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7 Skills Every Business Coach and Consultant Needs To Have

Whether you’re leveling up your consulting business or just getting started, these are the skills that will increase the value you can provide to your clients.

By Kimberly Marshall

7 Skills Every Business Coach and Consultant Needs To Have

As you grow into and expand your coaching career, one of the things you need to keep top of mind is improving your skill set — even if you’re already confident in your coaching and consulting ability.

When coaches and consultants come to us for help, they are typically stuck in some way, trying to get their careers or clients to the next level.

It could be that they can’t break through to their client’s sales team on a more effective growth trajectory, or they’ve hit a roadblock when getting leadership on board with marketing and sales initiatives. 

Whatever your reason for considering which skills to improve, there are certain skills that have the power to transform good coaches and consultants into great ones. These skills are not easy to master and take a lot of hard work and practice, but once you do get good at them, your coaching business will thrive in the way you want it to — and so will your clients.

In this article, we’re going to dive into the seven main skills every business coach and consultant should improve, including:

  • Why that particular skill is so important for effective coaching.
  • What success in the skill looks like.
  • Ways to improve that particular skill, including resources and recommendations.

You should walk away from this article knowing exactly what skills you need to improve and how.

Let’s dive in.

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1. Clear and concise communication

It’s no surprise that skilled coaches and consultants need to be exceptional communicators. 

You might already feel you’re strong in this area, but we’ve found that lots of coaches can benefit from practice — especially when that practice nudges them toward communicating in different ways outside their comfort zone. 

When coaches and consultants talk in circles around a topic, it can sound like they don’t have a clear understanding of what they need to say. This means your client could lose confidence in your ability to lead them or think you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

Shortening what you say and practicing being more concise with your language shows clarity of thought. It also helps your suggestions land firmly and shows clients they can benefit from your council.

To improve this skill:

  • Plan what you want to say to a client — then say it in fewer words. When we know what we want to say, it allows us to rephrase that language more concisely. 
  • Try not to over-explain. We can sometimes get carried away trying to convey our thoughts. While we might feel good about speaking more and offering valuable insight, it can often have the opposite effect.
  • Cut down on filler words. These tend to slip into speech often (and, um, like). Try recording your clients’ sessions and playing them back to understand more about your patterns of speech and make it a habit to tighten them up.

If you practice shortening what you say consistently, it eventually becomes second nature and you’ll be speaking with clarity more often.

2. Giving honest feedback

Your clients hire you to provide feedback and direction. You need to do this fearlessly, which means you will often need to have difficult conversations. 

While some coaches and consultants aim to please their clients, the most effective ones are able to help their clients understand feedback that might be tough to hear.

Maybe one of your clients needs to fire a sales associate, and you want them to see the reasons why. You need to have that conversation — even if your client doesn’t agree with you or might end up firing you instead. 

When you can master this skill of providing feedback with high caring and directness, your clients will value your feedback and appreciate your leadership. A coach who is skilled at providing difficult feedback knows how to do it without coming off as a jerk. 

We love the way author Kim Scott explains giving feedback in her book Radical Candor. We recommend reading this book and putting these skills into practice. She shares ways to deliver feedback to your clients in a way that’s helpful and kind — by building better professional relationships and fostering trust. 

Also read Thanks For the Feedback by Douglas Stone, which shares additional insight into how different types of feedback are received and the psychological reasons behind them. It focuses on three types: “Appreciation (thanks), coaching (here’s a better way to do it), and evaluation (here’s where you stand).”

Once you understand which types of feedback are helpful and which are harmful, you’ll be better able to offer suggestions in a way your clients appreciate.

3. Asking the right questions

Many coaches and consultants love to show their expertise and share lots of sound advice, but the most successful ones spend more time asking questions and listening than offering ideas. 

This means that instead of approaching your client conversations with the goal of sharing all your incredible knowledge, you instead come to the table with a high level of curiosity. Instead of making assumptions about your clients’ needs and telling them what to do, you’re using guided self-discovery to help clients figure out the answers for themselves.

This is a much more powerful way to inspire your clients to make the right kind of change since you’re helping them uncover their problems and come to conclusions themselves.

To develop this skill:

  • Start by asking clients what they would do instead of giving that advice. Sometimes your clients already know the answer but need to vocalize it themselves.
  • Practice being a really good listener. If you are able to listen well and lead your client conversations with curiosity, you will naturally be able to ask better questions.
  • Be mindful of how much you’re steering the conversation. It can be easy to insert our own biases into our client conversations, so practicing asking diagnostic questions, such as, “How is your day going?” rather than “Are you having a bad day?” lets your clients answer more openly.

The goal is to help your clients get to the heart of their problems faster and more efficiently.

4. Big-picture thinking

One skill the most effective coaches master is the ability to stay at a higher level with clients without getting too lost in the weeds.

For example, if your client is outsourcing their content needs and struggling to grow their website traffic, you don’t want to focus on helping them write better blog articles. You might want to help them realize they need a content manager who can focus on content creation with more intention.

You need to think of big picture problems and solutions, which are the types of problems leadership and C-suite executives grapple with and need clarity around.

This also encourages your clients to find and execute the solution themselves instead of depending on you to provide work, which isn’t a good place to be as a coach.

As a coach, you want to guide your clients to do the work for themselves — much like a running coach supports marathon runners: They provide them with the skills they need to train for the marathon, but they don’t run for them.

This sets the precedent that your clients are the ones who need to put in the work and you are there to guide them, not to do the work for them.

We see this happen a lot with marketing consultants who have trouble helping clients create content themselves. It can be difficult for coaches to end up providing work. It means you’re no longer in the driver’s seat where you need to be if you’re going to be an effective coach leading your clients toward their own success.

5. Authoritative leadership

In every client-coach relationship, there is always someone taking direction from a leader, and someone in the leadership stance giving that direction. 

If your client is in the authoritative position, then they are telling you what to do. This is a precarious situation to be in as a consultant because what it really means is they no longer need you!

But we tend to fall into this “beta trap” a little at a time and in some not-so-obvious ways that we cover below.

To improve your coaching skills, you need to learn how to coach from a place of authority — meaning you are the one giving the direction, and your client respects what you have to say. This saves you from constantly having to prove your value and convincing your client that they need you.

You want your clients to work hard and put in the time it takes to improve themselves and their business, but it’s much more difficult to motivate your clients to change if they don’t respect your authority or council.

The best coaches know how to build rapport with their clients without losing this authoritative stance. This is essential to an effective coach-client relationship because you want them to follow your lead even if they don’t see the same outcomes.

To improve this skill:

  • Go into each meeting knowing exactly what you need from your client. Use this knowledge to lead meetings and give feedback with stronger language, such as “This is what we’re covering today” or “This is what you need to do next.”
  • Run meetings on your terms. Tell clients when you’re available and set the agenda and meeting terms ahead of time. This keeps you in control of what’s covered and how.
  • Save small talk for the end of the meeting. Start your meetings by saying something like, “I know we’re all busy, so let’s dive in.” This sets the tone that you’re here to provide your clients with value, not waste their time. If there’s extra time at the end of the meeting, then you can chat about other things.
  • Never thank your clients for their time. Instead, praise them for putting in all the hard work. This establishes the idea that they are there to impress you, not the other way around.

We don’t mean to put these little social cues out there that signal we are inferior and in need of direction.

Keep showing your clients that you’re the one providing direction — but the trick is to practice doing so in a caring and supportive way. 

6. Effective problem-solving

When your clients hire you, it’s because they need someone to help them see things from a different perspective

This often means that as a coach, you’ll be helping your clients see their problems and possible solutions in a way they haven’t thought of before. 

This problem-solving intuition can only come from practice, which is why it’s a good idea to join a peer-coaching group that can help you roleplay and get more practice at leading your clients toward better solutions.

Many coaches also opt to work with other coaches who have more experience or can help guide them toward building this skill. 

As you practice with other coaches and clients, see if you can recognize similar patterns in the problems and solutions your clients struggle with. Depending on which industry you serve, there could be similar themes from business to business, and similar solutions as well.

7. Self-awareness

One of the biggest skills the greatest coaches exhibit is a strong sense of self-awareness.

Like any business relationship, the client-coach dynamic requires a bit of give and take. You need to learn how to engage your audience and step in when you need to — but you also need to recognize when you should hold back and let your client speak.

This comes with better self-awareness and is the only way you can learn and grow in any of the skills listed here

You need to be honest with yourself about how adept you are in certain areas and where you need to improve. 

Sometimes it’s difficult to see this when you’re used to practicing alone, so again we recommend hooking up with a supportive coaching group that serves your industry and can give you that valuable feedback and practice you need to grow.

Take the next big leap in your coaching career and learn how to be a better mentor

Now that you know which skills you need to work on and how, you’re already on your way to becoming an incredible coach. But most coaches need more support and direction to help their clients foster growth.

IMPACT has coached hundreds of B2B and B2C companies in a range of industries to generate millions in revenue. 

We train coaches and marketing agencies on how to improve their clients’ results with our They ask, You Answer Certified Coaching Program, where you can:

  • Learn a simple, effective framework to help you become a more effective coach who leads your clients toward incredible growth faster.
  • Find your niche and set yourself apart from the overcrowded coaching and marketing strategy landscape.
  • Pave a clear, simple path to strengthen your communication skills and value so you can increase your rates.

Many of the coaches who successfully complete our training not only make their investment back within months, but they also learn how to better nurture client relationships that are packed with value and trust. 

It is the one step you can take today to become an indispensable resource to your clients, who won’t be able to imagine achieving their growth and success without you.Skills-Consultants-Need

Join the IMPACT coaches for a deep dive on a new topic every month in our free virtual event series.


Coaches, Consultants & Strategists
Published on July 6, 2022

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