Client Engagements "How do I work with You?"

Do you have preliminary consultations to determine if you're a good fit, or to understand how to best serve clients? I'm not talking about the "what", but the "how", of your engagements.

Some entrepreneurs thrive on the rush of 'seeing where it goes', but for others, clarifying "how" you'll work with clients, saves both parties time and money.

Where do your clients fall?

Issues Around Engaging

A little while ago, a coach asked in her LinkedIn Group, why her clients can't stick to commitments beyond 3-months of a 6-month program. I'm not a coach, but I have hired a coach in the past. Here's the problem I found, surveying myself and others:

  1. Novelty. Humans need change, and a new coaching program promises that. It either gets boring, or it's great until other (ignored) priorities become fires. 
  2. Habits. Change happens with intrinsic decisions, not external motivators. Habits are the comfort zone, so until it's "comfortable", we subconsciously reject it. 
  3. Schedule. Our real schedules are not what we put on paper, but what we actually do. Unless it's aligned with our time, energy, emotions, we're less likely to stick with it.
  4. Adoption. Our individual cycles of adoption. Early-adopters will implement, internalize, right away. Others have to (consciously or not) test it against their boundaries.

This is not an exhaustive list of challenges, but these are the ones I find (or experience) most.

Possible Solutions and Questions to Ask

If you're reading this as a coach, you're probably already thinking of how to revamp your preliminary consultation. If not, here are a few questions you can ask yourself, your clients, and a few solutions that may help reduce the impact of these 'human' conditions.

  1. Novelty. Can you 'keep it new'? Perhaps, set monthly targets that don't just feel good, but have some obvious time-savings, money-generating reward for clients?
  2. Habits. If you have to convince them to do it, it won't stick. What 'fires' are they currently fighting, feeling? If what you offer can put out a few fires, then engage. 
  3. Schedule. If they're over-committed, overwhelmed or truly booked solid, then you will just be added noise. If they can truly, peacefully, find time in their schedules, not just to connect, but to complete the work required, they're more likely to stick with it.
  4. Adoption. Are your clients Early-Adopters or do they need more time to process things? If they're the latter, are you willing to have sessions every 2-3 months instead? 

These are just a few ideas. What else can make the 'commitment' very easy for your clients?

How I Work with Clients

As a client myself, lots of sessions in rapid succession doesn't give me the time to internally commit to and process the impact of the decisions I make in-session. This may be an introvert trait. The required action, post-session, often takes so much time, that I too often have to play the 'opportunity cost' game to get it done. My clients have had the same challenges.

One day it finally clicked that I have to change "how" I work with them, if I didn't want my consulting reports to sit on shelves collecting dust. If I truly wanted my clients to implement.

Preliminary Consultation

What I've tried to do since then, in the preliminary consultation:

  1. Map of the client's priorities early in your engagement. It's not enough to say "commit to this". Brainstorm, so you see what's competing for their time.
  2. Help them rank and schedule those in their calendars, realistically, with time and energy buffers. Give them time to search within, but not enough to get distracted.
  3. Use that to identify a more realistic schedule for sessions with you.

I've built all of my engagements this way, and it works. This will also help them not just "finish it on time", but build it into their routines, as habits. Additional time-savings is offered to clients by replacing my 20-min Consultation with a Questionnaire they complete within a week. Is that an option for you?

Actual Engagements

I do Business Strategy for Pricing, Social Media Community and more - not coaching, so my model's a bit different. My clients are usually business owners or decision makers. Still, if there are themes here that you believe will work for your clients, feel free to run with them. 

  1. Planning happens upfront. Full strategy, content calendar or mini-strategy, a plan gives the client peace of mind, because I understand what they need and can run without excessive check-ins. The plan usually evolves over time, or with their business.
  2. Connecting & Time-savings. The plan means we don't need back and forth e-mails and constant check-ins. We have a weekly time-slot they can use for emergency check-ins, otherwise, we connect monthly based on the plan's milestones.
  3. Feedback Loops. If there's room to improve, I encourage clients to let me know right away. I also send semi-annual reports for full-service clients, or annual reports for clients with less in-depth plans, so they can see progress.

The planning piece is where I reiterate what we 'committed to' in our preliminary session, and where we hammer out all the questions, concerns, etcetera. This works best one-on-one, but may also be applied to group sessions.

I'd love to learn from you, as well. What other tips do you have on "how" to engage?

Let's Connect

Let's connect! Get tips on this and more on Successiory e-News (subscribe)Facebook, LinkedInTwitterGoogle Plus and Pinterest. Clarity on, and publicizing of, your engagement process means clients aligned with this find you more readily. It also helps you to find stability in your business because you have a clearer sense of when you're actually available.

Crystal-Marie S

(2016-Aug-18) On paper, my career began in 2001, spans Successiory (2009), my MBA from the Schulich School of Business (2010), two countries and several industries, including business strategy, social media consulting, environmental and engineering consulting, higher education and more (see LinkedIn). 

In 2015, I was nominated for Canadian Association of Marketing Professionals (CAMP) Awards,Entrepreneur of the Year and became an bestseller on August 9th 2015. I spoke at 12 events in 2015 alone, including several GroYourBiz Advisory Boards, Bank of Montreal (paid), Iler Campbell’s Tools Conference and Toronto Public Libraries’ Small Business (sometimes paid) series. I think I love speaking!

On a personal note, I'm an MBA, entrepreneur, millennial, dancer, author and so much more yet, like you, I don't fit the stereotypes. After years of workaholism and the health and relationship losses that go with that lifestyle, I've stopped 'paying lip service' to terms like authenticity, self care and sustainability. My health scare pushed me into living them. Here's hoping I can inspire you to live and work better without learning the hard way. Welcome. Still curious? More here...

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