You don’t pay for Coaching, you pay for Results – Talking “Money and Value”

3rd October, 2014

As a Professional Coach it is great to see people who are adopting “a coaching approach” as part of their leadership and business culture even using some of the component skills of coaching when they consult or within therapy work.

Being in the business of also training Coaches, one topic of conversation with course attendees and those that I Coach-Supervise often centres on how they position themselves within the Coaching arena. My Coaching courses favour less traditional Coaching approaches and techniques spanning various applied psychologies and yet at the same time they align with the ICF framework.  The “edge” if you like is therefore one of “creative value through market diversity”.

That said “value” is very subjective and it is easy to be confident of your personal value as a professional when you have built a reputation for results and work mainly through word-of-mouth referrals, less so when starting out. Working with a number of start-ups new business owners often ask “how much should I charge for my services” I have been unable to offer them a finite answer (and as you can imagine this is a question with breadth far beyond Coaching services).  In addition as “a Coach” it would not be my responsibility to give them the answer, hence some questions and food for thought follows within this blog.

With any service offering, certainly where the individual is at the core of the client interaction (ie they are essentially buying you and your team) there will be a wide variety of different qualities we each bring.  Whilst, as client-centred service providers, we aim to be flexible in our styles, we do each have something we “are famous for” – our own brand or “flavour” if you like. This is great for us because as professionals we are continuously evolving our provision meaning that nobody will provide the service exactly the way we do.  It is also great for our clients because it offers them a vast amount of choice in how and who they contract with.

Seeing the Value in Coaching

As a client, Coaching recognises your status as the expert within your field.  As Coaches it is our role to be adept in asking exactly the right questions, at the right time, in the right way, finding approaches to help you fully leverage your potential… and that is a skillset in itself.  If it is advice and guidance you seek – gain a Mentor or book some Training (I, like many Coaches can offer this too – but recognise it is a different relationship that you are contracting.)

So how much should you pay for Coaching?  Pay what you can afford, yet seek reputation which is underpinned with substance.  Whilst data gathering for my MA a businessman I interviewed referred to the services they offer as “reassuringly expensive”, whilst he said this very tongue-in-cheek, it had a degree of validity.  He then went on to use the analogy of climbing a mountain, stating “If I am going to engage a Guide to help me traverse a cliff edge, I am going to pay AS MUCH as I can afford, not AS LITTLE.  If I am putting myself in their hands and trusting them as the Professional I want to know they are good.”  A novel way of looking at it and yet pretty logical really and certainly not completely left-field.

Whilst of course we all have budgets, it is an interesting point to consider… How much do you value the service you are commissioning?  Is it high on your priority list?  And to be fair if you are looking for Coaching and it isn’t high priority for you, then the timing isn’t right.  Rest assured that in order to get the value you seek, you are going to need to fully engage with the process and to commit to taking action as a result of any Coaching conversation you have.  Does that sound perhaps a little direct? Coaching balances challenge and support – quality Coaching is not inexpensive and yet at the same time it is also not “rent a friend”.

Great Coaches are generally like-able good communicators and it is important for you to have rapport, yet they will respect you enough to also be fearless in asking provocative questions that might “in the moment” prioritise value for you over popularity for them.

Price and Affordability

Seth Godin has two great and highly relevant blogs… One about the dangers of competing for the lowest price – relevant for any service provider considering how to value themselves – Click HERE

And another about perceived affordability – Click HERE

Often a Professional Coach can cut to the chase far more effectively than a less skilled individual.  This means that the efficiency gained by far outweighs the cost.  After all when you pay your Coach – it is the results you are paying for – not the Coaching itself.  If you are seeing a perceived “low cost” coach every 2 weeks for 6 months – you might as well have paid the Professional Coach in the first place.  Less contact hours mean you gain back the time to do the real business of putting your insights into action, running your business and taking control of your life.

Is it possible to pay too little – I would say almost certainly.  Is it possible to pay too much, I would guess: very probably.  Make sure your choice is informed by your individual requirements, your agenda and your priorities, there are plenty of options available.

Choosing a Coach

Those secure in their Coaching have an abundance mentality and therefore little concern over for the ever increasing number of coaches entering the field, so this leaves the question: What if you are a client hoping to choose a Coach?  You may never have experienced true Coaching and those with an eye for detail will note that I have flitted between “coach and Coach” within this blog.  They are very different, since Coaching is a Profession in and of itself, coaching (with a lower case “c”) is an intention to use more of a questioning style.  The latter whilst admirable can understandably cause confusion in the marketplace.   So how do you choose a (big C) Coach?

Whilst they are not the be all and end all, certainly look for qualifications through Approved Coach Training Programmes ACTPs for example ICF, EMCC, ILM (a minimum Level 5+ for a Professional Coach and ideally Level 7).  These will demonstrate the Coach takes their field seriously enough to invest in becoming skilled, it also means they are likely to have a Coach and Coach-Supervisor of their own, demonstrating that they value the process of Coaching.

Look for credentialing – These highlight externally verified levels of experience within the field and can include criteria such as number of years qualified, qualification levels, number of paid Coaching hours delivered and regular CPD commitment (continual professional development) – ie through evidencing real life client experiences and results. ACC =100h+ and PCC =750h+

Ask what else does the Coach have to offer– whilst you are not seeking an expert in “your field” are they credible in theirs?  Have they developed their skills through training and ongoing Coach Supervision and are they taking their Coach learning even further seeking to develop new approaches within the field of performance improvement? Are they Coaching in a range of environments to avoid becoming linear and fixed in their approach?

Coach fit – what do you know about their style of coaching?  Being able to relate to your Coach is important and as already stated whilst they do not aim to become your best friend a certain level of connection is essential if you are going to address the work that matters.  Aim to avoid developing a relationship that is too comfortable though.  In addition you will have a sense of what level of Coaching expertise you are requiring and how that matches your budget -a combination of all of the above is useful!

So to summarise in relation to choosing a Coach – hopefully the chocolate vs Chocolate metaphor below, whilst aimed at being partly humorous helps:  Where is your preference?

  • Dog chocolate – not really Chocolate at all – though it professes to be, the likelihood would be a high level of dissatisfaction and a nasty after taste
  • Pseudo choc / candy (like some that might hang as festive decorations?)  Once again – not sure if this is real Chocolate.  It possibly has managed to pick up a few of the basic elements of Chocolate and there certainly is a market for the less discerning.  Possibly this has the colour of Chocolate and maybe even some great packaging, but in essence it fails to deliver where a true Chocolate might.
  • Mid-range – functional Chocolate (or Carob).  This will probably do the job and momentarily satiate and will deliver exactly what is expected, unlikely more. It is traditional in approach and therefore comfortable.  Can be sweet and more-ish and requires regular revisiting, its texture is inoffensive, pretty harmless and unlikely to create significant influence unless consumed in excess (in which case it’ll damage your bottom-line).
  • Chocolate / Cacao – can often exceed expectations and offer unexpected depths of texture, scent and flavour.  With enough richness that a little goes a very long way, it has a lasting impression which carries through way beyond the eating experience.  Here we are looking at raw choc / high cocoa percentage options.  Not for everyone it must be said – it will certainly challenge the taste-buds.
  • High End Chocolate – Break this one out for absolute special occasions or emergencies only – or if you need to impress your peers or “The City”.  It is likely to carry some weight in terms of Kudos yet cost differential may exceed added value.

So I hope that helps.  Good luck finding your Coach and if you wish to talk with me about Coaching, please get in touch… I have an amazing group of Coaches within my peer group so even if I am not the Coach for you, I can certainly connect you with Coaches to suit your needs and exceed your expectations.

But wait just one moment!  What about the questions for those Service Providers (in this instance Coaches)?

I guess some areas of consideration might be: where are you working, what is your credibility and experience as a “Coach”, how broad and developed is your toolkit?

Only collaborate with those you would personally purchase services from – ie do they have credibility and are you happy to link your name / brand with them / theirs?

If you are joint contracting where you will share delivery are you confident that your skill-sets gel and that the clients you work with will gain value from all parties?

Use the chocolate analogy above when considering your pricing structure.  Where are you in the market, be honest and have integrity, do not over or under value yourself.  Gain feedback from clients and peers to help make this assessment.

Do the work that you love… Aim to work with clients that enable you to bring your full skills to the table, those that stretch your capability and enable you to become even better at your role…. the ripple effect of working with misaligned contracts can be mismatched referrals.

Hold your nerve, if you are skilled, there is plenty of appetite for the services and value offered by those who are competent and professional.

Create something worth paying for through continually developing and expanding your skills, how can you demonstrate that you are different?

Invest in regular Professional Coach Supervision.  If you do not value the benefits of being coached how can you expect your clients to?

Ensure your services and pricing is transparent.  Many service providers fail to publish their cost structure.  Ensuring that this is visible avoids potential awkwardness and enables individuals to make an informed choice.  Even where there are contract variables, a ball park hourly rate helps.

I hope you like this blog post and if you seek Coach Supervision or Coaching Skills development, please contact us.

About Lizzi Larbalestier

Professional Blue Health Coach, mBIT and NLP trainer specialising in coastal coaching. Creating meaningful conversations, facilitating action and change for the results that you deserve. #bluehealthcoach #oceanempathy #bluemind