February 28, 2018
I started writing this series for a couple of reasons. The first was personal: I had a coach come to me that was devastated after losing 4 clients in a month. We looked at she was doing, and I helped her come up with a strategy for preventing that from ever happening again.
I’m also writing it because of my heart for coaches. Anyone who knows me knows how deeply I believe in coaching and how much I truly enjoy mentoring coaches all over the world. I literally worked with 1000’s of coaches over the past several years, but nothing has given me the satisfaction of mentoring 100’s of coaches through Jumpstart Your Coaching Practice. Most schools focus on coaching proficiency, but the biggest hole in the coaching profession is on the business side of coaching. And I can’t even begin to tell you how it feels to work with a new coach who starts with so many questions, so many inward disqualifiers, and watch them emerge as a confident coach that commands the kind of fees that most coaches don’t even 5-10 years into their careers.
But on the subject of retaining clients this week…
Consistency is an underappreciated aspect of coaching. I mean, the word “consistency” isn’t even an attractive word. Look at the title of this blog. Did it make you want to read it? Personally, it wouldn’t move me.
I think it’s pretty normal for especially new coaches when they are starting out to be calibrating, trying to figure out what works, getting their bearings, and looking for a process that works for them. But what normally escapes them is the need for consistency in order to be credible, effective, and to scale their businesses as they grow.
When I’m talking about consistency, we can pretty easily boil it down to these 3 things:
Coaching is a relationship, and, in fact, most coaching relationships are very friendly composed of friendly conversations. And pretty much all of the coaches I know are highly relational beings.
But what happens when it comes to time with friends? When it feels more like a relationship than it does business?
Well, frankly time is often one of those things that are violated.
What are the places where time is usually violated with coaches:
New coaches in particular will allow the meeting time to kind of bounce around. It feels a bit formal and a bit too businessy to have a consistent time, but, if you’re going to help your client get breakthrough while growing your business, time is going to be a place where you’re going to have to be a stickler.
Don’t be afraid to make your time consistent – same time, same day of the week.
Things that are the most important to you get your time, and those times are always set in the schedule. Think of your job. Your job starts at a certain time and ends at a certain time. This is true for all the big rocks in their life: they have their place.
Now think about the things that don’t get a set time like dating your spouse. If it’s not set, then it probably doesn’t happen.
So train your client to regard this opportunity to meet with you as a top priority where time needs to be reserved.
Additionally, if your time is flexible where a client can just change times every week and you’re attempting to accommodate it, then your client will just think you must have plenty of it and your time won’t be perceived as valuable.
Things happen and sometimes you’ll have to change the time, but don’t allow that time to be flexible or easily changed.
Schedule your calendar way in advance.
Don’t try to schedule with your client on a off day or week in-between appointments. Don’t schedule week-to-week when you meet. It’s not a problem to confirm, but sync your calendars. Use your smart phone if you have one to make sure that you’re both looking at the same thing.
Have a frank conversation with your client ahead of time about showing up late, last minute cancellations, and no-shows.
I tell our Jumpstart coaches all the time, have this discussion and include it in your coaching agreement. We know that emergencies happen, but if it’s not an emergency, you should still get paid if a client no-shows. If a client is 15 minutes late, they should not expect you to hang with them with an extra 15 minutes of time.
I know that a lot of new coaches feel awkward about this, but you actually do get paid for your time.
Think about your doctor: you’d never just no-show, show up late and expect them to accommodate you, or any of those sorts of things. Why? Because you respect them, and they’ve trained you to value their time.
The way you honor yourself with regard to your time will make your client trust and value you more.
Start on time and end on time.
Part of valuing you as a coach and even valuing the client is starting on time and ending on time. I realize most coaches are very relational, but you don’t have to spend the first 15 minutes sharing pleasantries. Clients will follow your lead and will appreciate jumping in, having an effective conversation, and getting out of there on time.
I’ll say more about this in a minute when we talk about process.
One of the great things about being a coach is that there is great flexibility as to where you meet. It’s not really necessary to have your own office space. Part of that is due to the fact that we’re not having conversations that require the kind of confidentiality that a counseling or therapy session requires.
The space you meet really gets chosen by the preference of both the coach and client. In most cases spaces like cafes or coffee shops work fine, just make sure the client likes the spot and that it’s not a distraction for you as a coach.
Keep the meeting space consistent. Know where you’re going to meet, and make sure you know the schedules of a the places you’re going to meet.
I remember one of my first clients and I would meet at a Starbucks near my house. It was really convenient – most of the time! It was pretty embarrassing a couple of times we met and the place was packed which forced us to drive to another location.
So choose your place wisely, and be consistent with the location as you eliminate the confusion that multiple locations can choose.
Additionally, you’ll be seen as more professional when you’re not changing up things.
A moment ago, I talked about the importance of starting and ending on time. One of the ways you get there is with a consistent process.
Like I said, you need to reduce the amount of time that you spend on pleasantries so that you can make effective use of your time.
More importantly, your job as a coach is to help the client get clarity and take action steps every time you meet. Like we say in our Life Coach Certification Course, if you meet and the client walks away without action steps, it wasn’t coaching, it was just a good conversation.
There is not a defined process that every coach should follow though there are a number of templates that can keep you on track. That gives you a lot of freedom to choose what works for you. But you have to choose something.
As the coach, you’re the guide in the conversation. It’s okay to interrupt a client if they are going on an on with a story. Keep them on track; be a little pushy, and move them towards possible solutions.
You don’t owe them 15 minutes more to quickly come up with action items after the time wasn’t used efficiently because they were long-winded. You owe it to them to stay on point, on track, and to crush it with a couple of minutes to spare. And you can do it!
If you do this, the client will consistently feel like they are getting results. You’ll be able to track their process, and you’ll be able to celebrate their success in future sessions.
Coaches who are consistent won’t have flakey clients because they won’t attract them and they won’t create a relationship where it’s okay just to blow things off.