Ep 35 – 2 Powerful Shifts To Enroll More Committed Coaching Clients

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:

  1. Sometimes clients disappear without notice.
  2. 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!

Ep 31 – The Coaching Niche of Least Resistance

This episode is another ON AIR Coaching Session where I coach a coach to help her click on the certainty button for a unique target audience and then we formulate their coaching niche.

It’s clear from reviews that you really like these coach the coach sessions, so it’s my goal to do one every month.

Ellen Fowler has worked in the field of training, organizational and leadership development for over 25 years. Her experience includes work in the public and private sectors as well as academia.

She lived and worked in Ireland for 12 years, so she has firsthand understanding of the challenges of cultural diversity and radical life change.

She is also an ordained Christian minister. Ellen’s career has always involved working with individuals whether as a counselor, teacher, consultant or coach.

When I help coaches choose a profitable coaching niche, I always start by asking about their background so I can guide them to pull in experience, expertise, interests, gifts and passions into their niche.

Ellen’s background includes:

  • Itinerant minister
  • Training and organizational & leadership development
  • Change & diversity management
  • Teaching adults returning to the workplace on how to make their companies more efficient

Want to Be An Entrepreneurial Coach?

Then, I asked Ellen if she was interested in being an entrepreneur because it’s a certain type of person who does.

Ellen wants to run her own business because she wants it to be portable so she can travel. However, she feels a bit intimidated by the marketing side of things.

I was intimidated by marketing at first but when I learned to put the spotlight on exactly what my target audience wants, it became fun.

Two Potential Audiences That Seem Equal

Ellen had 2 main ideas for her target audience:

  • Mid-career professional women
  • Church leaders

I asked Ellen if it was okay with her if we focused on Church Leaders as a possible target audience first.

I made this choice for 4 reasons:

  • Ellen is an ordained minister and much of her career has been as a church leader. I felt that gave her credibility and gravitas with this audience.
  • Her faith is very important to her.
  • She’s currently coaching 10 clergy and staff from a church group in Pennsylvania and getting more referrals from that group. So she already has a toehold there.
  • She loves the work she’s doing with this audience.

Ellen shared that the work she’s doing with the Church Leaders is based on an instrument called Human Synergistics that she’s certified to use. It helps people identify effective and not so effective behaviors in the workplace and to develop action plans for changing those.

Is The Target Audience Viable for You?

I also felt that the audience — mid-career professional women — is not the most viable audience for Ellen because:

  • They are in corporations and hard to access.
  • They might expect their company to pay for coaching, and that’s an uphill battle to get a foot in the door with corporations.
  • There’s a lot of competition and marketplace noise for that audience already.

Passion and Fit Are The Best Coaching Niche Indicators

I asked Ellen:

What do you love about working with clergy and what do you enjoy about the Human Synergistics instrument?

As Ellen described how she uses Human Synergistics in her work with clergy, I heard her enthusiasm louder than her words.

Then, I wanted to check whether Ellen was earning well with this current gig with clergy because more and more it was sounding like a viable audience for Ellen.

Ellen explained that she felt blessed because the way she was connected with this particular group was that the church leader who hired her was part of the Human Synergistics training she took. He said:  “I’d like you to do some work for me.”

And he gave her carte blanche about what she’d do with the staff and how she’d price.

Right time – right place opportunities happen when you target a unique audience and focus your niche on their big problems.

So, I bee-lined to the bottomline question:

“Ellen, of the two audiences — church leaders or mid-career professional women, which is more attractive to you?”

Ellen said that she could go both ways. Her inability to commit comes down to how she’ll get in front of the audiences.

I spoke to the difficulty with gaining entry to corporations where with her background and current active church leader clients she already has a strong entry place.

I pointed out that if she were to have an international business, especially with her desire to travel and her experience in other countries, that the pond to fish in would be bigger. She could target larger churches and religious organizations with bigger coffers.

I explained that the Church Leader audience would likely mean more offline marketing than online marketing. I asked how she’d feel about that and she said:

“Oh, I like that!” More enthusiasm.

I pointed out that that’s the old fashioned way, right? Not everyone has to use social media channels to build their business.

  • Ellen knows this world.
  • She understands their challenges and goals first hand.
  • She’ll be able to speak their language.
  • They’ll be more accessible because she’s been in their shoes.
  • And she’ll have testimonials from her 10 current clients.

For Ellen, the other audience is less viable. Viability is determined by 5 factors:

  • Easy to find
  • Easy to access
  • Eager to evolve
  • Willing to invest
  • Narrow enough (to help you stand out in the crowd)

Ellen added another key reason that Church Leaders are more ideal for her that spoke loud and clear:

“The spiritual side of life is really a bonus for me.”

I asked Ellen to do a check in with herself. Is church leaders the audience she can get fully behind with your heart, mind and spirit?

“Yes!”

Beautiful!

Then we shifted to talking about her niche for a moment … I asked Ellen what is the number one challenge and what is the number one tangible desired outcome that church leaders want?

Ellen said the most acute thing is how to avoid burnout. There’s always somebody needing something and they’re often understaffed and overworked. They feel called to the work, so it’s a burden of responsibility. They get into it because they want to help other people transform.

Burnout can begin to wear away their faith, which is critical for their position.

She felt the Human Synergistic instrument is a so effective in uncovering what’s really going on for the leader and the team.

Each time that Ellen spoke about Church Leaders and working with them I heard passion and compassion — a depth of understanding and certainty that she could help them thrive with her knowledge and the instruments she’s trained in.

She said: “Thank you, Rhonda, for helping me think it through it. It’s been really enlightening.”

The Next Episode is: Would You Buy Your Own Coaching Program?

Ep 21 – How to Spot the Right Opportunities for Your Coaching Business

I’m grateful to all the regular and new listeners. You have been helping me rock this podcast by sharing comments about the topics you like and the new things you want me to talk about.

To keep the conversation going, I’ve just started a Facebook community for subscribers of my podcast called Prosperous Coach Club. It’s a safe place to share wins or challenges — anything about you and your coaching business. We’re a friendly, supportive, non-promotional group. Join us! Go to prosperoucoach.com/fb to join.

This episode is in the Smart Mindsets & Habits series, and it is Part 2 about how to selectively and wisely decide when to say ‘yes’ to coaching business opportunities. It’s about teaching yourself to stand in your power and answer from your highest self.

Part 1 was about how to breakthrough the bright shiny object syndrome so that you’re not wasting money on webinars, online programs or masterminds that you’re not ready for yet. That’s probably because your business foundation isn’t solid yet. I know that’s frustrating and it’s a good time to stop and get that all nailed down before getting into advanced business programs.

Many of you have been letting me know that that episode hit the mark. Thank you for reaching out. I love hearing from you.

Ellen wrote to me: I’ve taken many courses and been part of many mastermind groups and webinars but it’s all come to naught because I haven’t converted that learning into practical actions. That’s because I’ve been struggling to figure out who I’m called to serve and what pain point or problem I’m trying to solve.”

As it turned out, Ellen grabbed a strategy session with me and we quickly figured out her ideal target audience plus the problem she’ll help them solve. At the end of the session she said: “Rhonda, that was amazing! I can’t believe what we came up with. I came in confused about my niche and wanted a plan of what to do next. And I got all of that!”

Ellen, that makes me so happy!

So if you want to solidify any aspect of your business foundation — your audience, your niche, your business model — don’t struggle and try to figure that out on your own. Grab a Strategy Session and let’s nail that down for you. You can find that on today’s show notes at prosperouscoach.com/21

Distraction Slows Down Your Coaching Success

Today we’re digging into other types of offers you might be getting as a coach. For example, let’s say someone emailed offering you:

  • a radio show program
  • a feature in a magazine
  • promising to get you leads
  • another coach wants to collaborate with you

When offers like this come in, it’s elating. There’s this sense of “I’m not having to do everything myself!” Someone is saying they’ll pave the road for you. And it’s really tempting to say ‘Yes’.

But are these opportunities right for you? Especially for the stage of business you’re in.

If you’re in startup mode — that’s the first 18 months or so of your business — it’s all about solidifying your business foundation. You are:

The learning curve is high and while you’re doing all of this you’re also figuring yourself out as a coach, as a business owner.

And for that reason it’s a vulnerable time too.

The potential for distraction and getting pulled off course is high. Some diversions will muddy your vision, waste your resources and set you back.

But what if do feel you’re ready and one of these offers is your breakthrough moment?

How can you discern between the good opportunities and the right opportunities?

Early on in my business I was endlessly distracted. Do you know what I mean?

There was so much stuff in my inbox, my head would spin.

One national radio program courted me saying they wanted to put my business on the map. I was so thrilled! I got so excited I told everyone about it even before I did the due diligence to see if it was legit.

But I’ll admit something didn’t feel quite right.

And it turned out it was only going to cost me $5000. Well, at least I said ‘no’ to that one.

I was offered spreads in online magazines. And there were all sorts of business clearing houses offering a listing on their site for coaches that supposedly had hundreds of thousands of web hits every month. Organizations asked me to speak at their lunch and learn groups and at association meetings.

And I’m truly embarrassed now at how many of these thing I jumped at.

I poured my heart into them. Most of them took me off track. And no clients or sales came out of any of those “opportunities”.

In retrospect none of them truly aligned with my business. They didn’t help me build credibility with my target audience and they didn’t help me build my list.

The organizations were just filling their slate. I helped them but they did not help me.

I finally realized that I needed to set some guidelines for myself. I call them Success Criteria.

Smart Success Criteria

It’s sort of a checklist. Before I say “yes” to any opportunity I ask myself a set of questions. And it starts with 3 anchor questions.

Do I have a good feeling about the people offering this?

Does it align with my integrity and values?

Does it put me in front of my target audience?

If ‘no’ to anything above then I say ‘No’ to the opportunity.

If ‘yes’ I ask myself:

If there’s a financial investment can I easily offset that with 1 enrollment?

Does it allow me to point people to my website for a valuable download?

If ‘no’, I say ‘no’.

If ‘yes’, I consider my current profit margins and also ask myself:

Will doing this build my credibility and brand?

Will I create things for this that I can repurpose elsewhere?

If ‘yes’ and profit margins look good, I say ‘YES!’

Be True to Your Coaching Business

When I put this success criteria in place I also made an agreement to let it guide me 100%. I stuck with it. And that paid off for me.

Not only did I stop having indecision and regret but I also found that it really set my business up for success every time.

Everything I said no to, I ended up feeling I dodged a bullet. Everything I said yes to, returned high value to me.

And then I started get better opportunities. It’s as if I trained the Universe.

I’m an old hand at this now and come to most decisions by simply checking in with my body.

Pressure Means No

If I ever feel uncertain, I take my time. I let a couple of days pass then check in again.

I never make a snap YES decision because I only have so much time and I want to maximize the return for that time.

The reality is that any quality organization or person will give you time to make a smart decision. If you’re feeling pressured, then your answer is ‘NO’.

Now I want you to make your own Success Criteria. And then stay true to them!

And, feel free to share your Success Criteria with me.

I’ve just started a Facebook community for subscribers of my podcast called Prosperous Coach Club. It’s a safe place for coaches where you can share things like this plus any wins or challenges. We’re a friendly, supportive, non-promotional group. Join us! Go to prosperouscoach.com/fb to join.

The Next Episode is: Why Should a Coach Do Market Research?