I’m just back from three extraordinary days at the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival in beautiful Lyons, Colorado. John Prine closed out the festival with a set worthy of the national treasure he is. A lot of great lines from the old poet, but here’s the one that’s still rolling around in my head:
It’s not really a question if you already know the answer.
That’s true about the most powerful coaching questions.
Learning to draw out your client’s wisdom rather than impose your own agenda is one of the foundations of coach training. Is it time to refresh that lesson? It’s so easy to get caught up in the task list and learning curves, and forget to lead with curiosity in a coaching session.
No matter how insightful you are (and you are insightful!) the most impactful moments in coaching are drawn out of your clients themselves. There’s no formula for those moments.
That’s why open-ended questions generally work better than yes-or-no questions in coaching. They leave the field open to the unexpected. The conversation can go in any direction from an open-ended question, and that leaves space for the magic to arrive.
Coaching magic can be courted, but it can’t be forced. No list of “canned” coaching questions holds the key to that transformational shift your client is on the threshold of.
Want to know? The single biggest mistake I made as a life coach was trying to sell coaching. I didn’t realize that few people seek out coaching as a solution. Add to that, I was trying to attract big groups of people that weren’t easy to reach — women in transition and later, midlife women.
Just thinking about it makes me tired.
I didn’t know any better. All my peers were picking a topic they felt passionate about as their coaching niche. I blindly followed them onto that rocky road and never stopped to question whether that was the way to make a good living as a coach. Turns out, it wasn’t.
After two years, very few clients and paltry income later, I did shift to targeting a niche market — women entrepreneurs — which was way too big of a market with massive competition. And still I was scraping by, feeling like a fraud, and running frighteningly low on resources.
Still, whenever I did get a client, they valued my coaching. And I loved it. But I knew what I was doing wasn’t sustainable. I was working too hard for poor results.
There are still people out there who don’t understand the value of coaching. Some define coaching the way Ambrose Bierce defined consulting: “To seek another’s approval of a course already decided on.” And some people think hiring a coach is like hiring a friend to listen to you.
But then there are people like Google CEO Eric Schmidt – the lead architect of the most successful business growth story in recent history. When asked to share the best business advice he ever received, he said “Everyone needs a coach.”
So, is coaching worth paying for? The answer seems to be: It depends on WHO you ask.
I think I know where you come out on this question, or you wouldn’t be staking your career on the power of coaching. But here’s my point: Draw your clients from groups of people that believe coaching is worth the investment.
So how do you find and connect with those people? The answer may not be obvious, but it is straightforward.
Choose a Niche Market Full of Seekers
Certain groups of people, because of who they are, will readily invest in their own personal and professional development. Here are three examples of niche markets that are full of seekers:
I know you know what your current coaching clients want. But do you know what your prospects want? There’s a difference. Discovering exactly what prospects want from you is the key to enrolling lots of clients easily.
So many coaches miss this, because they already know what they’re selling – their coaching services. It’s a natural way to think, but it’s also a classic marketing mistake. They try to sell coaching as the solution before they’ve even asked what the prospect sees as the problem.
You have a profound appreciation of the power of coaching, and that’s essential. But if it leads you to try to sell coaching, you may be setting yourself up for poor results. The basic law of the marketplace is supply and demand. You can supply all you want of something you think has value, but if there is no demand for it, it won’t sell.
That’s why established businesses do research before they launch a new product. I realize “market research” sounds pretty off-putting – technical, boring, expensive. But at its core, it’s just listening to people to find out what they want. What could be more coach-like than that?
I call this “listening to your market” – and you have everything you need to start doing it. To prove it, try these steps:
Influence is a new watchword in the world of client attraction. It turns out that being influential is not about knowing it all, having all the answers or being right. It starts with getting meaningful conversations going with the people you serve. Coaches are good at this, so I invite you to apply this with your niche market for 90 days and see what happens.
Recently, a company called ThoughtLead offered “the shortest marketing conference ever”. The Influencer Project featured 60 thought leaders who offered sixty seconds worth of their best advice on how to increase your influence online. I’m impressed with the creative way that ThoughtLead offered value, started a meaningful conversation and built more influence with their market.
Six Tips to Build Influence With Your Coaching Niche
Here are six influence tips that you might not have thought of before. The first two are social media tips. The last four tips have a common theme weaving through them. Did you catch it?
It takes ample courage to be an entrepreneurial coach. There are critical decisions to make for your coaching business, such as choosing your niche or hiring a virtual assistant. Every day you get up the gumption to connect with prospects and enroll coaching clients. And there are so many learning curves to ascend.
Here are three ways to raise courage on demand, for all the leaps you need to take as you build your coaching business.
1. Realize That You’re in Good Company
There are millions of intrepid coaches and other business owners who have traveled this path before you. They have done and are doing exactly what you’re attempting now. And they felt just as spazzy about it as you feel now. But they did it, and thrived.
Tap into that collective fortitude. You can do it too! And you’ll not only live to do it again, you’ll become good at this (whatever it is that inspires fear today). Bank on it.
There’s a vital business asset that almost never gets talked about, because it’s so hard to define. You could call it reserves, staying power, bandwidth – or resilience. Resilience is:
- When your computer crashes, you know who to call to help you recover.
- When your workshop doesn’t fill even though you worked hard to promote it, you focus on the lessons that will help you fill the next one.
- When something just isn’t working, you get twice as interested in how to make it work.
Whether you can define it or not, you can cultivate resilience. And you’ll be glad you did.
The Importance of Being Resilient
Almost everyone who starts their own business will get pushed to their limits, not once but many times. Face it, this stuff is hard. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
To a large extent, the ones who succeed will be the ones who are the most resilient – the ones who can go to their limit and find that they still have something more in reserve.
Life’s not fair, and some people have been given a stronger constitution than others. But as always, the more interesting part is the part that is in your control. What are you doing to build your resilience today?
This is Part 3 of my series on do-it-yourself promotion for your coaching blog. Part 1 covers getting your writing onto other sites that your market reads, and Part 2 talks about using social networking to help build your audience.
If you’re not using social networking for your coaching business yet, you can still leverage your network, and your online presence, to promote your blog. This post covers some simple moves to do that.
Link to Your Blog
Just about anything you are already doing online can be tweaked to help promote your blog. Take a tour of every place your name appears online, and ask yourself –
How could I use this to help publicize my blog?