More than half of 2020 has disappeared before we can wipe the unmentionable brown stuff out of our eyes. I’ll be giving you 6 or more tips about some things that you can do to try and get the most out of what remains of 2020 from a professional perspective and look at shifting into areas you hadn’t considered before but now might be becoming quite adept at, without having realized it.
So much has changed, and in fact I’ve just had an email from a family member who was planning on getting married in August to advise that they are postponing the wedding indefinitely (personally, I think they should pretend that they are holding a funeral and get it done under that guise, but you NEVER heard it from me!).
Furthermore, my husband mentioned just yesterday that he had read an article, in the Mail and Guardian online or the Daily Maverick, saying that we can expect the third and fourth peaks of the Coronavirus to take place in anything up to the year 2023! We can look forward to a whole new level of fashion and creativity around face masks and PPE.
But, you know, it all made me look back on how we started this year. I was trolling through my own feed on social media and – at the beginning of this year – was putting posts out saying #20Plenty and I can clearly remember this feeling that I had about THIS being the year.
As a matter of fact, it couldn’t have turned out better for MY business as I had spent 2019 shifting almost completely into the online space in terms of my coaching: developing online programmes and really getting my online marketing into gear with systems and processes that I had created (and which I share with you regularly in places like my Facebook Live trainings every week on a Thursday as well as on my YouTube channel).
I had this kind of amazing sense that this was going to be the year and I just really had that typical, good New Year feeling, but how wrong could I have been when you take what has happened globally into account? Who would have thought that these would be the 6 tips I’d be giving you to get the most out of the remainder of 2020?
Well, let’s do this. Let me not be too pessimistic. I’m EXTREMELY fortunate and grateful that my business has not suffered, in fact, quite the opposite – but what I would say is that, in speaking to some my colleagues in the coaching profession, I would put them into two broad categories at a minimum – and I do want to be clear that I am not lumping ALL coaches into these two categories – they are just patterns that I have identified.
Two categories of coaches
There was one category of colleagues for whom business was already tough. At the start of 2020, they were already telling me how much they were struggling, how last year they’d seen a decline in their business. And do you know, they were really, really concerned about what this year had in store for them if they continued just doing what they had been doing. So, an awareness was starting to dawn on them that something needed to change, despite them being largely change-averse.
Then there is the second group of colleagues, whose business took a complete nosedive from the 27th of March onwards, which is the day that South Africa went into lockdown. These were coaches who were obviously predominantly working locally (more specifically in their home town), with one on one coaching clients and with groups. They have been left with the ground taken out from under them.
In fact, I had a message from somebody the other day, who does mostly groupwork and she said that 90% of her business has been cancelled with absolutely NO HOPE of it being re-instated once we reach that stage of lockdown where that kind of thing is going to be allowed again. Her personal economy has crashed and she is going to have to completely re-invent herself, which may not be a bad thing, because I think she has a lot to offer once she gets her mind around it.
But if you fell into the first group that I described where at the start of the year, you were already having a tough time compared to previous years and you were already struggling to find business, then I want to ask a little bit of a provocative question.
A little subtlety and politeness go a long way
Now, before I get to this question (which is my first tip), I bounced it off my husband who said to me: “You need to find a way to say what you’re going to say that that is as diplomatic and polite as possible and avoid alienating as few people as possible.” Well I respect his judgement whenever I ask for it, and I only ask for it when I suspect I need a sane head, so here goes the moderated version…
First, I want to qualify it with the fact that I am asking it with humble curiosity, and at this point I would just like for you to reflect on it – so tip #1 is essentially a reflection exercise. We can all handle that, can’t we?
If you fell into the category of my colleagues who started the year off where it was already quite tough, is it just possible that what you’re offering and what you were doing needed a little bit of a refresh?
Is it possible, maybe that what you were offering in terms of your coaching product offering and how you were positioning yourself was a little bit of the “same old, same old” and that you were falling into the trap of what I often refer to as becoming one of the commoditized categories? You know (it’s one of my soapboxes), offering your services as a management coach or a leadership coach or so on and so forth.
The problem with previously successful or surviving coaches (it doesn’t matter where you fell on the continuum) is that you were sticking with a formula that was working for you and may actually have been starting to become a little bit obsolete: you might have been losing your edge and this global pandemic has forced you out of your comfort zone.
I say this, having also spoken to some of the top, most in-demand coaches in SA and internationally – ones who were turning work away or outsourcing it to colleagues – who have also been HUGELY negatively affected and are reliant on their strong reputations as well as their exceptionally strong relationships and networks within the client space.
Strong, expanding networks
So here is tip #2, and this is an important point that I make: strong NETWORKS within the client space. We get so focused on one or a handful of clients that we neglect expanding out network so that when situations like this arise, we have a number of trees that we can shake.
We also fall into the trap of networking primarily with our colleagues. It’s easy, right? Like coffee dates, lunches, mini-workshops etc, but they don’t achieve much in terms of bringing in business, do they?
Is it also possible that you started the year taking for granted that your reputation and the work that you had done would speak for itself, that relying on word of mouth referrals from previous work would constitute an effective marketing strategy?
Is it possible that you might not have been doing everything that you needed to do to kind of rise above the clutter in our very crowded markets? Did you continue to differentiate yourself quite clearly from what other people are doing out there so that a potential client could relate to you and say “that is the person who’s talking my kind of language, and that is the person that I really want to work with”?.
A personal 360o
So, I do hope that you will take some time to reflect on those questions. and see whether any of them do apply because those are all easy things to fix even if they might be hard to admit to or to recognise in yourself. Take my advice: don’t try and answer these questions on your own. Tap into trusted clients and colleagues and use them as a discussion basis. You may learn some surprising things about yourself, and also some surprising things about what your clients might need from you. And that’s tip #3 – tap into your network on a 360o basis.
So, on the 27th of March, South Africa went into shutdown. What were your plans at this point for 2020? I know the biggest mistake that I made personally was not spending my last cent on wine (only joking). What were your intentions at that stage about how the year was going to roll out for you professionally?
I did my planning back in November 2019, fortunately on one of those big rewriteable white boards. So when everything changed and our world shifted and pivoted, it was quite easy for me to look at what I had planned out for the year in terms of the work that I was going to be focusing on, where I was in the process, what I was going to be developing, and actually just shift things a little bit.
In fact, if the truth be told, I am currently still on track with my original plans, which was to do a large-scale launch of my newly improved and expanded 12 week Marketing and Sales Accelerator coaching programme for coaches.
Create, examine and shift your goals
So, my question is: what were your goals up until this point? Or did you actually set goals for the year, or we you just relying on the situation going on as normal and planning on flying by the seat of your pants, trusting that business would carry on as usual and that you would pick business up as you went in the usual way through your networking activities and all those wonderful luxuries that we no longer have. So tip #4 is to either review your goals if you had them, or to create goals if you didn’t have any and I’m going to be sharing some strategies on this down below that are also based on some recent leading research on goals, goal-setting and goal-achievement.
Build and develop new skills
Well, you’ve clearly had to rethink how you go about getting business and whatever business you were planning on doing, whether it was running workshops to supplement your coaching and/or doing one on one group coaching, you’ve obviously had to – I hate using the word – pivot and then shift. You’ve obviously had to shift online into space that a lot of us are not comfortable in, whether we like it or not just to survive.
We’ve had to build a whole new tool-set of body language skills and you might have noticed that you nod a lot more or use your hands a lot more than you did before to maintain and enhance connection and communication with your client. In fact , I did an entire video on this topic alone, which you can watch here: https://youtu.be/6VpF0tR-zjE Funnily enough, because of technical glitches that I’d experienced, it turned out to be a TEXTCASE example of how body language can play out online!
Reflect on your personal practice and re-focus
So, with this massive shift and the opportunity of hindsight, what has shifted and changed for you? What realizations has this very unpleasant wake-up call changed for you? What realizations have you had and what transformation are you looking at or considering for your business? What are your development plans and goals? I would like to think that they have had to change somewhat from doing yet another coaching course to actually doing something that will build your business, like getting more proficient at the whole online thing.
Once you get into it, you will be surprised how rewarding it can be and how simple the software providers try and make it for you to succeed because your success contributes to THEIR success.
Things seem to have settled somewhat, and the word that I am most hearing bandied about is “overwhelm”. We don’t know what or where to focus on first but I hope that you are finding it possible to get into a mindset where you can think about options and alternatives, and how you can take what you had and still offer it authentically but in a different way. So, I try – even when it gets tough – to hold onto the thought that we’ve all had an amazing opportunity for a fresh start.
Get creative and visualize new possibilities
It’s almost like we were forced to shut the store down. We’ve done a revamp, we’ve put in like a new look, new look furniture and everything and we are about to reopen the store for business. So, tip #5 is a visualization process. What is your new store like if you are talking about your coaching practice? What is your new store going to look like and what different products are going to be on the shelves? How will your products have transformed in order to be relevant and more up to date for what we need to be offering now? What’s on your NEW PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT agenda? What opportunities excite you, that you now have an opportunity to explore because you’ve actually got nothing to lose? What will your customer experience be and how will it have changed (for the better)?
Be intentional and set clear, manageable goals
Getting back to tip #4, which was all about goals, I use a series of journals that I imported more than a year ago from the States because I simply couldn’t find anything similar in South Africa. They’re called BestSelf journals and are quite expensive but I only write in them in pencil so I’m currently using them for the second time around (I’m not quite sure they’ll survive a third round).
But I started using them a year ago because I had just launched a new coaching magazine in partnership with someone, I was undertaking a post-graduate degree in coaching, I also ended up COMPLETELY re-vamping, re-branding and re-launching my coaching practice AND I took two additional online courses to learn specific skills.
I started using them last year because I had quite a lot on my plate professionally and personally, and I knew that I needed to act with INTENTION more than ever in my life. Every journal is a 13 week journal and you can purchase them in a pack of 4, which gets you through an entire year.
At the front of each journal, at the beginning of every 13 week cycle, you write up 3 goals. They call them 13 week sprints because they make you break these goals down into monthly landmarks, and each monthly landmark into 3 or 4 smaller tasks or projects that you will focus on for that week.
Every day, for that week, those 3 priorities sit at the top of your journal page so that you can see at a glance whether what you have in your diary or planned for the day is going to contribute to the achievement of those smaller goals.
In other words, your primary focus during this time against which you hold up any other “priority” or urgency that rears its head, are the goals that you defined at the beginning of your sprint. So something unplanned may come along, but it might help you get closer to achieving the overall financial goal that you set at the beginning of the sprint. You make time and capacity for it because it fits in with your goals.
But on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, you have milestones against which you can review your progress. Did you get side-tracked and distracted? Was it for something worthwhile or did it set you off track in terms of your timing?
You know, last year, I launched two businesses, I graduated cum laude (with distinction) from my programme, and I successfully completed the two online courses that I signed up for, one of which qualifies me as a Content Strategist and Manager.
It was a tough year, but I focused on one task, one project, one day and one week at a time and before I knew it…poof! It had all worked out like magic. I was able to work very intentionally and manage one of the heaviest workloads I think I’ve ever had to juggle in my entire working life. And it was made really, really easy by the fact that I was continually on a 13 week cycle, which seemed do-able.
Within those 13 weeks, I had mapped the goals that I wanted to achieve, so that over the course of an entire year, I could actually achieve my bigger goals. There’s actually been some amazing research that I mentioned in one of my other articles.
Achievement goals versus process goals
I think it was by Fishbach and Troy, where they looked at the people who are successful in their in achieving their goals, and apparently 92% of people do not achieve the goals that they’ve set for themselves.
But what Fishbach and Choi actually found was that, say your big goal was getting a postgraduate degree like a master’s degree. So that’s a goal that spans at least two years. They found that the people who actually took these large, long-term goals and broke them down into smaller chunks or sprints were the small percentage of people who actually achieved their goals successfully. So, if you’re feeling absolutely overwhelmed, identify the 3 goals that will make the biggest positive impact on your current situation and break them down as I’ve described. You can watch the video below this to see more detail.
Daily habits for success
The other thing that I want to suggest to you is that you consider creating a list of daily actions are habits that you need to get into in order to shift you closer to your goals. So, actually, let me give you an example. We know that people who meditate regularly benefit tremendously in terms of how they’re managing stress and their levels of resilience. There all sorts of additional benefits like an improvement in creative thinking, and a number of other areas like being able to regulate our emotions…like overwhelm. So, you might as a daily habit list, meditation as one of the things that you’re going to do.
If marketing your coaching practice and getting clients is a challenge, you’ve got to make one of your daily habits getting visible on a daily basis, getting “out there”, getting but visible in some way. You;ve got to find a way to like it – so a social media platform that suits you – and you have to commit to doing it in a regular basis.
Leveraging your Intellectual Property and creating business assets
I often say that committing to creating a weekly live video on Facebook was the turning point in my business. I have clients coming to me all the time, and I also get more and more invitations to become a guest speaker or guest expert for other people. In fact, I’ve created two special guest expert trainings on an introduction to coaching for some of MY coaches programmes – yes, that’s how high they held my knowledge, background and expertise in esteem – AND I’ve done a number of free trainings on why you should niche, what a niche is, and was of finding your niche on other people’s programmes. So, I really am becoming known as the coaching and niche expert. And of course, I’m only too happy to offer my services. I have fun talking on topics that I love and I get to meet new people all the time.
Now, doing live video is not for everybody, but it means that in one way or another, you have got to make sure that on a daily basis, you are visible and making some kind of a statement or a shift to position and market your coaching practice and the services that you offer.
So, here’s a “baby-steps” proposition for you: how about it if you put together little mini assignments might be to form the basis of a daily ritual planner, and to try and stick to challenging yourself. You know, I started blogging in 2011 and I was able to go back through all that material, just lift some out and update and voila! I had my first e-Book in the matter of an hour or so. I did exactly the same thing for one of my clients who had written a series of blog articles on a particular subject. In fact, I think we’ve created her second e-book now, it’s really that easy.
But if an e-book seems like too much of a challenge, do you think you could plot out a 5 day or 10 day personal development journey that your client could go on, receiving an email in their inbox every morning with a bit of a short lesson and an exercise for the day? That doesn’t seem too scary, and you’d be SURPRISED how many people value what they get out of these email “coaching” journeys. It also makes coaching available to those people who might not otherwise be able to afford access to this kind of info. Of course, they don’t have the benefit of having 1:1 sessions with you, but you are still offering them tremendous value that might transform even one life.
Create mini-sprints or challenges
My dietician, Tanya Alberts (yes, you’re welcome to contact me for her number and a referral) has got endless patience with me and we have tried most of the tricks in the book but one that we have stumbled upon and that seems to work (and this relates back to the journals that I spoke about earlier) is committing to doing 30 day challenges or sprints with her. So, in my monthly session, I will commit to doing 3 super-simple things over the next 30 days, like eating every meal at the table, like keeping a log of all the food and water that I consume every day, and possible walking my dogs a minimum of 5 days a week. I keep track of and make that commitment and I keep track of those habits that are all going to shift me closer towards my goal of dropping reducing my weight – reducing the space that I take up in the world. Now remember, this is a strategy that works for ME and you are going to need to find similar strategies that will work with your clients.
Create habits for success and resilience that keep your goals clearly at the forefront of your mind
Create habits that will bring you closer to what you define as success. My inspiration in this is this is an amazing guy that I’ve connected with on LinkedIn. His name is Momo Bertrand. He is from, I think the Belgian Congo, and he now works for the United Nations. He’s their senior social media strategist – it’s a senior, strategic position. But his story is very unique.
When he was still as school, it was his dream to work one day work for the United Nations. And so when he left school, he went onto their website and he looked at what jobs they had available, and he applied for ANYTHING that he might have been appropriately qualified for at the.
In the interim, he went on to study multiple degrees on a scholarship basis. He was clearly an excellent candidate who stood out from his peers when it came to the awarding of scholarships and bursaries. He became a highly qualified and accomplished young professional. But throughout these years, Momo submitted 500 different job applications to the United Nations. And it was just after his 500th job application, that he was accepted.
So, the thing about being visible is differentiating yourself and standing head and shoulders above your peers, is that you have to be committed to it for the long term. And when you feel dispirited and low, remember Momo as your inspiration. You have to be committed to your goals. You have to be consistent. You have to keep it up and you will see results. But you really do need resilience and keeping the end goal in mind to stick to that commitment. It’s like anything – take running a marathon as an example.
I can attest to it in my personal situation – and it has only taken 6 months of waking up and doing what I need to do to get phenomenal results in my business in terms of visibility and the number of clients that I have – most of whom still come to me by word-of-mouth. You see, some of the old-fashioned things never leave us. I can also speak to it happened in my husband’s business: that regular, consistent visibility does deliver results.
Learn something new
The second point was to take the opportunity to learn something new. Now, as coaches one of the traps that we fall into is do thinking that if I do another of coaching course, that’ll pay me to do this kind of coaching as well. It’ll make me a better coach, and it’ll make me a more flexible coach and I’ll get more clients. I agree with all of that, okay – the ability with which we are able to be agile and flexible in terms of using different approaches with our clients is a real plus and shows our maturity as coaches. It also allows us to work at higher (C-Suite type) levels,
But don’t fall into the trap of only studying different ways of coaching different models and frameworks. These mean diddly squat to your clients. You’re hardly EVER going to get hired because you’re an NLP, ontological, integral or gestalt coach.
Remember, you’re also an entrepreneur and a business person and you need to learn certain skills to run your business. And one of them is if you want more clients, if you want to build a reputation and get known, learn how to market your business and close the sale.
That needs to be something that you put on your basic list of things that you need to study and learn more about, because without clients signing on the dotted line, you don’t have a business.
Do a personal 360o
The third tip that I want to give you is to go to your previous and existing clients and ask for referrals. One of our top coaches and coach supervisors, Sharon Jansen, described what she did as a 360o Approach colleagues that you know well and who you trust. Approach former clients and even clients that you would LOVE to work with. Who knows what could come of it? Also approach your family. They’re such an important part of your ecosystem, and you might want to make the survey completely anonymous so that you don’t know who the responses are coming from. I think this also makes people feel as though they have more permission to be completely honest with you.
Think outside of the box for referrals
A great friend of mine who is also in the coaching industry has been negatively affected by COVID-19, to the point where she had only about 20% of the business that she had before. She is one of the coaches that I consider a highly successful coach and a leader in her speciality so to see her business be so negatively affected has been heart-breaking.
BUT what had happened over time was that she was working with companies in a very specific and narrow industry. You might even call it a specialized industry, and the global lockdown and the prior decline in the global economy affected this sector badly. Where she has been extremely clever and inventive is: (1) she has looked at related industries that her existing clients might supply to or work with, and has asked her existing clients – all of whom are extremely happy with the caliber of her work, just had their budgets slashed for ANYTHING – for referrals and to help open doors in the related industries, one’s that have not been so negatively affected.
But (2) she has also taken her body of knowledge and very quickly turned it into a couple of top notch online, self-study training courses. The clever part of it is that at the end, if the students want to get even more powerful and accelerated results, they have an open invitation to contact her for coaching – at a fee of course!
So, look at your broad basked of clients and ask for referrals; don’t be afraid. If you know you’ve done great work with them, there is absolutely no need to be shy about asking for referrals, In fact, I give my students a specific format to send to their clients via email that has a “fill in the blanks” set of prompts because they’re busy, so we need to make this process as easy as possible for them.
Review your business assets
The next thing is for you to look at all the content that you’ve put out over the years, and I’m quite sure that you would be able to combine it into some kind of a resource. I’ve already touched on this a little bit above, but these are things like special resources that you might have created specifically to you’ve your clients while they are going through a process with you.
I’m very sure with your knowledge, experience and your IP, there is something that you could put together that you could offer maybe as a short online course that you run through zoom sessions, a workbook type course that people can sign up for as a series of email trainings, and loads of different ways that you can offer your knowledge and intellectual property to potential clients so that they get the opportunity to experience what it’s like to work with you and benefit from your knowledge. Think of those things where, during a coaching session, you say to a client: “Oh, I have just the thing to help you with this. I’ll email it to you after this session so that you can work through it.”
Have a coaching conversation with yourself
The fifth tip is, if one of your clients was sitting in front of you and saying, business is really tough at the moment, and I am stumped for hard to sell myself, and how to market my business, how would you be coaching this client? What would you say? And can you have that self-coaching conversation so that you can perhaps think out of the box and think a little bit more creatively and constructively, about what you do have: assets that you actually the intellectual property assets that you actually already do have in your business that you are not leveraging properly?
Research, research, research
So FINALLY, tip number six – and this is the last one – is that I think that we also make a lot of assumptions about what our current clients fears and challenges are and these assumptions are not based on empirical knowledge. More and more, I’m advising people who are coming to me for coaching, as their very first project to actually do some informal interviews. with existing and past clients to really get an understanding of their real issues. It’s one thing for clients to say, look, you know, money is tight, and I can’t afford to have a coaching session every single month, and we’ve got to cut it down to every two weeks. But dig deeper into that, because if somebody really wants something, I mean, it’s not like they are kind of, you know, cutting you off and stopping working with you.
They’re reducing the frequency of working with you because they’re concerned about their budgets. But is there a different way that you could work with them to add value in a slightly different way so that you increase your income from this client again, back to where it was when you were having your weekly coaching sessions? We need to role-model “out-of-the-box” thinking and be prepared to re-invent ourselves and the ways in which we work with our clients.
But really, it’s worth your while just doing some informal empirical research to find out exactly what it is that what your clients biggest, personal and professional challenges are now with all these changes, because it will inform you and they’ll give you information that you can then use in your messaging so that you put out. Every time someone opts in to one of my free resources, I ask them to give me info about their biggest marketing challenge right now (or something similar). This helps me serve my clients more relevantly and to keep in touch with what they really need from me – rather than relying on what I think or suspect. It also means that the content that you create is relevant so you become visible in a highly relevant way.
So that’s all I have for you today. It was to:
• get visible,
• learn something new,
• ask for referrals,
• create some kind of a resource or a course or an alternative way for people to work with you based on intellectual property, intellectual property, your knowledge and experience
• ask yourself how you would coach yourself if you were the client sitting in front of you saying: “I don’t know how to market and sell myself”, and finally
• get a really, really deep understanding of what your client’s current issues and challenges on a personal and professional level are at the moment.
So, I hope that you’ve taken something useful away from this. Do let me know in the comments. I shall appreciate your feedback enormously.