Prickly Predicament: The “Dog Ate My Homework” Client

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

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

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

Putting Responsibility Where It Belongs

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

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

Be prepared to redesign the terms of the assignment.

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

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

One Last Tip: Don’t Lose Another Week

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

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

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

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

Posted in: branching out

Marketing Venue: The Coaching Salon

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

Choosing a Location

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

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

Potential hosts could include, for example:

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

Getting Ready for Your Event

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

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

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

Structuring Your Salon

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

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

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

Posted in: branching out

Thorny Situation: The Unprepared Client

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

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

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

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

Posted in: branching out

What’s the Key to Your Marketing Success?

When you want to increase your visibility, do you prefer writing, speaking or in-person networking? There are many strategies you can use to increase exposure to, and connection with, your target audience, but none is better than… a combination of several!

And although there are several communication channels you could pursue in addition to the ones I’ve mentioned, most marketing experts will tell you that:

  1. Writing, speaking and networking are the “Big Three.”
  2. The bottom-line success of your business depends on your ability to tap into the ones that play to your strengths.
  3. The more communications vehicles you weave together effectively, the greater the chance of your business succeeding.

As you consider how to make the best use of this information, here are some questions you can ask yourself: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in: branching out

The “I Don’t Know” Client

Although there are numerous reasons a client might respond to a question with “I don’t know,” many of them seem to fit into one of three categories:

  1. They’re lost or don’t understand the question.
  2. They’re overwhelmed by the number of answers that occur to them.
  3. They’re afraid to acknowledge the truths that surface (for example, they might not trust they have the resources to handle “going there”).

As a coach, the first two items are fairly straightforward to address. You can:

  1. Ask where they got lost, and if necessary, repeat, paraphrase or dismantle the question.
  2. Invite them to sit with the uncomfortable feeling and notice what comes up. Reflect and validate what surfaces; then help them lean into the wisdom of higher self or a series of perspectives. This often provides enough clarity and insight to reveal best next steps.

The third situation, however, can feel murkier. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in: branching out

Group Coaching

Do two or more people in your network share a common concern?

Do you have a topic in mind that would compel a
small group to get together and address it?

Do you know a virtual or physical “place” your ideal clients spend
time, where you could mention a group you’re starting?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could start your own group coaching program today.

When I first mention group programs, many coaches are intimidated. But group coaching doesn’t have to be complicated or scary. Here are a few tidbits I share with clients, as they begin to plan for their first group Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in: branching out

How Do I Respond To “I Can’t Afford It?”

Tough economic times can make it a challenge to keep your business thriving. But most coaches can agree there’s still work out there for coaches who market well and deliver results. Whether new coach or vet, however, every coach eventually encounters a prospect who responds to their program with “It sounds fantastic, but I can’t afford it.”

What’s the best way to deal with this issue?

If we re-evaluate how we structure a sample session, in most cases, we can avoid the issue altogether Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in: branching out

Lunch-and-Learns

You may have heard it before, but it bears repeating:

  • The more exposure you get, the more relationships you forge. The more relationships you forge, the more people get to know, like and trust you.
  • A potential client who comes to know, like and trust you has just become a qualified prospect.

Why do we hear this over and over? Because many coaches get too little exposure to effectively fill their marketing pipelines. And that directly affects their bottom line. In fact, the most common complaint I hear from my clients is that they have to spend way too much time and money on marketing just to maintain a steady stream of prospects (let alone actual paying clients!).

It’s fair to assume coaches have to spend *some* of their resources on marketing efforts, but if it gets to be “too much,” it’s probably a sign that the ways you’re marketing aren’t efficient enough – that is, they have too high a cost for each lead they bring in.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.

About Lunch-and-Learns

Also known as “Brown Bags,” or “Noontime Academies,” Lunch-and-Learns are short, easy, get-your-foot-in-the-door presentations you offer inside the four walls of a target organization. You make a brief, lunchtime presentation to the people you hope to work with, based on topics that address their core concerns.

The goal of the presentation, which you’d typically give for free (or nearly free), is to inspire enthusiasm for your services from inside the organization’s ranks. Since you provide value directly to your potential clients, the company benefits by getting a small (but meaningful) sample of your services at little to no cost.

Here are some tips for making your sessions most effective: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in: branching out