How to have a strong training business

Using influence in your training business

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