“Getting A Powerful ‘Yes’ – How to Enroll Clients to Fill Your Practice With Ease” is one of my absolute favorite topics to talk to coaches (and “coach-like” entrepreneurs) about, as it is one of the cornerstones to building a healthy, sustainable coaching practice.
It is also one of the biggest challenges my prospects come to me for and one of the skills they know they need to master.
Unfortunately, most coaching schools don’t give much guidance or support in this arena and what direction they give often doesn’t help create mastery with client enrollment. As a result, it is my mission to give this talk to as many coaches as I can so that great coaches can start powerfully enrolling their ideal clients into their business.
I’d like to share some of the biggest missteps that coaches make when it comes to enrolling new clients, as my client enrollment philosophy and methodology was designed based on the feedback I got from hundreds of coaches about what wasn’t working and what worked when they tried to enroll clients, as well as best practices within the consulting, consultative selling and coaching communities.
Here are the 5 biggest missteps in client enrollment (and what to do instead):
1. Giving a “Free Sample Session”.
The intention behind giving a sample session is to give a client an experience of coaching, which it does do. However, a free sample session is not necessarily indicative of the holistic ways you can help with a client’s transformation. It can show the power of coaching, but not necessarily demonstrate the degree to which you can really help someone.
Also, there is no natural segue into giving a free session and having a discussion about working together on a broader level. Because of the awkward nature of this segue, most coaches soft pedal this transition (something like “let me know if you’d like to do more work together”) or they go into sales mode (here is how I work and why you should hire me). These two can work, but only tend to work if the client already is clear that they want to hire you going into this conversation. If there is any ambiguity, it usually stalls out the conversation of working together, leaving the coach wondering what they did “wrong”. This is why I recommend a particular format that BOTH gives and experience of coaching (and the power of it) and explores the spectrum of challenges that prospective client faces, which leads naturally into enrolling anyone who is a good fit to work with you.
2. Selling your services rather than enrolling the client to work with you.
Interestingly, most of our conversations with people around working together happen because there really is a desire to get help, yet if this conversation isn’t set up and executed well, it can leave our prospects feeling lukewarm about us, or even turned off. Enthusiastic coaches want to work with people so much that they often go into “sales mode” (Here is how I work, here is why I am the perfect coach for you and here’s why you should hire me. (Notice the “I”, “I”, “I”)). This sales mode focuses the attention on you, not the prospective client. Client enrollment happens when we pull people towards us (rather than push them to us). This requires deep listening and understanding the gap that particular person has between where they are and where they want to be. It requires feeling into whether you could help fill that gap (making sure it is a powerful “yes” for you) and then talking to the prospective client about the implications this gap is having on their life and how it would feel if that gap disappeared. This, in and of itself, is an opportunity to do some very powerful coaching. It also illuminates the importance that this change could bring to their life and heighten their desire and commitment to making that change. When you’ve done that well, they will want to talk further about working together. No sales pitch required.
3. Not setting context and expectations for your “Enrollment Discussion”
When most coaches set up a time to talk with a prospect, they don’t do a great job of setting up the context or expectations for that meeting. This should be done prior to the conversation, as well as at the beginning of the discussion itself. Without that context, the discussion is often rudderless, or the prospective client jumps into questions prematurely such as “how do I work with you and how much does it cost” before you even have established whether you would be a good fit for working with each other. (Counter to what most people believe, neuroscience tells us that people make emotional decisions and look for logic to back them up, so it’s very important that you explore the emotional/right brain side of their choice before they go into decision making mode or you may lose them). It’s important that you create a framework for your discussion and then lead them, as part of that, to exploration, into a right brain journey (that is where desire, commitment and most emotions lie) before you get into the bits and bytes of working with each other. Otherwise, it will be challenging to get a “powerful yes” from them.
4. Trying to enroll clients who aren’t really committed to getting support.
As stated above, it is important for people to have that right brain exploration before they go into decision making mode. Commitment is also an important piece to establish before you talk about working together in detail and making commitment starts with an emotional choice to do so. If someone isn’t “all in”, even if they say “yes” to working with you, they won’t be a great client, at least at first. They may not follow through on actions, they may end up blowing you off, they may come to your calls unprepared causing your calls to meander until you land on a topic. You may be able to re-design the alliance but starting out on the right foot is always the best strategy and that requires clarity that they are fully committed. So commitment is key to having a powerful coaching relationship and should be established in your enrollment conversation.
Additionally, if you don’t establish commitment level as part of your enrollment process, most of the time a prospect will either say “I’m not ready ” or “can I try a few sessions and see how it goes”. Interestingly, in my experience most people who show up this way really do want change but are letting their saboteur take the wheel. It is an incredible opportunity to do some powerful coaching as well as get them clear about their commitment, if you build this into your framework. Sometimes these do end up being a powerful “no” but, nonetheless, a powerful “no” is a much better answer than ambiguity and uncertainty. Often, your ability as a coach to dive into their ambiguity and get them to a powerful choice really helps underline the power of change that you can help manifest in them. This can make someone go from “I don’t know” to “hell yeah” in less than 5 minutes.
5. Failing to recognize that “money” is often a stated reason but not the heart of why people don’t move forward.
At the heart of it, money is a simple concept to which we ascribe a whole lot of meaning and complexity.
Each person’s view on money, its role and it’s meaning, is unique based on their life experience. And in our world, people throw down the money card (“I can’t afford it” or “its not in my budget”) for a variety of different reasons that often really aren’t about money. It can be a tactful way for people to say “no”, as an example.
How often have you used money as a reason for not doing something you simply didn’t value? So really what money is about is value: Does this person value your package/program enough to pay this amount? Without full awareness of this, most coaches deal with this challenge by keeping their prices low so that money doesn’t become an obstacle, when the value of their coaching is much higher (and even their clients, once working with them, will agree with that). Many coaches make up that this is the only way they can have the amount of clients they want. However, if you can establish a client’s commitment to change and the cost of not making this change to their life, you can heighten the perceived value of coaching. So, establishing commitment and implications of change (or not changing) in that person’s life can help elevate their desire to work with you. And when you do this well, they want to work with you so much that the cost of working with you becomes secondary.
Now, let’s be clear, you want to price your coaching in a way that really is a win for the clients and a win for you. I personally get pretty befuddled by coaches who use manipulative tactics to heighten prospect’s desire and rope them into a year-long program for tens of thousands of dollars that they cannot get out of, even if it isn’t delivering on what was promised. What I am suggesting, however, is that a lot of coaches who are priced “right” for their clientele but struggle to enroll clients, think that lowering their prices is there only option. They fail to see that how they approach enrollment is usually the heart of the issue, not their pricing.
As always, I would love to hear your comments, questions and feedback!