A Shortcut to Happiness

This short video showcases “gratitude in action.”  If you want a sure-fire assignment to help your clients “up their happiness quotient,” these ideas deliver.

And to really bring it home, end your sessions with an authentic and heartfelt acknowledgment of your client. Way to walk your talk and leave your client feeling seen.

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The Pro-Bono Client

Whether you’re a new coach looking for experience, or a vet looking to make a difference, sooner or later, you’ll take on “The Pro Bono Client.”

“Free” Isn’t Always a Win-Win

New coaches often see pro bono clients as better than no clients at all. At first, this seems like a great deal for both of you – a client who might not be able to afford coaching gets free services, and the coach racks up valuable experience.
But as the journey progresses, the coach may start to see issues with commitment and follow-through. Specifically, a lack of both. With this, momentum fades. Why? Because the client hasn’t got any “skin in the game.” It turns out, when a client doesn’t have to invest financially, very often they don’t invest emotionally either.

The Secret: Charge Something

Requiring even a modest investment (whether it’s money or an exchange of services) makes a huge difference. The key is to set your “pro-bono” rate somewhere between “write-off” and “hardship” – and this is different for every client. For someone with very few resources, $5 per session might be a fit. However, for someone with a modest full-time income, 75% of your full fee might be more appropriate.

The beauty of this is that you don’t need to guess what a reduced-fee client can reasonably afford. Instead, just be candid: explain that you’d like to find a compromise that isn’t an unreasonable burden, but will be enough of a stretch to support their forward momentum. With all of this information on the table, ask the client what fee they think is most appropriate.

A Modest Investment Can Be a Win-Win

This kind of candid, respectful conversation builds consensus around what will benefit both of you and the coaching partnership, instead of creating a zero-sum negotiation.

So, the next time you have an opportunity to work with a pro-bono client, work out a reduced fee instead. Help them become more invested in the coaching process from day one. Your client will work harder to get their money’s worth, and you’ll watch them succeed in record time!

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Pre-Consult Questionnaires: A Coach’s Time-Saver

If you’ve never considered using a qualifying questionnaire in your marketing, you might be missing out on some big benefits. This short survey, which a potential client completes when requesting a sample session, entices the prospect while helping protect one of your most valuable resources: your time.

Asking a few questions about the potential client’s needs entices him or her with the promise of a customized strategy session. At the same time, it safeguards your time by giving you an idea whether a candidate is ready to enroll or not – allowing you to decide whether to invest your time in a consult.

An Example

If you have a website, you probably have some kind of contact form already. Why not put it to better use by also using it for intro session requests?

Consider what benefits could you reap by requiring the following “quiz” the next time someone requests an initial consult:

  1. What do you most want to change in your life?
  2. On a scale of 1-10, how important is it for you to achieve this change?
  3. What have you tried in the past to facilitate this change?
  4. What areas would you most like to focus on? Check all that apply:__ Relationship __ Career __ Health __ Business
    __ Finances/Money __ Weight Loss __ Parenting __ Dating
    __ Other (please specify) _____________________
  5. Is there anything else you’d like me to know?
  6. Full Name _______________________
  7. Email _______________________
  8. Phone (_____) ____-_____

It’s easy to see how a prospect’s response would give you a good idea about whether it makes sense to offer an initial consult – and without trading emails or phone calls. If you do “approve” their application, you’ll already have some relevant details to help guide the discussion.

One Final Thought: Keep It Simple

It can be tempting to get as much information as you can, in order to help you further filter your prospects – things like current employment, marital status, children, education, etc. Remember that prospects are more likely to complete a survey if they sense it will be quick and simple, rather than long, complex, or intrusive.

It makes no difference whether you frame this as a “quiz,” “survey” or “interview” (or something else). Just make sure prospects complete it before you devote precious time to a one-on-one conversation. Whether you require this questionnaire before a prospect can self-schedule on your website, or as a prerequisite to receiving a call from your virtual assistant, a brief series of questions can save you from fruitless consults and increase your effectiveness with potential clients who do speak with you personally.

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Coffee With A Coach

If there’s one question I get asked most, it’s “How do I get more clients?” While the answer I give is succinct, that doesn’t mean it’s always achieved quickly: “Determine your niche and make yourself known as an expert within that community.”

While both parts of the process involve some research (both of the market and internal varieties), that doesn’t mean you need to stop being a coach or building your business while you’re working on them.

Building Your Business While You Work On Niche I.D.

In the article, Attracting More Clients (available from the Coaching Tree Resources Page), there are a number of ideas you can use to grow your client base. One of the easiest and most accessible is a “Coffee with a Coach” event.

The idea is simple: talk to the events coordinator or manager at your local bookstore, library, coffee shop or community center. Explain that you’d like to offer them an opportunity for their members to learn more about what you do by experiencing coaching.

Getting The Host On Board

The key to getting the host enthusiastic about your session is to frame your request in terms of “WIIFM” (“What’s In It For Me” – or “them,” in this case): they provide the space, a couple of chairs and a little publicity. In return, they get an increase in foot traffic, interest, and maybe even a boost in sales.

Help them understand that you won’t be a drag on their resources or staff, but that the format of your presentation (allowing participants to hang out, get coached, and browse through your materials) will encourage participants to spend more time in their establishment, most likely, spending more money during their visit.

Preparing For The Big Day

Once you’ve got the host on board, it’s time to get your own ducks in a row. Would it help if you brought your own sign? Would it be of benefit to be ready with brochures, cards, pens and a basket of candy? Sure! But when it comes down to it, the critical feature is the quality of your exchange. To make the most of each interaction, remember the following:

  • Begin with an enticing opening question, such as, “What’s your biggest challenge right now?” You won’t have much time, especially if demand is high.
  • Be sure to end with a “call to action.” If possible, schedule an initial consult (or maybe even their first coaching session!).
  • Be yourself. Share your humor, inspiration and feelings – the real you.

With very little preparation and minimal investment, “Coffee with a Coach” is a great way to hone your coaching skills and get exposure as a professional coach. Because of the potentially high volume of prospects, once you get comfortable with initiating these conversations, “Coffee with a Coach” may prove a staple marketing strategy – even after you’ve pinned down your niche!

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Starting Off the New Year Right

Have you thought about what’s first on the docket for your clients this year? If you had your clients complete an “End of Year Survey” in December, then it’s likely you already have your next steps mapped out.

If you didn’t do this last month, it’s not too late! Feel free to download and customize the free survey template posted on our resources page:

Using This Template

Once your client has returned the survey, spend some time celebrating the successes of the past year. Then, invest your focus on the forward-looking questions (questions 5 – 22 in our sample).

Besides the obvious benefits of debriefing their survey responses, this is your opportunity to build a year-long strategic roadmap with your client, not to mention a healthy list of next-step actions. As an added bonus, you might even find that clients who complete this exercise extend their alliance with you, since they’ve just refocused on a new set of goals. If you work with a client for more than a year, consider having them complete this survey each December as a way to measure their long-term success.

An annual review process (like our End-of-Year Survey) systematically addresses both “little a” and “Big A” issues, all while generating an up-to-the-minute map for the next year’s coaching journey.

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Prickly Predicament: The “Dog Ate My Homework” Client

You know the one. He seems like a great client – playful, punctual, open to new perspectives. Just one snag: he consistently fails to complete assignments he helped co-design. Now what?

“Well,” you say to yourself, “I could fire him. But this is the only hitch in our alliance. Maybe it’ll work itself out.” Sound familiar?

Not so fast – there’s a more co-active approach to this. After all, if you want your client to walk his talk, you’ll have to walk yours.

Putting Responsibility Where It Belongs

It’s time to put the onus where it belongs – on the client. The next time a client neglects to follow through, ask:

  1. “What got in the way?”*
  2. “On a scale of 1 – 10, how important is it for you to complete this assignment?”
  3. “How would you like to forward the assignment now?”
  4. “What needs to be in place in order to successfully complete the assignment?”

Be prepared to redesign the terms of the assignment.

“How close you hold his feet to the fire” depends on what level of accountability you’ve designed with the client. If that client had said, for example, that he had his homework “totally covered,” you could explore how his choices aligned with this commitment.

If, however, the two of you had agreed on more “hands-on” accountability support, it might be helpful to divide accountability for his assignments into smaller chunks. For example, he could break an assignment into individual action steps and inform you of his progress when each is complete. Or he could send you a daily summary of his progress by email or voicemail (whether you respond to each message depends on what you’ve designed, of course).

One Last Tip: Don’t Lose Another Week

However you and your client choose to reconfigure the assignment, invite him to inform you immediately of any obstacles preventing progress, instead of waiting until the next session. This way, you’ll be able to nip the issue in the bud; meanwhile, the client has a pre-planned strategy to prevent another “lost week.”

Occasionally missing an assignment doesn’t necessarily mean a total loss. However, having a specific “safety net” in place can mean the difference between timely insight and an unnecessarily long learning-arc. Perhaps most importantly, if you’ve discussed how to handle this situation in advance, it’s clear to the client that the choice is always theirs.

So, when you’re tempted to get discouraged by a client who claims to have a house full of famished pooches, remember that yours is a designed alliance. Not only do you get to name counterproductive patterns as they emerge, but you have every right to renegotiate how you will best work together going forward. The result is an improved coach-client partnership and a client who’s accelerating toward his goals – a success by anyone’s definition!

*For most clients, there’s a big difference between “What got in the way?” and “What happened?” The first invites an exploration of obstacles, while the second frequently draws “story” or defensiveness.

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Marketing Venue: The Coaching Salon

In our September issue, we discussed various marketing strategies you can use to increase visibility for your coaching business. If you chose “speaking” as one of the communications channels you favor, you’ll also want to check out a related opportunity: The Coaching Salon.

Choosing a Location

No, I’m not talking about renting office space in the back of your local beauty parlor. A Coaching Salon is a marketing event where one or more coaches collaborate to offer prospects sample coaching. Salons are hosted at any of a variety of locations that might share a target market with a coach, in exchange for increased walk-in traffic.

One of the biggest perks you get from these events is a steady stream of potential clients (where else can a coach get “walk-ins?”). Additionally, your credibility gets a boost, based on the participant’s existing relationship with the host.

Potential hosts could include, for example:

  • a bookstore
  • a coffee shop
  • a community center
  • a library

Getting Ready for Your Event

Once you’ve secured a venue, it’s time to get the word out. This is a great place to remember to ask for help. Remember, your presence can potentially help the business hosting you. Don’t be afraid to ask if they might be willing to post signs or advertise the event to their mailing list, for example. Also, consider having participating coaches promote the event on their websites and mailing lists.

On the day of the event, provide an easel with a poster promoting the event, or ask the host if they are willing to do so. Also, have forms available for people to join your mailing list. And don’t ignore the potential for cross-promotions between your business and the host, for example:

  • at a bookstore – ask the host to create a display of coaching or self-help related titles near the signs that advertise your event, or make a short presentation based on a pre-selected book they’ll display at the event
  • at a coffee shop – offer to have take-out menus or business cards at your table, and ask if you can put your brochures or cards near the register
  • for a non-profit host (like a community center or library) – offer to take donations at or near your table

Structuring Your Salon

If it’s well-planned, this kind of event can be a win-win-win: the host gets increased traffic and business, the coaches get increased exposure and the prospective clients get a sample of your services.

Consider structuring the event so that participants are coached in front of other participants and an audience. While this requires the volunteer to be willing to be coached “publicly,” it also gives you the chance to host a discussion about the coaching process after each demonstration finishes. This is an opportunity to address questions, concerns or even fears about the coaching process. And even though not every person who stops by will get a chance to be coached, don’t forget that “spectators” can sign up for your mailing list or request a sample session of their own!

At times, marketing can feel like a uphill climb, especially for a solopreneur. Consider banding together with like-minded coaches to offer a Coaching Salon. Chances are you’ll leave the event with a boost of confidence in your skills as a coach, new energy for your marketing efforts and, perhaps most exciting of all, a long list of warm leads!

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Thorny Situation: The Unprepared Client

So, your clients complete a prep form, and you emphasize the importance of being prepared in your design sessions. Yet this particular client comes to her sessions, week after week, without a clue as to what she wants coaching around.

Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common experience for coaches. The good news is that it’s easily addressed. First, “cover your bases” by making sure all of your clients know:

  1. why completing a prep form is crucial to the coaching process, and
  2. that they’ll get much more from the call if they arrive with a topic in mind.

Once you’ve covered these fundamentals, it’s time to dig a little deeper. When a client shows up unprepared, try the following “catalysts:” Read the rest of this entry »

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