working by ourselves a lot of the time which can be quite lonely.  We have to learn how to discipline and motivate ourselves when things are quiet, deal with setbacks without the support of a colleague or team, and of course we have the added pressure of the uncertainty of a feast and famine cycle of work.

The added challenges

But on top of this big adjustment we also have to master the learning curve of developing our new selling skills in order to sell ourselves and our services.  In an industry that relies so much on personal recommendation and referral it is essential to ensure that in all of our professional dealings we are demonstrating our expertise and building trust and credibility early on.  If we are looking for a steady stream of business we also need to understand how to raise our profile and position ourselves as experts.

Quite a tall order, especially when we find that people who go into coaching and training are often creative, caring, innovative and great communicators… which isn’t necessarily the skillset we need to sell ourselves or our services.

To sell we need to have great confidence in what we are selling, the ability to make strong connections with people quickly, excellent listening and questioning skills and to be comfortable with negotiating.  But we would also argue that the ability to influence is fundamental to selling your consultancy services.

“The ability to influence is fundamental to selling consultancy services.”  Tweet this

Very few people like being sold to but everyone is open to influence

To make the best of every opportunity we primarily need to be able to influence someone in order to persuade them to buy into us and to buy our services.  If we are likeable, confident, build a connection quickly, and show instant credibility through our body language, our voice tone, our speech pattern and our words, then we are much more likely to build strong connections and a strong referral network.  And the ability to influence can be easily learnt without trying to change who you are.

“Very few people like being sold to but everyone is open to influence.”  Tweet this

So what can you do to build a strong training business?

Most consultancy businesses fail due to not having enough clients or cash flow issues.  So to give yourself the best chance to flourish there are a few things that experience has taught us you can do:

  • Firstly understand that these challenges are experience by pretty much anyone who turns to a consulting lifestyle.
  • Have a plan. Think about what you want to specialise in so that you not only have a different offering from other freelancers, but so that you can then focus on positioning yourself as an expert in this area
  • Think about how you feel most comfortable finding new business – it may be through associate work, networking or raising your profile online. We are all different and enjoy different things
  • Ensure you aren’t too reliant on one client and have no more than 30% of your work with them
  • Undertake your personal development strategically – make sure you are clear about how it can add to your bottom line
  • Carry out your business development little and often – it will gradually build and start to deliver steady results
  • Work on your own influencing skills so that you win more work, build better relationships and have more impact in your training sessions.  Our Influence Model can help you with this.

Influence is one of the most under-valued business skills in the workplace today, but how you position yourself and deal with people can truly make the difference.  If you can influence and be persuasive you are a long way towards being able to sell yourself and your services.

“Influence is one of the most under-valued business skills in the workplace today.”  Tweet this

Influence can set you apart from other trainers

How to set yourself apart from other trainers

By | Influence Model | No Comments

In a field where reputation and recommendation are the usual vehicles for finding new clients, how can you stand out and be memorable when everyone is doing the same things?

If you are just starting out and aren’t sure what area it is best to specialise in, or if you are a generalist or perhaps work as an Associate and enjoy a wide range and variety of work across a broad range of areas, then differentiating yourself from other trainers and training businesses can be challenging.

You might be active on LinkedIn, be blogging, or have joined various forums in order to raise your profile.  You may be creating and sharing ‘expert’ content or have written an ebook in order to attract potential clients to you.  But the problem is everyone is else is doing this too.

If you want to be taken seriously, be highly credible and be someone that people seek out and recommend to their network then the difference that makes the difference is to be a highly effective influencer.

What does it take to influence?

By this we don’t mean positioning yourself as a thought-leader in your niche, or seek public speaking gigs to prove you are an expert.  It simply means learning the verbal and visual clues that will allow you to influence someone at a subconscious level.

According to the research of Professor Albert Mehrabian (Professor Emeritus of Psychology at UCLA) approximately 55% of communication is from body language, 38% from voice tone and only 7% from our actual words.  So it’s not what you say it’s how you say it!

Based on research

We created our Influence Model when we were modelling and researching high performers in the sales industry.  We have since added to our research in other industries, and we believe that learning how to influence is THE most critical skill in today’s business environment.  Our Model is powerful because it looks at what sits behind the emotional buying decisions that people make.  And people tend to buy emotionally and then justify logically.

“People buy emotionally and then justify logically.”  Tweet this

Our Influence Model

Our simple Influence Model distils the three essential elements that must be in place to influence – confidence, credibility and connection, and if all three are present you will exponentially increase your ability to successfully influence someone.  If you have the knowledge but don’t communicate it in a confident way then it undermines what you are saying.  If you are confident but you haven’t built a connection and rapport with the person you are trying to influence then you won’t be successful.  If you have a good connection but are too friendly and smiley it may damage your credibility.

“If you are confident, credible and connect quickly you will exponentially increase your ability to influence.”  Tweet this

Whilst we are all strong in some of these three areas our weaknesses can let us down, meaning that we can miss opportunities because we haven’t been able to influence effectively.

Influencing without authority

As a trainer or business coach you deal with people at all levels of the organisation, and often you are trying to influence without authority.  You may be pitching for a new piece of work, working with a group who are not terribly excited to be undertaking some training, or networking with a group of potential clients.

Whatever the situation, you can learn how to be influential.  You can learn techniques to appear confident on the surface even if you are feeling out of your depth.  You can demonstrate the body language of credible in order to give your words more weight in a pitching situation or in a training session.  You can find a way to connect with someone even if you clearly would not be dealing with them through choice!

What impact would it have on your business if you could network with ease and confidence, if you could come way from first meetings knowing you had made a really strong impression, or if you could resolve any client misunderstandings knowing it would strengthen your relationship rather than weaken it?

Influence is an easily learnable skill

The really good news is that influence is an easily learnable skill that can set you apart from others in your space. It all starts with awareness and mindset and our Key Principles infographic  gives you more details.

We believe the ability to influence effectively is a critical skill in any business today.  If you are serious about building a strong sustainable coaching or training business then contact us to find out more about our programmes or just to have a chat to find out  how we can help you.

“We believe the ability to influence effectively is a critical skill in any business today.”  Tweet this

Influence can help you build strong client relationships

How to deepen your client relationships

By | Clients | No Comments

We all have clients that we enjoy working with and with whom we have quite naturally developed a close working relationship that may extend beyond purely the delivery of our work.  But not many of us take a strategic view and consider the detail of how to actively develop our client relationships.

In their book The Trusted Advisor Maister, Galford and Green identified 4 typical stages of client relationship, and it shows that there are very clear benefits to taking a strategic approach.


Why should we deepen our client relationships?

As the table illustrates, if we can move as many of our clients as possible into relationship-based and trust-based relationships then it can have a big impact on our income through more repeat business and more creative pricing.  And having good client relationships builds loyalty too that protects our business from competitors.

Ideally in our businesses if we can take actions to move clients through these four stages we will have a stronger, more stable business with a better return on our time invested and maximised opportunities from existing clients.

So as you can see there is a strong commercial reason to actively work on developing our client relationships!

Have a plan

Having invested time and energy into developing a relationships that allows a client to buy from you, managing the relationship is just as important.  As we are likely to get more of what we focus on, we should consider what we want before we think about how to go about getting it.  Here are some things to consider when thinking about how to develop the relationship:

  • Avoid making assumptions – that the client knows what else you do, that you have demonstrated and continue to demonstrate enough ‘value add’ for them to keep using you and not considering competitors, that their situation will stay the same over time (client relationships are likely to change for a number of reasons)
  • Be proactive – continue to put effort in by forwarding interesting articles, making introductions, checking-in, seeking ways to develop additional contacts within the same organisation or meeting up less formally
  • Set relationship goals – these will vary between clients as no two relationships are the same
  • Consider how you move the depth and value of the relationship forward – identify where you think you are in Maister’s 4 stages and then create an action plan to move the most appropriate clients forward to the next level.
  • Consider how you manage difficulties as they occur – what may seem like a small difficulty may have an impact on trust so always consider the wider impact. For example a wrong invoice may raise concerns about accuracy or integrity.

As well as what you do, building client relationships is also about how you are perceived to be.  Rapport, trust, honesty and adding value are all important in business, as of course is your reputation.

Moving to trusted advisor status

Becoming a trusted advisor takes time and effort, and this special status can be lost in an instant.  As the names implies, it is built on trust.

Trust is a sustainable competitive advantage in business and true customer loyalty is one thing that a competitor can’t copy.  It can:

  • acts as a barrier and as the relationship deepens they are less likely to go elsewhere
  • creates client loyalty and repeat business which is good for your cash flow and a healthy pipeline
  • Creates an advocate who will endorse you and refer you and help you grow your client base
  • It turns the client-supplier relationship into a meaningful partnership where there is a desire to reciprocate value, respect and relationships
  • It makes your work more meaningful and enjoyable, you feel more valued boosting your confidence

“Trust is a sustainable competitive advantage in business and true customer loyalty is one thing that a competitor can’t copy.”  Tweet this

What does a trusted advisor relationship look like?

It is more than having a client who is a supporter of yours and who refers you both inside and outside the company.  As a trusted advisor you will share strategic plans, ideas and suggestions and you will be sought out for advice that goes beyond your particular expertise.  You will have been brought into the inner circle and know all the decision-makers and influencers within the organisation.  And both the organisation and outsiders may seek you out for special projects, for speaking engagements, to write articles, etc.

How can we build trusted advisor relationships?

David Maister has created a formula for trust:

Trust – Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy
Self Interest

They key here is to maintain your integrity in the relationship at all times.  It can be tempting to perhaps compromise for a short-term win, for instance agreeing to deliver some training when actually the best solution might be a different approach such as shadowing or coaching.  The trusted advisor will always view the relationship in the longer-term and always put the client’s interest before self-interest.

How to build credibility

Credibility must be demonstrated not just through knowledge and advice but also through appropriate dress, consistency, high integrity and being associated with credible people.  Our research has shown that is also needs to be demonstrated through body language, voice tone and speech:

  • Speak with a more monotone voice ending in a downward inflection
  • Use palms down hand gestures
  • When standing, have your weight evenly distributed
  • Listen with your head still and keep silent
  • Adopt an upright posture when sitting
  • Be comfortable with meaningful pauses
  • Seek respect
  • Discuss issues before relationships
  • Hold people accountable
  • Be confident (perhaps more than competency warrants)

Intimacy in David’s formula refers to a deep knowledge of the client’s business or needs. This can be depth of knowledge about what the other person values and the extent that you can use this understanding to build a deeper connection with them.  Connection is one of the foundations of effective influence that we identified in our research.

Becoming influential

We believe that to truly move to a trusted advisor relationship it is essential that your client perceives you as a key person of influence, someone who other people listen to, who has a reputation in their area of expertise and who is confident and clear about the value they add and is able to charge accordingly.  By focusing on confidence, credibility and connection our Influence Model will allow you to exhibit the right behaviour to ensure you form a firm foundation from which to develop your client relationships and grow your business.