This episode is an ON AIR Coaching Session with David Smith.
David Smith is a Washington DC – based career coach. He is a
Fulbright scholar. After 30 years in law, as a University professor and overseas working for a think tank, he came to
realize that his collective experiences provide insight into inside DC careers.
For two years he has coaching two different audiences:
- people 20 – 30 emerging into international or policy based careers inside the beltway
- people 50+ looking for their encore career
Two Problems Related to Coaching Client Engagement
David said he was looking for some wisdom. Specifically he was having two challenges in his coaching business:
- Sometimes clients disappear without notice.
- Younger clientele are difficult to engage into a longer term coaching relationship.
These classic challenges are related. And both are things that David can fix with a shift in his approach to enrolling.
I asked David to describe what he tells prospects about his offer.
He offers a Discovery Session and admitted to a common problem coaches have … over-delivering in the discovery call.
Shift #1: Stop Coaching in Discovery Sessions
Some coaches offer a sample coaching session to enroll clients. I used to do this myself and found that, much of the time, prospects would walk away from that experience feeling satisfied and uninterested in taking a next step.
I was so intent on showing my value that I over-delivered. And the prospect would say: “Thanks!” But she had no interest in taking a next step.
Can you relate to that challenge?
I remember feeling sort of demoralized by the lack of interest in coaching, something I felt so passionate about.
That’s because coaching is a hard sell.
People don’t wake up knowing that they want coaching. Instead they seek out solutions to specific problems.
So, unless you’re offering a sample coaching session that focuses on a very specific coaching niche — a specific solution to a specific problem — then your sample coaching session is going to feel general and not highly relevant to people.
Even if you have a specific niche, a sample session isn’t the most effective tool for enrolling a committed long term coaching client who pays you well. Because the tendency to perform and over-deliver is strong in that type of session.
When I shifted away from offering sample coaching sessions to offering discovery calls, I immediately started enrolling more ideal clients and earning more from coaching.
Here’s the thing … a Discovery Session isn’t meant to be a coaching session.
You can absolutely use the coaching tools of asking powerful questions and listening in a Discovery Session. But you don’t want to step into the Co-Creative Relationship with a prospect because they have not paid a fee for the coaching. That’s part of the client’s responsibility.
Instead, a Discovery Session is a get-to-know-you call. Ultimately, it’s about assessing fit between the coach and prospect.
David knew this. He just had not framed the Discovery Session that way to prospects. And, because he is passionate about helping his prospects he would “give away the farm”.
In your Discovery Sessions ask powerful open-ended questions to:
- Learn basic information about your potential client, especially as it relates to your niche — the specific problem you solve for a specific target audience.
- Connect the prospect emotionally to what they want most and what’s in the way of that outcome.
Then, once you’ve heard all you need to hear to fully understand what motivates your prospect and what’s been holding them back, share how you work with clients.
And this is where my second recommendation to David came in.
Shift #2: Offer a Signature Program Tailor Made to Your Target Audience
David has been charging for session-by-session coaching.
No wonder he was having trouble with clients “ghosting” and not responded to his check ins!
Part of David’s background was as a lawyer where most clients would pay an hourly rate. So it’s understandable that this is the practice David applied to his coaching business.
When I started as a coach, I charged for monthly coaching and I had similar challenges where clients would suddenly disappear.
Have you ever experienced something like that?
You’re going along, thinking you’re doing good work together and then suddenly the client doesn’t show up or respond to emails.
It’s weird. And it feels awful!
But then I realized that, monthly or session-by-session coaching isn’t positioned well. It’s not oriented around big enough outcomes for clients. So they aren’t motivated to keep it up.
More on that in a minute …
For now, what is a Signature Program and how can it possibly work with coaching?
It works better than you might think.
You can still let clients bring the agenda. You still use coaching skills to serve them. The difference happens when you enroll clients.
Instead of selling coaching when you have a Discovery Session, you’ll connect the desired outcomes and challenges your client is having to a structured program.
Milestones Are the Secret to Enrolling Long Term Coaching Clients
Let’s say you’re a coach and you want to be successful but it’s not working out the way you thought it would.
And then you hear about this podcast that supplies all sorts of helpful tidbits about mindset, habits, tactics and strategies to build your business.
You realize this person putting out these episodes could help you. So you go to her website, check her out and there’s even more free valuable information there. You fill out the form on the website. And you’re invited to a Discovery Session.
In that Discovery Session, you’re asked a bunch of powerful questions that help you articulate what you really want and what’s been in the way of that.
And then, you hear that there’s a program you can enroll in that would help you accomplish all the tasks you’ve been struggling to do on your own. It’s accomplishing those milestones in a step by step fully supported way that turns you on.
So you go for it. You enroll into that Signature Program because it’s clear there’s a structure and it’s thought through.
On the other hand, if in that Discovery Session you heard that you could have session-by-session or monthly coaching and no milestones or outcomes were clearly laid out as part of the value, you might just walk away.
Because you weren’t inspired.
It’s All Related to Target Audience and Coaching Niche
The reality is, you cannot create a Signature Program as a coach until you:
- Have narrowed to a specific target audience.
- You know exactly what they want so much they’ll invest in help to get it.
- And you’ve made it your niche to help that audience achieve that goal or set of goals.
I invited David to eliminate one of his two audiences, because having two was keeping him from creating a Signature Program. It was keeping him from getting specific on his website, in his marketing and Discovery Sessions.
Even people who referred clients to him would be able to send him ideal clients if he would target only one audience.
An amazing bunch of things happen when you target a specific niche and make sure that everything you do — every email, social post, your web copy, your free offer, your programs — are tailor made for that audience.
You KNOW exactly what they want and what’s challenging them.
And that intel, applied to every aspect of your coaching business, makes the difference between whether you succeed and earn well or not.
It also would solve David’s two problems.
Once a client is enrolled into a Signature Program and they invest up front for the whole thing, their mindset shifts.
No longer will they think “Okay, I’ve gotta pay for another session with David.” Instead, they are thinking:“I’m on a complicated journey and David is helping me get there, step by step with ease and grace.”
David agreed he’d drop the older audience he was working with because his passion was about helping young people emerging into international or policy based careers.
David reported feeling great after our session. His mind was buzzing with ideas for his Signature Program and he sounded determined to make the 2 shifts that would solve his 2 challenges.
If you are challenged with attracting, enrolling and keeping ideal clients, consider having a Strategy Session with me.
One session could make the difference between being paralyzed and confused and surging forward in your business with confidence.
I would love to work with you!
In the Next Episode: 10 Big Questions for Intake with Your Coaching Clients