By Robin Shirley
For two weeks each month I spend my days conversing with students, sometimes 50 or more, from places as far as New Zealand and as near as the next town over. We talk all about their life, their dreams for the future, and of course, health. I am a health coach and mentor for current students studying to become health coaches and it is the most fun I’ve ever had at work.
Part of the reason I love doing this work is because of the interesting and insightful conversations I have with the students, but also because, with every phone call, it forces me to grow and become a better health coach.
Sometimes I finish a week of health coaching feeling so inspired that I have to share some of my insights and conversation snippets with others. As a first step, I began emailing my student clients after our sessions with these insights so that they can learn from others and also see what their fellow health coaches are up to. And now, so that more of you can learn from our experiences, I’m going to share these thoughts as blog posts!
I’ll begin with a conversation I had with a student just this past week. A female in her early 30s, let’s call her Joe, signed up for the health coach training program, not in order to become a health coach, but simply to learn how to live a healthier life. However, as she moved through the program Joe became a little more open to the idea of health coaching and has just recently signed on a client. Unfortunately, just a few days after signing the client, the client called Joe to say that she was reconsidering the health coaching program for financial reasons. So Joe began to doubt the worth of she is offering as a health coach, just as any new health coach would after having a client cancel their program
During our call last week, Joe started asking me questions like, “What am I providing for the client? Why is it valuable? Do I really have something of worth to offer them if it’s nothing physical that they are getting from me?”
Of course, there may be many reasons that someone would back out of working with a health coach before their program has begun. If a client backs out because of finances after already committing to the program, one reason could be that they don’t know or understand everything that a health coach can provide for them. They understand it in theory, but they don’t actually feel it and they can’t imagine how great it could be. I want to focus on this potential situation in particular because it is easy to avoid with a little practice.
The average person has forgotten what it feels like to have a health professional fully committed to spending a significant amount of time on them.They have forgotten that someone could be physically, mentally and emotionally focused on them for longer than 5 minutes! When a health coach sits down with a client, the cell phone goes off, there are no televisions in sight and the door is closed. No one is leaving or coming. Health coach and client face each other seated, in comfortable chairs with a notepad and glass of water, and they talk. They work through the challenges that interrupt a healthy, balanced lifestyle and they create solutions so that the client may move forward with his or her goals and dreams. Even if the potential client does understand this, sometimes they still can’t see the benefit because they have never had someone do this for them.
All that being said, there is a solution!
It simply takes more of an effort to help your prospective client see what you can do for them.
I know two specific “tricks” that you can use to overcome this health coaching challenge and I think that as you read them, your faith in the value of your service will be reaffirmed.
First of all, you need to tweak your initial conversation with the potential client. There are two steps to take during an initial consultation that I believe are essential. The first step is to summarize their health challenges and/or goals after taking their health history.
This step helps to establish trust between client and coach and to remind them of what it feels like to have someone listen and actually hear them.
Then right after you summarize their specific health challenges and/or goals, you ask the magic question. That question is, “How do you want my support with reaching these health goals (or, with overcoming these health challenges)?”
Sometimes they will have no idea how to answer this question. You can clarify by giving them examples of how you could support them, like by talking through the problem with them, taking them grocery shopping, giving them private cooking lessons, trouble-shooting when they can’t figure out how to fit more greens in their diet, organizing their pantry, teaching them about nutrition, etc.
The point is that they need to verbalize how they want you to support them with reaching their health goals and you need to confirm that that is what you can and want to do for them.
Don’t forget to give them some examples of what you will do together, ask them if they have any specific requests, and take notes!
My second thought on how to help a potential client see the worth of your service is less specific but even more important. It has to do with your confidence level.
In order for a person to want to trust you with their future, they have to respect you. It almost verges on the point of them needing to idolize you. They need to want what you have. This is a very subtle, instinctual and possibly unconscious feeling that they get about you based on your feelings about yourself. Some of the time you cannot control this, but most of the time you can.
One way you can improve your confidence in yourself and your service is to practice talking to people. Practice asking them questions and try to get them to talk about their personal life. They won’t know what you’re doing and you will become very skilled at making someone comfortable with opening up to you and getting them into the right mindset to say “yes!” to working with you.
I believe that once you start putting those suggestions into practice, you will begin to believe that the work you do is invaluable, as will your potential clients.