I believe there are three primary types of conversations that will help us generate business:
1) Discovery/Enrollment Conversations — These conversations are only for when someone has expressed a need and wants to explore working with you. If you missed my last article, I detail how to do this effectively. (Hint — pitching your services isn’t it!)
2) Strategic Alliance Conversations — There are many types of Strategic Alliance Conversations (six primary ones for professional coaches), and all involve collaborating with other professionals to grow and bring each other business.
3) Center of Influence Interviews — This is one of my favorites because Center of Influence Interviews are geared toward gaining knowledge that can help you craft your services or garnering research to use in thought leadership and credibility marketing, such as articles, blogs, talks/webinars, white papers, and more.
One of the biggest mistakes I see coaches make is spending time and energy getting in front of decision makers to pitch their services. First of all, decision makers are busy people. They will not want to meet just to be sold something they aren’t ready to buy. Getting on their calendar for this purpose will be challenging unless they indeed have a need. (If you missed my last article, I detail how to conduct a meeting when they do have a need.) If you have a relationship with the decision maker, they may schedule a meeting, but if they don’t have a need, it isn’t the best use of time for either of you. This is why I love Center of Influence Interviews! You aren’t trying to sell to them, yet decision makers gain a distinct understanding of where your work is focused. They also create meaningful dialogue that brings them value. So, in essence, they aren’t “doing you a favor” but are getting something rich out of the experience that also solidifies your value.
I lay out three distinct types of Center of Influence (COI) Interviews:
- Exploratory Interviews — These are wonderful as you explore your niche and ultimately decide who your ideal client is. You may explore one or several niches to determine this.
- Clarity & Depth Interviews — When you are clear on your ideal client, use this type of interview to hone in on your ideal client’s biggest challenges and desires and identify your “sweet spot” so that you can build your process, programs/offers, and messaging. Always follow up with a Summary of Findings for your interviewees, which is immensely helpful to them and solidifies your plan to help your ideal client bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be. Endeavor to do this from the standpoint of getting feedback to make sure your approach resonates with them.
- Credibility Marketing Interviews — These interviews explore specific challenges and desires so that you can develop thought leadership and credibility marketing. They may focus on a specific issue affecting your ideal clients or look at how challenges/desires evolve with current trends in their industry or world. As an example, you may investigate challenges of leading a primarily Work-From-Home team and explore ways leadership can evolve to adapt to this changing environment. In such a circumstance, you would share your output (article, white paper, or blog) with those you interviewed, or even invite them to a webinar or talk, demonstrating your expertise and helping your interviewees by sharing your knowledge and ideas for overcoming their biggest challenges.
One key aspect of COI Interviews is that they expressly are NOT thinly veiled sales vehicles. If you start to inch into a sales conversation, you lose all credibility. With that said, COI Interviews absolutely plant seeds with your ideal client, making it clear that you can help them, and it is not uncommon for interviewees to express interest in working together. It’s tempting to go right into sales mode when that happens, but I assure you, it’s really powerful to say, “I’d love to explore that with you. Why don’t we set up a separate meeting to explore working together, as I want to honor the intent of our time together today?” You will earn respect by holding that line.
I have clients who continually use COI Interviews to build their content and forward their credibility marketing strategy because it keeps them in meaningful dialogue with decision makers and ideal clients who often end up hiring them down the road. It’s a brilliant way to build and sustain engaging relationships. At the end of the day, that is our goal. No matter what conversations you are having with people in your network, aim to build and sustain engaging relationships so that when there is a need for someone like you, you are top of mind.
What do you do to create engaging and sustaining relationships? I would love to hear your best practices!