Something a little different this week. I recently decided to revisit and review The Prosperous Coach by Steve Chandler and Rich Litvin. Here’s what I took away this time around…
‘The Prosperous Coach’ by Steve Chandler and Rich Litvin is one of those books that you’ll often hear people in coaching recommend and I think it’s a good book that makes some interesting points. It contains a couple of apparent contradictions and anachronisms (surely no one still pays by cheque?) but offers a great deal of practical advice that is mostly what I would consider valuable.
I wanted to see how much of it was relevant for coaches in 2023 and how I would relate my own content and practice to what it advises. If you’re a coach and you want to grow your own coaching business, I think you’ll find this review helpful.
The current state of the coaching industry
I’ve been in coaching for a long time and I know what it takes to survive as a coach and I also know what it takes to thrive. In 2023, and probably for the foreseeable future, there are only a few main paths for professional coaches to take: either work for a company that offers coaching or set up your own coaching practice. There are endless variations on what those possibilities may look like.
On the whole, I think it’s a good thing that the coaching industry is becoming more self-regulated. There were a number of years when numerous organisations were trying to establish themselves as recognised coaching certification bodies and now we mainly have the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and the EMCC (which as far as I can tell seems to stand for European Mentoring & Coaching Certification).
It’s getting harder to find coaching jobs that don’t require this kind of accreditation if you’re looking for that kind of work. However, at the time of writing, there is still nothing stopping anybody from calling themselves a coach and setting up business as a coach even without any certifications or qualifications. That may change in the future and I see both good and bad in that kind of change.
“The coaching profession has a problem that is two-fold: there is a low bar for entry and a high bar for success.”
(All quotes are from the book)
Is the book for all coaches?
The Prosperous Coach is really targeted more toward the self-employed business owner coach, and also more toward those in executive coaching, which may not be everyone’s bag but there’s still some useful information. It also seemingly talks more to people who have in-person coaching practices in an industry that, for the most part, these days is working remotely and internationally.
The book aims to give some sales training and let’s face it, most coaches are crap at sales and marketing, so this is much needed. It also pushes more toward a word-of-mouth referral system as the growth lever to pull for business expansion, and I instantly see a few issues with that for coaching businesses like my own, although I don’t deny you can still build a business on referrals ( See #144 of Podfluence).
The model of the coaches in the book is one-to-one coaching. If you’re doing one-to-one, great, so long as you’re charging the big bucks for it.
My problem with that model is that it’s not scalable, so the only ways to make more money are by increasing your client hours and increasing your prices. That’s just not going to work for everyone and so it’s not a universal model.
Personally, I do way more group coaching than one-to-one as I find it more rewarding and a better way to leverage my time and scale my coaching.
So… you think it’s bad or outdated?
Before you think I’m just here to crap all over the book, I’m really not. There’s a lot in there that I like but I’m looking at it through the lens of a coach working in a modern remote coaching environment that may be more relatable to you than the one described in the book.
The book was published in 2013 but somehow feels a little older than that which I think is down to that Steve Chandler was teaching this content well before the advent of online coaching.
It’s true that most coaches are struggling and even those who do find work with coaching companies usually end up on hourly rates that could be easily surpassed if they were willing to niche their focus and do the work on marketing their business and making the sales themselves.
Some of my favourite pointers from the book are things like:
- Understanding that coaching needs to lead to a transformation the client desires.
- Coaches must be willing to make their clients uncomfortable for the sake of their growth.
- Too many coaches want to be friends with their clients and lower their effectiveness as a result.
- Most coaches are in love with the coaching part of their work but not the sales and marketing side and they need to learn to love it all.
- Many coaches do not fully understand the value of high-ticket coaching because they are unwilling to invest in coaching like that for themselves.
“Get a coach. Because you can’t take a client any deeper than you have gone yourself.”
- Sell the experience, not the concept.
- Needy is creepy.
And a lot more besides, so it’s totally worth reading this book for the great content within but please, please, please do not take it as the only path or the right path. It is a path and it’s one that may or may not be fully right for your business.
My many years in personal and professional development have taught me to be sceptical and not to treat any one person as THE guru. No one has all the answers. Take what you like and can use, disregard the rest.
The power of conversations
One piece of standout advice which is essential for coaches is that of using conversations to enrol.
“No high-performing client was ever created outside of a conversation. And no high-paying client was ever created outside of a powerful conversation.”
In the book, they talk about having 2-hour enrolment conversations! My first thought was what the hell are these guys doing all day that they can just take 2 hours for an enrolment conversation? There are a few other potential issues to boot.
The bits that don’t do it for me
The book preaches no freebies but then later tells you to give a 2-hour enrollment conversation in a beautiful place that is not a social environment. I can see how this might work for certain coaching offers but I would say it’s highly impractical for most of us.
My experience tells me that anything more than an hour is probably too much and also, I’ve had some of my most impactful enrolment conversations in 15 mins or less.
Many coaching guidelines warn that more than 30 minutes of coaching is akin to therapy but then, they also don’t recognise consultatory coaching (as described in the book) as true coaching and I don’t want to get into the “What is coaching?” discussion here.
Don’t ask clients to mail you cheques (checks if you’re in US) unless you’re planning to go back in time and start your coaching business at the turn of the century.
If you’re familiar with my writing or my podcast, there’s a chance you’ve heard me promote the concept of relationship marketing before now.
I do agree with the authors that conversations are a powerful client enrolment tool, I just don’t believe they need to be personalised, 2-hour, in-person coaching conversations. If your service is bespoke to each client then maybe yes. If not, then definitely no.
You’re just as likely, if not more likely, to get client enquiries and enrolments through public speaking and podcast interview opportunities and those are more highly leveraged and scalable with podcast interviews being mostly evergreen and a potential ongoing lead generation source.
New clients on automatic
It’s been estimated that a potential client needs at least 7 points of contact with you before they’ll be willing to trust you enough to invest money with you. This is why I feel very on track with recommending podcast guesting as one of the best ways to achieve this and start becoming familiar and well-known to your perfect future clients on a larger scale.
You get the benefit of being able to deliver some magic to your target audience through your podcast appearances, which can also give you some word-of-mouth referrals.
If you’re exceptionally good people will talk about you and this will increase your perceived status as a coach, giving you even more professional leverage.
With a strong CTA (call to action), knowing how to nurture your email list and following up quickly with potential clients then you really can have something more akin to an automated lead generation machine for your coaching business, courses, workshops, speaking and whatever else you may offer.
Become a trusted advisor
One thing I’ve heard from clients who’ve connected with me after hearing me on podcasts or on my own podcast is that some hear my voice in their head as their trusted advisor, imagining what I might say or ask them in a situation.
It blows my mind in a very good way that this is the case but then, I also think podcasts allow for a personal connection with people. Most people listen to shows by themselves, many have ear pods taking your voice directly to their ears. It’s a fairly intimate conversation in many ways.
Quality coaching tips
Even though the book claims not to be teaching how to coach, it does do that a little and gives a mixed bag of mostly good advice on how to be an outstanding coach. The three key suggestions I most endorse are going deeper with clients, being OK with silence and paying absolute attention to your client (being present).
It is also a good idea to ask permission from clients to dig deeper and I’ve been known to ask for permission to call clients out on any BS too. You’re there to help get the client(s) the result they want, not the result you want for them, so always make sure this is aligned. If not, you’re not the right coach for them and they’re not the right client for you.
I want to wrap up by saying that whilst I do think you can build a coaching business in the way Steve Chandler and Rich Litvin suggest, in no way do I think that’s the only way or even necessarily the best way to do it but I still think The Prosperous Coach is a great book for any coach who has their own practice and if you haven’t read it, you should add it to your wishlist or just buy it right now.
My purchase recommendation is to get it on audiobook, the current cheapest option being on Audible with a subscription credit. The paperback, hardback and ebook versions have become much more expensive since I first bought the book.
I’ll leave you here with my favourite bit of advice to coaches from The Prosperous Coach book:
“Show up. Be present. Be bold. Coach them powerfully. Be relentless. Be Sherlock Holmes and explore deeper into their lives than anyone has ever gone with them.”
This week’s episode of Podfluence is all about vanity metrics and personal presentation and you can check it out here: