Ep 78 – The Art of Crafting Powerful Coaching Questions with Laurie Cameron

I have something really special for today’s episode, which is about powerful coaching questions and is a part of a new series on Coaching Skills.

There’s a free download that you can get so stay tuned …

First, I want to share something personal with you. I have been so buoyed up by wonderful reviews lately. So I want to give a shout out to Gemma who said recently to me:

“I’m sending a heap of gratitude to you, Rhonda, your generous podcast has helped me identify my platform and program. Also, I know that I’m not alone in this. You’ve helped so many coaches. Thank you for cutting through the noise.”

That made my week. So I’m grateful to you, Gemma, for taking the time to write that review for me on iTunes.

So let’s roll with today’s episode.

I have the pleasure of introducing you to Laurie Cameron of WAKE UP Enterprises.

Laurie is literally the best coach I know. She is also the best coach trainer I know.

In 2001 I co-created curriculum for Coach Training Alliance and I designed their certified coach program, I was their first trainer. Then I brought Laurie in. She surpassed me significantly and she is their Senior Mentor Coach now.

I first met Laurie 20 years or so ago at the Denver chapter of the International Coach Federation and we became fast friends. We were both on the board there. Beyond that, Laurie and I have been accountability partners for each other and doing a little co-coaching now and then. Something every coach needs.

LAURIE CAMERON: I am really excited and thank you for all those kind words that made my week as well. So I’m really thrilled to be here.

The Most Powerful Coaching Skill

RHONDA: Laurie, I’m going to ask you some questions. I hope they’re powerful questions because that’s the topic that we’re bringing today. So I wanted to start with … What is your favorite coaching skill, Laurie, and why?

LAURIE CAMERON: I would like to ask you a question in return. Complete this sentence: If you want better answers, you …?

RHONDA: … have to ask the right questions.

LAURIE CAMERON: Close. See when I do full day coach training workshops with leaders and managers and when I train coaches through coach training Alliance, that’s the common answer. A better answer is you have to craft better questions.

RHONDA: Nice distinction.

LAURIE CAMERON: Thank you. Questions are amazing and they’re even more amazing and more powerful when you are adept at putting words together in a way that draw somebody’s wisdom out and draw out something new and, and send them deep. That’s why I love powerful questions and learning how to craft them.

Take Your Time To Formulate Powerful Questions

RHONDA: That’s great. I wanted to notice something. You know, you asked me that question and I jumped with my answer. You’re talking about crafting and crafting takes some time. How can a coach that’s in the middle of a coaching session take the time to craft a question?

LAURIE CAMERON: Well, it’s about taking the time to do that actually. And one of the challenges that I’ve noticed that newer coaches have about asking questions is they don’t take the time to craft one before they start asking it.

So as soon as the kernel of a question pops into their head, it’s coming out their mouth, they are revising it, editing it out loud, and it actually turns into this long thing that the client just loses track of.

Learning how to craft a powerful question is more about taking the time, pausing, being comfortable with the silence — which is also a challenge for a lot of coaches — and crafting internally before they open their mouth.

LAURIE CAMERON: That’s great to know and it reminds me that a lot of times when I’m working with my own clients. I have something to say, could be a question or it could be anything, but if I don’t quite have it ready yet, I’ll just buy myself some time. I’ll just say: Give me a second, I thinking.

It’s Okay to Be Human and Transparent with Your Coaching Clients

LAURIE CAMERON: What makes coaching not only powerful is you can be transparent. You can be vulnerable. You can say, give me a minute. Or I found myself occasionally stopping mid question and saying: Wait a minute, that’s not the question I want to ask. Let me redo this.

RHONDA: Exactly. That is so important to remember that even though someone is paying you for this service, if you put yourself up on a pedestal that actually becomes worse for you and them.

When you’re training coaches, what are some of the biggest challenges that new coaches have with asking pithy questions?

LAURIE CAMERON: I love pithy. That’s a great way to describe really important, powerful questions because those are the questions that get to the heart of the matter really, really quickly.

The Continuum: Moving Towards Mastery in Crafting Powerful Questions

LAURIE CAMERON: So one challenge is not taking the time to craft a question before they open their mouth. Another one is asking what the client is doing now or what they’ve already done about their agenda.

So let’s just say a client’s agenda is — I want to manage my energy better during the week. I hear a lot of coaches say something like: What have you done so far? Or … What are you doing now? Until you really learn how to craft a powerful question, that sounds like a great question.

But, there’s no pith in it, right? There’s no challenge to the client to think about how to move forward. What they’ve been doing or what they’re doing now that is not working and they want something different.

RHONDA: That makes a lot of sense. Do you have an example of a different thing that they could say?

LAURIE CAMERON: With our example — I want to manage my energy better during the week — a more powerful question might be: When you’re managing your energy, what does your week look like?

RHONDA: You’re asking them to think about the ideal.

LAURIE CAMERON: Yes. You want to help them uncover and create in their life.

Asking … What have you done so far? What are you doing now? It’s not necessarily a bad or a wrong question. Mastering coaching really is moving along the continuum from less powerful to more powerful.

RHONDA: That’s a great point. There’s the concept of continuous improvement. It’s not about being perfect today or having it all nailed down before I take a move, but rather to just say “Okay, I’m going to do what I can today with what I know.”

LAURIE CAMERON: So it’s less powerful to ask the current or past questions and more powerful to ask what do you want to move forward towards? Because that’s coachable.

The Qualities of a Powerful Question

RHONDA: That’s a fantastic distinction. Okay, so now I would really like to hear if there’s a formula for how to get further down that continuum to more powerful questions.

LAURIE CAMERON: Well and I don’t know that this is so much of a formula as it is a list of qualities of a powerful coaching question. So perhaps they’re, they’re similar in there.

First and foremost it’s short.

I hear a lot of newer coaches ask a question, ask another question with lots of different punctuation marks in it and pauses. And it’s really easy for a client to get totally lost in that.

“So client, when you think of all the things you just talked about, the timing of the project, the obstacles, the resources you have or the resources you need, what do you think is the most important piece to consider first, you know, before all the others can actually come to fruition and then you can move forward and figure it all out?”

RHONDA: Yeah, I’m overwhelmed just hearing that

LAURIE CAMERON: It’s, it’s very easy to get lost. So the more powerful question would be to say: So what has to happen first?

RHONDA: So simple!

LAURIE CAMERON: That’s five words.

RHONDA: I think most people who are overwhelmed are not able to really see themselves clearly. And that’s why coaching is so helpful. All of us get into that place of overwhelm. Getting out is about setting priorities. What is the next step?

LAURIE CAMERON: Yeah, helping a client figure out what they want to do or where they want to go and then create a strategy to bridge the gap from where they are to where they want to go and create an action plan to make that happen.

RHONDA: Is there anything else that that goes into the formula or the list of characteristics?

LAURIE CAMERON: Open-ended. And I think a lot of people are really aware of that. Being aware of it and noticing it when it’s coming out of your mouth are two different

A closed ended, yes or no question might be —and I hear this one a lot too — is something along the lines of “So do you think you can figure out how to make this viable?”

And it’s clear the coach wants to know and wanting to challenge the client and yet there are only two options with closed questions. Yes, I think I can figure it out. No, I don’t think I can figure it out.

It’s actually more powerful just to ask an open-ended question. What will it take to make the project viable?

RHONDA: Yes. Who, what, when, where, how and occasionally why. Although I’m not a big fan of why

LAURIE CAMERON: Me either.

An open-ended question assumes success. It’s saying I believe in you. This is what you want to do. So what’s it going to take to make that happen?

RHONDA: It’s empowering.

LAURIE CAMERON: definitely empowering. And at the same time there are very few moments where a closed ended yes or no question actually can be more powerful and most typically that’s towards the end of a coaching session when the coach is asking the client for commitment. Something like: Are you willing to do what it takes to make this work?

If a client says yes, then they have stepped up, they are ready for accountability.

RHONDA: And there’s a bit of challenge in that question after you’ve helped to empower the person to later on ask a challenging question is a really great thing to do with your clients, because coaches who challenge their clients actually get a lot more from their clients.

LAURIE CAMERON: Yeah. Letting clients off the hook is not really leveraging their investment in you.

Why Not Ask Why?

RHONDA: Yeah. You know, before we get too far off of it, I just wanted to go back to the why thing. You and I both said we’re not a big fan of why questions and I would love to hear your reason for why not why?

LAURIE CAMERON: Well, a couple of them. One, there’s an underlying judgment in a why question and even if it’s not the intention of it, and even if the person hearing the why question is not fully cognizant, it’s as if a parental unit is standing there wagging their finger saying, so why didn’t you do this? Why didn’t you do that?

And with that judgment comes a need to defend one’s actions.

Two, it perpetuates the story. Why questions put people on the defensive.

RHONDA: So if a coach is wondering why, how can they ask their client something without why?

LAURIE CAMERON: What would be an example of a why question that comes to mind, Rhonda?

RHONDA: Why in the world would you ask me that? Lori?

LAURIE CAMERON: Thank you. That’s great LOL. Well, I would re frame that as: Where’s this question coming from do you think?

RHONDA: Yes! And by the way, sometimes it doesn’t have to be a question, but more of an inquiry. I am a big fan of saying … Tell me more about that.

Multiple Choice Coaching Doesn’t Land Well

LAURIE CAMERON: That’s a wonderful way to invite your client to dig deeper. As long as you give them silence.

This is another challenge I hear from newer coaches … they just start asking question after question after question. A powerful question will stand on its own.

I hear a lot of times what I call multiple choice coaching where a coach might say:

How do you see yourself being accountable for tracking your progress? Do you need to track it on the calendar or maybe talk to somebody, get somebody on board with it? What do you think?

What happens in those instances is whatever options or possibilities that are popping into the coach’s head, if they put those out there in answer to their own question, it limits the client’s options. As opposed to saying: How do you see yourself being accountable for tracking your progress? Question mark. Be quiet. Let the client go through their own options, their own choices and sort through that rather than limiting them.

RHONDA: I’m so guilty of that one.

LAURIE CAMERON: You get to be human too.

Universally Powerful Questions For Any Agenda

RHONDA: Let’s move on to another question. Are there any questions that you think are universally excellent or powerful for numerous coaching agendas?

LAURIE CAMERON: Oh, of course. Yes. I definitely have my favorite —what I call toolbox questions.

These are questions that are generic and fundamentally powerful when you customize it with the client’s agenda or goal or action. Can I share three of them?

RHONDA: Yeah, please!

LAURIE CAMERON: Okay. My first one is typically at the beginning of a session just after the takeaway is clear for both coach and client is, I call it THE MAGIC WAND QUESTION.

You know … the perfect outcome, ideal resolution. You touched on that a little bit earlier. Ask a client to tap into their true desire and paint that picture of success without worrying about the how yet.

It’s saying … What do you really, really want? Don’t think yet about how you’re going to do it or if it’s possible or any of that. That’s not on the table yet. For right now be bold, be big, dream big, be creative.

And the client might not actually realize that ideal situation. But when they start with what they really, really want and you coach them to move in that direction, there are a lot more likely to get more of what they want.

RHONDA: Great. Love that one.

LAURIE CAMERON: Okay. And another is: How will you know when you’re successful?

I love this one because it asks your client to project themselves into a future state of success and describe it. It’s kind of similar to the magic wand question. And when they answer this kind of a question, what they’re doing is they’re also identifying the parameters that they’ll use to evaluate their success and their progress.

So it opens the door for them to strategize what actions they have to take in order to move in that direction. If we use the same agenda that we were talking about before — I want to manage my energy better during the week, we ask: How will you know you’re successful?

It helps the client think forward in they might say: Well, I’ll have enough time in the evenings to spend with my kids. I’ll be exercising consistently and how, you know, when I get home on Friday, I won’t just drop onto the couch and pass out. I’ll have enough energy to go out and have some fun in the client. Identifying how they’ll recognize success when they’re in the middle of it.

They already have three things that they want to make sure they do. Spend time with the kids in the evening exercise consistently and go out and have fun on Fridays.

RHONDA: I would, in that situation, repeat to them the things they said.

LAURIE CAMERON: Yeah, absolutely. And that leads me to my third really favorite toolbox.

What will it take to …? And you fill in that … with the, the agenda, action or goal.

So what will it take to make sure you have time to spend with your kids in the evening exercise consistently and come home on Fridays with enough energy to go have fun? Yeah.

That what will it take question kicks it into strategy mode and you could say: What’s your plan to do that?

There’s something about the word ‘plan’ that is abstract and they have to start thinking in different ways.

But the question: What will it take to do what you want to do? is simple, more direct. And I’ve discovered that it’s easier for clients to go right into planning and strategizing mode and then you can coach them:

  • to figure out what level of accountability
  • how are they going to put this into place

There are three variations that I have of the What will it take question:

  1. What has to happen?
  2. What has to be different?
  3. What has to be in place?

The Coaching Skills Quickstart Giveaway

RHONDA: Great. They’re subtle but they’re simple. And Laurie, I know that you have something that you’d like to give everybody listening. What is it? And where can they find it?

LAURIE CAMERON: A list of Sample Toolbox Questions — all the ones that I’ve talked about plus a handful more.

This list of toolbox questions is adapted from a self-study guide I wrote for leaders and managers called The Coaching Skills Quickstart and I retooled it back to professional coaches and what they might come up against in a session with a client.

RHONDA: Brilliant gift. You can find that at https://wakeupenterprises.com/prosperous-coach/

By the way … know that whenever there are links shared with you verbally on these episodes, it’s really easy to go find this stuff. If you’re listening to the podcast on a podcast app, then it will be in the show notes. If you click details on there. If you’re listening to it on my website, well it’s right there in front of you in the SHOW NOTES.

So Laurie, I just want to thank you so much for your time, for your incredible expertise and I’m definitely downloading that baby for myself!

LAURIE CAMERON: Wonderful. It’s always such a joy and a treat and an honor to spend any kind of time with you, Rhonda. Thank you.

RHONDA: You are so welcome. My absolute pleasure. I feel the same way about you, so virtual hugs to all!

Ep 76 – Will You Exclude Some Coaching Clients If You Narrow Your Audience?

Today’s episode is short and sweet. It was inspired by something that came up in Prosperous Coach Club, my Facebook group.

Several new coaches were having trouble drilling down to a narrow and viable audience to serve because they didn’t want to exclude anyone.

I had that concern myself in my early days of coaching. I waffled and stayed general for far too long. I didn’t realize how much easier it would be if I did narrow my audience.

But as time passed and my income from coaching remained small I became keenly motivated to do anything I could — including things I was afraid to do — to change that.

With hindsight I know without a doubt that finally narrowing my audience catapulted me to success so that now I reliably attract ideal clients and earn well – even during the pandemic.

Now I fully understand that my choice to narrow was a strategic choice.

I’ve been talking a lot about strategy in my current podcast series Coaching Business Checkup. That series is all about assessing what pieces of strategy might be missing if you are having difficulty enrolling enough clients to quit your job and pay for your lifestyle.

4 Ways Strategic Choice Makes Your Coaching Life Easier

And because I’ve been a business coach for coaches for a long time I also know this. When you target an audience and discover their big problem then gear everything –messaging, offers, web copy, social posts – to speak directly to your audience 4 wonderful things click into place:

  1. You have clarity. It’s as if the fog lifts and you can now see your path.
  2. You grow confidence. You understand your value and believe in yourself.
  3. You know what to do. You have pinpointed focus and direction.
  4. You have leverage. Now everything you do builds momentum.

So, the best reason to narrow to one specific audience is to make your life easier.

Stand Out in the Crowd

Look, if all you want is a coaching client now and then and a bit of spending money, then you can afford to be a generalist.

But if you want your coaching business to be a going concern, as they say, and feed you and your family for years to come, then being a generalist and selling coaching won’t do that for you.

Why are you listening to my podcast? Because you’re a coach and this is specially designed to help coaches. I know coaching. I know business.

There are lots of other mentors helping any type of business owners out there. But isn’t extra helpful when someone understands exactly where you are and where you want to be and what’s in the way?

That is the power of narrowing and specializing.

You’ll Help More Coaching Clients

By choosing a narrow audience you are setting a powerful intention for your own good.

But the beauty is that your intention also makes it easier for serious prospects to find you. That’s another benefit for you but it’s also a benefit for your clients.

Don’t you want to help more people? If so, then make sure your voice, your topics attract attention. In this marketplace specificity is what snaps people to attention.

Specialize Doesn’t Exclude Anyone

And here’s what I also know because of hindsight. Focusing your niche on a specific audience doesn’t mean you can’t work with people outside of that audience. You can!

I’ve worked with all types of business owners over the years even though my website, my blogs, my podcasts are all focused on coaches.

So for ease and clarity your social posts, your content, your web copy and freebie should all be focused on supporting your specific audience. And that means it will speak to them. It will touch me. They will feel special and follow you.

And you’ll find it easier to create valuable content, to post on social channels and get engagement, to draw the right kind of prospects to your website. Because focusing makes all of that easier.

If you stay general or just focus on a coachey topic for your niche people won’t take you seriously. That’s the bottom line.

The more you stay broad, the less you’ll be noticed.

One More Way to Look at This

Are you still resisting this idea of narrowing?

Think of it this way … if you want to go on vacation but can’t decide where you’re going and how you’ll get there because there are soooo many choices and you don’t want to leave any out, chances are there will be no vacation for you.

You are stalled from something you really want.

And that same indecision is keeping you from having a successful coaching business. I lovingly challenge you to be strategic about your niche and everything your business. Take the risk to specialize and become known. You will love it and so will your clients!

In the Next Episode: 7 Ways to create a More Valuable Coaching Client Experience

Ep 67 – What Is Your Coaching Business Model?

This episode, called What Is Your Coaching Business Model? is the 6th in my Coaching Business Checkup series, which is all about how to strategize the most important parts of your business. If something isn’t working well in your coaching business, it might be a lack of strategy holding you back.

At the end of this whole series I’ll have a downloadable Coaching Business Checkup Assessment you can use to diagnose and treat what’s ailing in your business so you can fix it and thrive.

The show notes for today’s episode can be found at prosperouscoach.com/67

Just in case this business model idea is totally new to you, let’s define what a business model is and why you want one.

Why Have a Business Model for Your Coaching?

A business model is literally a design for the success of your business. It’s a structure you create that makes your business viable. In other words, it’s your plan for earning good money as a coach.

Essential, right?

Like many aspects of your coaching business, your business model can’t really take shape until you have targeted a viable audience and developed a smart coaching niche. Those decisions are the cornerstone … everything else you build for your coaching business comes from that.

Notice I said a moment reliably attract people to your offers. That takes strategy. It’s a far cry from what I did for so many years at the beginning, which was what I call the “I hope it works” approach to business.

Without a business model, you are leaving your success up to dumb luck.

No doubt, you experienced a lot of business models just living in the modern world but you might not have thought much about it. I’ll just name a couple to help you understand the concept

Let’s take Netflix. You get an account. Pay monthly. And for that low fee, you get access to their impressive catalog of TV series and movies to stream on demand.

That’s called the Subscription Model. It has 3 main parts:

Subscription service + Options the consumer wants + Delivered on demand

It is something you could create someday. More about that in a minute.

How about Uber? Their model is called Create the Marketplace, which operates on supply and demand

SUPPLY = people with cars who want to earn

+ DEMAND = people who want to get someplace now without driving

It’s very specific and innovative. And this is close to what a coach needs to do. You identify a BIG PROBLEM that a specific audience faces and create a hunger for your program which helps to solve that problem through coaching.

The Simplest Coaching Business Model

A while ago I aired an episode called The Simplest Coaching Business Model and it’s been a favorite with record downloads. This episode goes deeper into what’s involved.

By the way, thank you so much for going back to my earlier episodes! I can’t tell you how often I hear that people are binge listening to every episode. That’s a great way to learn a lot fast.

It’s a great sign that episode is popular. It means that coaches now are much more business savvy than I was when I started. So well done you. Keep that up!

For a coach, the simplest business model is to offer 1:1 coaching.

Here’s how I help my clients develop this business model with 2 important twists:

  1. Choose a viable audience
  2. Find out their BIG PROBLEM – the one that will prompt them to seek your services
  3. Develop a high ticket private program designed to solve that problem. That’s one twist!
  4. Create ways to continuously build awareness about you.
  5. Drive traffic to a website with an authentic non-salesy conversion process or two. That’s the 2nd twist!
  6. Invite ideal prospects to an enrollment conversation and enroll them.

What’s so great about this simple business model?

  1. It’s the easiest model to start with
  2. You quickly learn how to coach your ideal audience
  3. You can earn a 6-figure profit with relatively low labor and costs
  4. It’s a satisfying way to make a positive impact

And here are a couple of bonus things that I love about this model:

  1. You’ll only spend your private time with highly motivated prospects and clients
  2. And you’ll build a strong referral network that’s free

I’ll be talking more about how critical these two things are for your sanity in an episode soon.

There are other business model options that might help you scale up and reach more people in less time. However, consider that you could also keep your life and business simple. If you create a meaningful program with milestones that are important to your audience you can charge quite a bit for it. I covered this is Episode 66.

The Challenge of Scaling Coaching

Scalability is one of the biggest challenges in coaching businesses. To scale, people start thinking about “passive revenue”, a concept often attached to revenue streams such as:

  • online courses
  • selling books, ebooks and other products
  • membership programs

It sounds so good, doesn’t it? I’ll just create a few online courses and put it online and boom! Passive income! I’ll make money while I sleep.

Here’s the thing that I learned the hard way, there’s nothing passive about it. While the bulk of the content creation is done up front, the costs and labor to keep revenues flowing in are relatively high.

A good rule of thumb to remember is the higher number of people you want to buy what you’re selling the more marketing it takes. And it’s a style of marketing that’s highly promotional. It takes a team of people to pull it off. So not passive at all.

The Affiliate Marketing Model

Where people really excel at these scalable business models is when they are already well known in their industry. Think Tony Robbins, Brendan Burchard and Marie Forleo. They not only have a huge leads list of their own, but they also have other experts with huge leads list willing to help market the program or product for a kickback (also called an affiliate fee).

The affiliate fee is often 50% of the sale. And tracking all of that requires special programs and website.

The business model is called Affiliate Marketing and is composed of:

Email marketing with affiliates + a live or canned event + sales page + online or live course

There’s one business model being highly marketed to coaches right now, which I call the Evergreen Webinar Model. It involves:

Ads on social channels + webinars + online courses

This model is touted to be highly lucrative and I can see how it absolutely could be over the long run.

Experts selling the training to learn this business model often have testimonials like this …

“I just had my first $15,000 month!”

And that alone has us frothing at the mouth to sign up for the training.

But it’s important to realize that to earn that $15,000 in revenue in one month this individual may have invested up to or beyond:

  • $4500 on ads
  • $3000 on virtual assistants and web design
  • months of content creation
  • the cost of the training to learn this model $8 – $10,000

The way that business model becomes profitable is over time when costs per sale start to decrease. Just the continuous investment can literally kill a coaching business.

Yes, it could be an amazing business model later on. But, for a new coach who isn’t already well known and who doesn’t have a significant network of potential clients and marketing partners, it can be very difficult to pull off.

Membership Programs

Another costly option is membership programs. Back in 2006 when membership programs were trendy, I took nearly a year to create a comprehensive online course called The Coach’s Power Path. It was a vision I woke up with one day and truly thought I’d earn loads while helping hundreds of coaches.

In short, it was a colossal failure. I invested 10’s of thousands in that venture and never got close to earning it back, much less profiting.

I just didn’t realize how complicated it was — not only to create the curriculum and the entire back end of the membership site — but also to constantly market in ways that I really disliked. It was exhausting.

Later a marketing expert told me that most membership programs are loss leaders, which means it’s only a low cost offer to raise awareness and trust so you can offer people something higher priced and higher touch.

What About Group Coaching?

Group coaching is a much simpler business model than selling courses, membership programs and products. And, for many target audiences, gathering people with the same big problem or goal will greatly add to their transformation.

What you need going for you for this model to work is the 6 strategic steps I mentioned before for 1:1 coaching PLUS a developed network in your target audience. It could be your own leads list, a connection with a center of influence or a good sized following on social media.

That’s something you can build on your own without a lot of costs or any assistance!

I recommend groups for coaches who have a year’s experience or more in 1:1 coaching and that amount of time building visibility online.

So now, do you know what your intended coaching business model is? Have you strategized who you work with, what they want that they’ll invest in and how you’ll enroll enough of them to earn well? You’re on your way!

In the Next Episode: Calling All Coaches to Innovate and Lead

Ep 65 – Are You Solving a Big Enough Problem In Your Coaching Business?

This episode is part of the Coaching Business Checkup series.

If you’re not attracting enough paying clients to sustain your business there could be several reasons why. The episodes in this series are designed to help you isolate what needs attention.

But don’t let these errors move you to give up on your coaching business unless you’re truly done with the dream of being a successful coach and helping loads of people with your unique talents.

To Succeed You Have to Be Willing to Flail and Fail

I encourage you to be willing to make mistakes and realize they don’t define the possibility of your future success.

Jumping out there without strategy is a time honored mistake. Nearly everyone makes these mistakes if they are willing to risk success.

On the other side of this is the person who does not risk anything and misses out on the chance to learn from their mistakes. And those are the folks who may regret staying in the safety zone.

The Big Thing Holding You Back From Financial Success As A Coach

For this episode, I’m going to dig into the most common problem that holds coaches back from attracting enough clients and earning well:

There’s not enough people inspired to invest in your services.

You are no doubt talented, capable and truly effective as a coach. But that goes wasted if you can’t attract the attention of your audience and inspire them to invest.

What can you do about that?

Well, so many things! For now I’m focusing on one.

Let’s say you have chosen a target audience and they are SEEKERS — people who do invest out their own pocket to grow personally and professionally.

The next thing you do is to define your coaching niche, right?

And this is the place where you might be inclined to totally wimp out. I did when I started.

It’s partly because fresh out of coaching training there’s still this glow about the value of coaching that can blind you to effective ways to attract paying clients.

Have you romanticized the notion of coaching that you believe people know they want it?

Most people don’t think about coaching as a solutions. That’s why coaching is a hard sell.

So, at this starry-eyed moment in time instead of niching down, you niche widely or niche weakly.

Niching wide is choosing a broad coaching audience and naming an overarching abstract outcome.

I help women create a more fulfilling life.

OR

I help business owners become successful.

Another way to wimp out in your niche is to simply identify your track.

I’m a career coach.

I’m a leadership coach.

I’m a life coach.

I’ve seen many coaches list all or several coaching tracks on their websites. The lack of specialty does just the opposite of what the coach hoped — it turns potential clients away because they see a lack of commitment and focus.

And example of niching weakly is focusing on coaching topics as the specialty.

I’m a confidence coach.

I’m an empowerment coach.

I help you breakthrough limiting beliefs.

I don’t think people wake up in the middle of the night and say to themselves … you know what I need? I need a coach to help me breakthrough limiting beliefs.

Everyone has limiting beliefs. Any coach or mentor can help individuals past them. But it doesn’t inspire investment except for a few sessions at low prices.

These aren’t big enough problems to bring you a steady stream of clients who are ready to invest.

I niched widely and weakly at first! I didn’t know better. Now, I hope to save you some of my flailing and failing.

Fully Commit to Standing Out with Your Specialty

Notice I didn’t saying standing out with your coaching specialty? Let’s take the coaching piece out of the equation. That’s your toolbox — a skillset you’ll use to help your clients — not what people will buy.

If you intend to be a successful coach in the long run, commit to targeting and niching down strategically and then follow through with that in everything you do. Don’t let your website copy be dumbed down by focusing on the wonders of coaching. Focus on your specific target audience and what’s keeping them up at night.

Make it so that there is absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind who you serve, the big problem you help them overcome and the big goal you help them reach.

Define Big Enough

When you’re looking for a dynamic profitable niche, you have to step out of thinking like a coach and step into thinking like your audience. (And this is the best way to create everything for your business and do all your marketing by the way.)

It takes a bit of mindfulness and practice. Here’s the question to ask yourself:

What specific problem will prompt my audience to go looking for solutions with their credit card ready?

Think about all the times you’ve invested in something that was pricey. What made you pay the big bucks for a service even though you knew you were spending a lot?

No doubt it was something that felt crucial for your future.

The Gap Between Pain and Pleasure

You’ve heard about pain points before. Some problems are annoying. Some problems are a hassle. You’re looking for the problem that is acutely painful.

It’s the gap between what your audience wants and where are they are now. That great longing for something that’s been elusive because there’s a big, fat problem in the way.

The thing is the way is usually the individual.

Big enough problems fall within just a handful of categories associated with a fundamental want:

  • money
  • career
  • power
  • love
  • healing

Here are a few coach’s niches. Notice how they fit into one of those 5 fundamental categories.

Helping HR leaders gain more impact and influence in their organization.

Helping moms with a long career gap find flexible work they enjoy.

Helping people with fibromyalgia feel better get their lives back.

Helping parents support their kids with ADHD to excel in school.

Helping wives of civil servants create space for a career of their own.

Do you see how these big problems and desired outcomes would inspire investment?

If you’ve chosen an audience and you think you’ve arrived at a big enough problem to solve, pause to ask yourself:

Would I buy high-ticket services to help me overcome this problem?

If not, dig in deeper.

And if you want help identifying your audience’s big problem and developing a smart business foundation that attracts ideal clients, you know where you can find me: https://prosperouscoachblog.com/work-with-rhonda

In the Next Episode: How to Describe Your Coaching Program Without Selling Coaching

Ep 63 – Ten Ways To Be More Strategic In Your Coaching Business

In the last episode I talked about high payoff actions you can take in your business. High payoff actions are the ones that get you the results you want.

Those actions are always strategic – based on a strategy that you’ve thought through.

In this episode, which is the 2nd in the series called Coaching Business Checkup, I’m going to talk about the top ways for new coaches to be strategic in their business.

No Strategy is a Slow Strategy

I was thinking about this recently … when did I begin to be more strategic in my coaching business?

It began when I targeted a viable audience and figured out what they want so much they’d invest in my help to reach that goal.

That was my first point of strategy. That’s #1 because if you don’t target a viable audience no other strategy after that will work.

Embarrassingly, it was only after my 2nd coaching website and after my 3rd year in business for myself that I began to think more strategically.

And wow how it paid off. And how I wished I’d been more strategic from the beginning, but I didn’t know how.

Before that I just flew by the seat of my pants, which is a strange saying but we all know what it means.

Looking back I have to laugh at myself a bit, thinking that I could have a successful coaching business without strategy. But I’ve always been someone to jumps in headfirst. Now when I jump in head first, I’m actually using my head by being strategic. But it’s not fair to compare what I know now to what I knew then.

I was blessed in so many ways — still am — by serendipity.

So many angels and surprises came my way in the form of opportunities and wonderful human beings that gave me a helping hand.

I would never have leaped to the idea of helping coaches, first with their coaching niches, had I not been tapped to be a trainer in a coach training company.

And after a year, I was asked to rewrite the curriculum of that organization called Coach Training Alliance. They’ve been using that curriculum for 2 decades. It’s a wonderful coach training school.

Because the owner gave me an opportunity, I learned that I was good at taking complex concepts and tasks and breaking them into step-by-step processes.

My teach archetype was born then. And coaches started hiring me.

Having no strategy is a kind of a strategy. If you have time to burn or if going about things totally organically is a value of yours, no strategy can work in the long run.

Smart Strategy Means Faster Results In Your Coaching Business

But when it comes to attracting enough clients who pay well, stay longer and refer more ideal clients, having a strategy now, when it’s early days in your coaching business, is the way to get there faster.

For most of us, getting there faster is critical. Most of my clients need to earn and earn well. Their coaching business is in lieu of getting another J.O.B.

So strategy is the way to go.

If you’ve not learned to be strategic yet, that’s okay. And today is the day to start.

10 Critical Strategies For New-ish Coaches

You may be wondering why am I talking about strategy so much in a series called Coaching Business Checkup?

Well, here’s the deal, if things aren’t going well for you in your coaching business it always boils down to a lack of strategy. And there are several areas to look at.

For now I’m going to list them. Then in following episodes I’ll go into more detail about these ways to strategize your fledgling coaching business so you have better results.

And, at the end, I’ll have a free download for you with a Coaching Business Checkup you can do quarterly to assess how you’re doing and what needs attention. It will be cool and super helpful!

#1 Target a Viable Audience

#2 Discover Their BIG Acute Problem And Top Goal

#3 Develop a Signature System To Reach Their Top Goal

#4 Design A Simple Business Model

#5 Create a Positive Customer Journey with Strong Conversion Processes

#6 Set Up Enrollment Opportunities and Learn How to Enroll

#7 Build Trust with a Visibility Strategy

#8 Create a Valuable Customer Experience and Collect Social Proof

#9 Set Up Internal Systems To Save Time

#10 Develop High Payoff Action Habits

There are other strategic things you can do. The list could be endless.

I believe that there are developmental phases for coaching business owners that are like building blocks. They should learned one phase at a time.

In fact, trying to implement strategies that are beyond your current phase of business development can trip you up and postpone success.

So I invite you to be patient and start with the foundation. This is what I do with new coaches in my VIP Coaching Business Breakthrough program.

I help you master those 10 strategies. If you’re struggling to create all the strategies you need for your coaching business, let’s talk.

In the Next Episode: How to Strategically Choose Your Coaching Niche

Ep 62 – Coach, Are You Focusing On The Right Things?

This episode is the first of a new series called Coaching Business Checkup.

In this series I’m going to detail the top reasons why coaches struggle to earn well and explain how to shift it.

STAY TUNED til the end of this series where I’ll give you access to a free downloadable checklist so you can give your business a checkup from time to time.

I’m starting off with something that covers a lot of ground … strategy.

Do you ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels and going nowhere despite staying busy in your coaching business?

That doesn’t feel good. You’re left scratching your head wondering what you’re doing wrong.

Well, first let me say I get it. I’ve been there. And you’re in good company if you feel this way.

Here’s the big question … are you doing the right things every day? I’m talking about efforts that will pay you back with clients and income?

There is so much out there to distract you. The bright shiny object syndrome is alive and well in the coaching community!

You see what another coach is doing and that sends you into a flurry of activity to implement something that may not work for you. It may not work for your target audience or fit with what you’ve already created.

All the puzzle pieces on the big board of business success don’t necessarily fit together.

You get bombarded with marketing for programs that promise 6 and 7 figures if you just try this simple tactic. It’s so tempting to leap for it thinking …

“Maybe this will give me traction.”

Yeah, maybe.

Or maybe it will be just another money and time taker with little results to show.

I’m embarrassed when I look back at how much money I spent on masterminds and online training programs that didn’t ultimately help me mainly because I didn’t have the foundation I needed to plug those tactics into for good results.

And most of those programs don’t have individualized support. Which is what we all need.

I have inside knowledge about what most coaches are spending their time on day to day. It looks something like this …

  • Researching and brushing up on coaching skills.
  • Looking at other coach’s websites.
  • Downloading every freebie that crosses their attention.
  • Writing blog posts and social posts without any real strategy.

Will those tasks pay off even in the long run?

I remember something I learned a long time ago that I take for granted because it’s so ingrained in my habits now. I want you to know about this so you can take the right actions and get results.

Take High Payoff Actions in Your Coaching Business Everyday

That’s the secret. I take 1 – 3 high payoff actions in my business every single day that I’m working. And it helps me cut way back on time and money wasting.

So, what is a high payoff action?

It’s an action that brings you significantly closer to achieving specific goals with measurable results. In other words, these are the actions that will make it happen!

If you want enough clients and revenue to clear a 6-figure profit this year, then daily high payoff actions are what will get you there.

3 Types of High Payoff Actions

  1. Make Life Changing Decisions
  2. Create Smart Strategies
  3. Continuously Implement Decisions and Strategies

Let’s take these one at a time.

#1 Life Changing Decisions

I believe that decisions are actions. Because nothing leaves you stuck like not deciding. Decisiveness is a top skill of the successful.

Life changing decisions are the kind that require great intention and commitment.

You made a life changing decision when you decided to become a professional coach and build a business of your own. That decision affected your career, your lifestyle and the way you’ll afford your lifestyle.

It also affects your family, friends, community and future clients.

Choosing a viable target audience and committing your coaching business to serving that group and their biggest problem is another life changing decision and high payoff action.

It’s a foundational piece that most coaches miss or misunderstand how to niche effectively. It leaves you floundering and unable to get traction.

Things that are not life changing decisions include things like what colors or images you put on your website or how pretty your business card is.

I’m not saying those things don’t influence your success. But in the scheme of things those are fleeting decisions that have little impact.

#2 Create Smart Strategies

Most coaches I meet for the first time have not strategically thought through their niche, brand, domain, web copy, social posts, and blogs or other content.

The idea of strategy was completely foreign to me when I started my business. Even now, if my efforts are foundering it’s usually because I didn’t do a good job strategizing.

Actions without strategy are busy work. And results will be low, slow and inconsistent.

That’s why I offer a single 90 minute Strategy Session in addition to my signature program for coaches. Because getting the strategy right is critical BEFORE you start slinging messages and offers around. And it’s easiest to strategize with someone who can be objective and see the bigger picture with some expertise about the territory you’re in.

A Strategy Session is perfect for making a life changing decision like choosing your target audience and niche.

If you’re stuck around something in your coaching business, let’s tackle it together. Grab a Strategy Session with me:

#3 Implement High Payoff Actions Every Day

This is where the rubber meets the road.

The truth about high payoff actions is they make you squirm a bit. They require courage and conviction.

For example:

  • Invite past clients to hire you again.
  • Reach out to someone who said ‘no’ before to see if they’ll say ‘yes’ now.
  • Set up Discovery Sessions with potential clients.
  • Contact a center of influence – the person who knows many people in your target audience – to develop a referral partnership. Have a strategy in mind.

Notice how all of these examples are about directly connecting with potential clients? There can be other types of high payoff actions.

But it really is about tolerating the squirm and doing the risky-feeling thing that could give you the quickest and biggest pay off.

If you’re doing things all day every day that are safe and easy it’s for one of two reasons:

  1. Either you’re an expert with vast experience with a well developed strategy.
  2. Or, you’re doing busy work just hoping it will eventually pay off.

Do a 30-day challenge! Develop a smart strategy for everything – blogging, podcasting, emails, social posts, public speaking.

Then every day take 1 – 3 high payoff actions – the actions that make you squirm a bit.

Evaluate after 30 days and see if you’re not in a better rhythm with better results.

Once you have this habit in place of completing 1 – 3 high payoff actions every day, you’ll have a bigger comfort zone because you’ll have begun to master strategic action.

In the Next Episode: 10 Ways To Be More Strategic In Your Coaching Business

Ep 60 – How To Price Your Signature Coaching Program

This episode is part of my Money Mastery series. It’s the follow on episode to How to Develop Your Signature Coaching Program. Consider listening to that first before this episode if you haven’t already.

Common Pricing Strategies and What Works Best for Coaching

I can think of 3 common pricing strategies for pricing:

  • Cost plus pricing – where you calculate your costs then mark up the program so it pays you well.
  • Competitive pricing – where you set your price based on your competition.
  • Value based pricing – where you set your price based on the value of your offer to the client.

I do encourage you to the do the math of what it will cost you to deliver your program. Most coaches miss this piece. And it’s quite eye opening to realize the cost of the time you spend getting a single client in addition to specific costs of marketing and inclusions in the program.

That said, to ultimately determine the cost of your program I prefer VALUE based pricing.

Here’s the reality, if you narrow to serve a viable audience and create a unique program based on market research, then your program probably doesn’t exist out there so competitive pricing or so called “market value” isn’t a useful guideline.

Also, few if any of your prospects are ever going to do cost comparisons, especially if you don’t sell coaching but rather offer a unique program.

Purchasing a program such as I suggest you create is an emotional decision.

They will hear or see your message. Their trust in you builds because you’ve struck a resonant chord with all that you’re doing.

Then, they go to your website, which is hopefully already designed as a client winning coaching website not an online brochure. On that website are beautifully streamlined words and conversion processes that gently encourage visitors to have a Discovery Session with you.

All of this is thoughtfully coordinated and strategized but in a non-salesy way to build trust with potential clients rather than trying to convince them about the value of coaching.

They hire you because they like you and trust you. You’ve been in front of them with valuable content and your website reinforces that. Then, in the Discovery Session you lovingly assess if they are a good fit for your program and enroll them.

You don’t want to sell people – to have to convince them to hire you. It’s unsavory. It makes you feel skeevy.

But if you have a signature program that you have thoughtfully crafted to fit their circumstances, their pain and desires then no hard sell is necessary. You do need to ask them to enroll though. ; )

The Mystery of Odd Numbered Pricing

You’ve no doubt seen that a lot of people use odd numbered pricing where prices end with 5, 7, or 9. For example, a long-term high value program might be priced at $5,975 for a 5-month program or an online training might be priced at $697.

Early on in my coaching business I eschewed that whole odd number practice and priced evenly. $5,000 instead of $4,975. $500 instead of $497.

And I struggled to enroll clients. I’m not saying there may not have been other factors involved.

And then, I looked around at the people I admired that offered mentoring, coaching and training. I noticed they were all using odd numbered pricing. I switched and immediately saw a difference in my revenues.

Weird? Yes. But we as human beings have been trained all our lives on odd numbered pricing and it’s ingrained. There’s an emotional response to it even if it’s not logical.

That said, if you have an issue with it, do your own testing.

Encourage Single Payment Investment

With your Signature Program, encourage or incentivize a single payment investment by creating significant savings over a payment plan.

For example, if your 4 month program is $3,995 for a single payment. Make the payment plan total roughly 25% higher. So, 4 payments of $1,249 paid at the beginning of each month — which adds to $4,996 — is over $1,000 more than the single payment.

Incentivizing a single payment helps both you and your clients in these ways:

  • They invest once rather than continually making payments, which is an irritant.
  • They are not focused on the financial investment but rather fully focusing their energy on transformation.
  • Also, bundled programs like I’m suggesting don’t deliver value in even amounts month to month.

My own 5-month Coaching Business Breakthrough program is front loaded with value. The first 2 – 3 months, depending on the pace of my client, are where I’ll deliver the most support and assistance to create everything for their coaching business. The last two months are less labor intensive because we’ve completed the bigger milestones.

It’s a risk for you if someone pays monthly and drops out in the early months.

In the last 17 years, 90% of my clients have paid the single payment up front for my signature program. I’ve noticed that those who opted for the payment plan often became difficult clients because they were not as committed to their own success.

I think that’s because they weren’t fully invested up front. They had one foot out from the start. A part of them didn’t believe in themselves up front. And a part them wasn’t fully ready to have a business yet.

In the last 5 years none of my clients has opted for the payment plan.

When people want something enough

they find a way to make it happen.

And just that mindset and action empowers them significantly!

Should You Have Tiered Pricing?

One last thing about pricing … some people advocate having tiered pricing.

I say no. You’ll do better if you direct clients to your Signature Program and stand behind it.

  • First, a confused mind never buys. The more offers you have that you’re marketing at one time, the less likely someone will enroll.
  • Also, remember … don’t sell coaching. It’s a hard sell.
  • Do coaching with paying clients who have enrolled into a program they know they want.
  • And, the more people you sell into your signature program the more you earn doing exactly what you love.

If you want to create lower priced programs than your Signature Program, consider making them altogether different. For example, offer an online program about a different thing your target audience wants help with. It’s not only different in focus but also different in format.

Sell it as a down sell only after someone firmly turns down your Signature Program. That way you don’t set up competition for the program you most want to deliver.

But consider, that you don’t really need to have other offers besides a free downloadable offer so you can build rapport and stay in touch with your network unless you’re prepared to create a separate way to attract potential clients to that offer.

This and the episode before it were an episode loaded with tips. Consider listening to them again and please share it with fellow coaches. So many struggle with this piece.

Also, if you want help to create your entire business foundation with everything I’ve talked about in these episodes, go to prosperouscoach.com/VIP and tell me about you.

We’ll have a conversation about what you want and what’s been in the way to see if you’re ready for a coaching business breakthrough.

In the Next Episode: Get Out Of Your Own Way To Earn More As A Coach

Ep 59 – How To Develop Your Signature Coaching Program

This episode is part of my Money Mastery series. The series has been getting great response from listeners.

About episode 58 —planning for profit in your coaching business — Roger said he had several takeaways:

  • Having a real understanding of the stages of business.
  • The idea to set an expense budget.
  • “The big one is that I realize I was relying on my part time paid employment to support my coaching business as more of a hobby. So I have a shift now into thinking of it as more of a business and your great tip of taking a salary from my coaching business to pay bills will be fantastic.”

Thanks for sharing that, Roger!

Today’s episode is about a better way to package a coaching program and earn more than by the session or group of sessions.

First, let’s talk about schools of thought. There are schools of thought about everything.

If you’re still in coach training some trainers may insist that coaching should not be programmed. In other words, you shouldn’t create an offer other than coaching sessions because it means that you take away the coach’s agenda.

If you’ve been listening to me for a while you know I believe that you can both serve a client’s agenda AND offer a specific program for a specific audience that solves their biggest problem and gets them where they want to go.

After 22 years of experience in my own coaching business and helping hundreds of coaches reach financial success in their businesses in my private VIP program, I know that selling coaching by the session only may keep you at poverty income levels.

So what is a better way that helps you earn well as a coach? I’ve been leading to this in the previous episodes so I hope you’ll listen to those too.

Create a Customized VIP Program

This is what I help all my clients create.

It helps the coach feel confident they have something of value to offer. They learn to articulate what they do in meaningful terms and without the agony of trying to convince people to buy coaching.

Of course, like all successful aspects of a coaching business, creating this program has critical steps that go before.

  1. It begins by targeting a viable audience – one that’s full of seekers – people who do invest in their professional and personal growth.
  2. Next you uncover their biggest known problems and the ultimate outcome they want to achieve. That becomes your coaching niche.
  3. Then, you put together a signature program tailor made to that audience. Your program has a clear set of milestones that you’ll help your clients achieve on the way to that ultimate desired outcome.
  4. Then, you learn how to articulate that to prospects in a way that’s benefit rich, supplying them with assurance of both tangible or concrete and intangible or emotional things they’d like to achieve with your help. That there is a structure in your program helps them to trust you and feel inspired to invest.
  5. Lastly, you need a strategy to attract clients, build trust and rapport, then gently send them through a conversion process, sometimes called a funnel, so they are motivated to have a Discovery Session with you, where you’ll enroll them.

Getting all of this done isn’t easy by yourself.

It helps to have a guide like me help you with all the steps no matter how big or small.

Examples of VIP Coaching Programs

For example, let’s say you’re a relationship coach helping people to find their soul mate. Your program might include the following milestones – takeaways you’ll help your clients achieve:

  • Identifying personal values and partnership values. What are their must haves and deal breakers in their life partnership?
  • Getting ready for a partner. What are their strengths but also habits and behaviors in need of adjustment? What are their limiting beliefs about relationships? You might even have something like a life makeover in your program.
  • Setting first date goals. Helping them set personal boundaries and show up with confidence.
  • Discovering the best places to meet people and connect.

There’s a clear arc to the program and plenty of opportunity for the client to bring the agenda to sessions. This structure is more about helping prospects feel confident to work with you.

Or, let’s say you’re a leadership coach and target HR leaders to gain greater impact in their role – something you’ve discovered from market research that’s a top goal of HR leaders. Your program’s milestones might include:

  1. Creating a vision for the impact they wish to make.
  2. Identifying what’s been in the way.
  3. Uncovering their professional strengths and learning how to leverage them.
  4. Identifying skills and behaviors that need attention and areas to stretch.
  5. Develop good habits to strengthen their resilience, mindset and competencies.
  6. Building their rapport, identifying sponsors and other relationships that would help their star rise.
  7. Helping them develop a thicker skin and become bolder in meetings.

You can see that the focus in these descriptions is not about you and your skills as the coach. It’s about the target audience and what they want. But at the same time these kinds of milestones are what all coaches can help their clients achieve.

Either of these programs could be a 4 – 6 months or longer.

Bundle Significant Value Into The Program

So far in your coaching business you might be simply trying to convince a client to hook on … to want coaching and be willing to invest in a certain number of sessions up front.

It’s painful. And it’s without context especially if you haven’t narrowed to a viable audience, done market research and discovered what your audience wants so much they’d be willing to invest in your help to get it.

Programming your coaching into a VIP program creates a context for why a person would want to invest at a high level in their future success. And, you can develop this program without even using the word “coaching”. That’s your toolbox not an outcome they know they want.

Identify What They’ll Get In Your Coaching Program

The next step for creating your program is to identify the features. What do they get when they invest in the program? Consider bundling some of these things into your program:

  • A certain number of private sessions, say 10 – 18 sessions depending on length of your program, your preferences, and what it takes to achieve the goals
  • A certain number of group sessions or access to a closed Facebook group for community support
  • Annual retreats
  • Half or full VIP day where they fly out to work with you face to face on some aspect
  • Unlimited emails to you
  • Session recaps
  • Pre-created guides, forms or assessments to ease a process.

These things still involve coaching and coaching skills. But they add excitement to a program and help justify the fees to enroll.

In the Next Episode: How to Price Your Signature Coaching Program