018: Acquire More Clients by Living Service

018: Acquire More Clients by Living Service

 

Strong for Performance Podcast

 

018: Acquire More Clients by Living Service

by Melissa Ford

Are you ready to shift from struggling coach to thriving professional? My guest Melissa Ford has walked that path herself. In her new book, Living Service: The Journey of a Prosperous Coach, Melissa describes the uneven steps she took on her way to establish a truly successful coaching practice. She shares the beliefs that held her back and how she broke through them to create more clients than she’d ever dreamed possible. Today, in addition to her own clients, Melissa works with other coaches to help them build a prosperous business.

You’ll discover:

  • How coaches can apply H.O.W. (Honest, Open and Willing) to themselves and to their work with clients
  • One sentence that can transform an argument into a profound listening and learning experience
  • The three stages of learning for a coach and how to avoid getting stuck in the first two
  • Why it’s important for coaches to have their own coach
  • Questions you can ask yourself to evaluate and revise your current client acquisition system

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Read the Transcription

Welcome back to another episode of the Strong for Performance podcast. I’m your host, Meredith Bell. And I’m really excited to have today with me a very special guest, Melissa Ford. Melissa, welcome to my program.

Thanks for having me. I’m happy to be here.

I just finished reading Melissa’s brand new book called “Living Service: The Journey of a Prosperous Coach.” And I’m really excited about talking with her about that today. But let me just share a little bit of information about Melissa before we get started. She is a Master of Business and life coach. She’s been in this work for 20 years and has experience working with both individuals and groups. She works with fast rising coaches, executives, entrepreneurs and career changers.

And she really does have such a wonderful style and approach in being of service to others. I believe Melissa really lives the title of her book, “Living Service.” And she’s going to make it more real for us today. The other thing she does that will be of interest to my listeners is she provides ongoing programs for coaches, where she helps them with things like business mindset, deepening their whole service mentality and focus and increasing their profitability so they have a really successful coaching practice. Melissa, let’s get started.

Right.

The first thing I want to do is ask you to just tell us a little bit about your journey as a coach and what it’s been like to be in this profession?

I started coaching really in the mid 90s. I started coaching back then because I struggled as a parent. I have a 30-year-old son, I have a soon to be 29-year-old daughter. I really thought parenting would be easy. I’m one of those people, I guess I’m kind of an outlier. I thought it would be easy, I thought I would just tell my kids what to do, they go with the program. That was not how it went down. I started coaching because I realized I needed to find another way to interact with my kids. I realized it came back to me so that’s where the journey started.

Back in the day when you would talk about limiting beliefs, people would want to know what religion you were referring to. It was that far back. That’s where it started and from there I for about a dozen years had a hobby, I didn’t have a business. And then after that I really made this decision. I was going to go pro and I hired a coach, you’ve had him on your podcast, Steve Chandler, and he taught me the way. He taught me about service, he taught me about being a professional coach, he taught me about learning and so many things. It’s been a long journey but it’s been really rewarding.

Well, one of the things I admired about you in your book is your willingness to be vulnerable. I can’t say it was like one of these novels you can’t put down. But it was a compelling book that I did have trouble putting down because of the way you told your story, and how I related to so much of what you said even though I’m not a paid professional coach. I think anyone who runs a business can benefit, because as you talked about having these enrollment conversations, I was thinking about sales conversations with people. The focus on being of service and looking at how you can be helpful to them, to me was just profound.

I want us to go deeper with some of the concepts you talked about in the book. Because my goal really with our interview today is give people some specific ideas that they can take out and use, but also make them want to get the book. So they can really go deeper than we’re going to have time to do today. One of the concepts that you talked about that I really identified with was the acronym HOW, H-O-W. Would you talk about each one of those elements and why it’s important for a coach to know about?

Sure. The acronym HOW comes from the AA world. I had been involved in an intervention with a friend. A story came back to me about how he had asked a question about, how do I get sober? And the interventionist said, it’s easy. You just show up HOW, Honest, Open and Willing. That’s what you need to do. There isn’t any magic trick. But if you show up like that you can do anything. And I remember when I heard that I thought that applies to me too. If my friend can handle his addiction and live a sober life with HOW, well what could I possibly do with it?

I started using that acronym as almost like my guide. I would self coach, I would ask myself where was I being honest with myself on others? And often, it was unconscious. It was totally subconscious that I wasn’t being honest. I would reflect on that, I would really assess was I been open? Or was I just yeah, I know that, I know that. Close to it. I knew something but I wasn’t open to learning something new. Then the other part was willing. Am I willing to do whatever it’s going to take?

Not am I willing to protect my ego? Am I willing to be right? Am I willing to look like I’ve got it together? Am I willing to be the expert? No. Am I willing to do whatever I need to do? Often that question there’ll be some discomfort, because I know it’s not going to necessarily turn out how I want, but I will learn. That’s where it comes from. I just love it. It’s so simple, it’s so clean and it’s what I see as a really coachable mindset.

That’s a great way to put it. And I really want to ask you to tell the story related to the open part. Because Steve Chandler, as you mentioned he was on episode eight of my podcast, but he gave you a kind of a challenge and experiment to run and with a certain sentence to use. And I think that, that would be very enlightening for our listeners to hear about that story.

Yeah. Steve has been my coach for the last 10 years. Over time, the beauty of having a longer term coaching relationship with a coach is that you can just really get right to it.

Yes.

They know you very well, you know them. That’s how this experiment came about. I had showed up to a coaching conversation and I was thinking well, what am I going to bring to this. Now he coaches me in growing my business. But he has really shown me that when my personal life improves, my business life improves. I didn’t know that, when I first started working with him, I did not want to talk about anything personally, all I wanted to do was make money now. Help me make money now. If that includes service, I guess I’ll learn about that too but I want to make money. That was the whole point. Here we are in this particular session, I decided to bring up something I actually know he’s not going to be able to coach me on, it will be impossible.

I call it the Jab Fest. It’s this way that my husband and I have had with interacting with one another which is always seems to start at first, my husband. He’ll make a comment that feels like a jab or an attack or some slight, and then I’ll jab him back and then we go at it. Now there’s no name calling, there’s no swearing it’s just the mm-mm, pic-pic sort of thing. I bring this to the conversation because I’m sure Steve can deal with it. He says to me, which this is one thing I love about him, he knows my ego well enough that his comment to me is this, “Well you know Melissa I have an idea, but you don’t have to do it.”

I think why spend way too much money and I put in way too much time getting coached, are you kidding me? Tell me what it is. He says, here’s what I want you to do, the next time you sense your husband’s jabbing at you, stop doing whatever you’re doing, go over to him and listen to what he has to say. Now there’s a special way I want you to listen, I don’t want you to say anything. Don’t think about what you would say, don’t think about a comment. Don’t, just listen. When he’s done telling you everything that’s wrong with you, say to him,” you know I can be like that”.

Meredith, I hear this and I think are you kidding me? Like, this is the last thing that I want to do. I sarcastically say, yeah, well, that sounds fun. Anything else? And he adds, thank him. Like, okay, fine, I’ll do it. A couple of weeks pass. My husband comes home, he’s not in a great mood, I’m tired too. It’s eight o’clock at night, whatever it is. And I start feeling this familiar feeling of like, I’m under attack. And I all of a sudden it dawns on me, my gosh, it’s arrived, it’s time. I’m exhausted, I’ve worked all day long, he’s not in a great mood now, here we go.

I told my coach I would do it and I go to the back room and I sit next to my husband. He’s looking at CNN or ESPN, and he’s looking at the TV, and he’s looking back at me and back and forth, and back and forth. He’s telling me these familiar criticisms. Now I know that the challenge or the offering here by my coaches to listen. I’m listening and I can see the frustration and the exhaustion on his face. I can see he’s really troubled and he finally finishes. It really felt like my big old ego was dying but I said to him, you know I can be like that. From this very humble place because there were a few things in there so I knew there was some truth to it.

And he looks from the TV and back at me and he’s just, he’s got this incredulous look on his face. He says, “you know you don’t have to be so hard on yourself”. I just went, what?  I almost got up and left but I remembered I was supposed to thank him. I thanked him. I walked out of there, I was thinking, now what? And later my husband Brian, comes into the kitchen and he’s in a fine mood and he’s open up the refrigerator dancing in front of it. He looks over me says, “Do you need a hug? Are you okay?” I kind of took the hug, I took the hug. But what I really saw was that the only thing I had ever been reacting to was my thinking about my husband.

And in that moment, when I didn’t have any thought I didn’t have any reaction. I had was a lot of compassion, because I could see how consumed he was with what he was thinking about me, but it wasn’t about me. And I could have some compassion for because I’ve been in the same place. That was a major turning point for me because I realized the degree to which I would personalize things would be the degree to which I always suffer.

That is profound. And it is so true our egos jump in and get in the way and we feel like we’ve got to defend ourselves because what they’re saying can’t be true. We want to not think that we’re capable of that. And yet by you owning it, it totally disarmed him. He was expecting the typical interaction and didn’t get the same response he normally got from you.

Yeah, yeah, it’s very true. That is where transformation takes place. It doesn’t take place through reading a book but it really shows up when you’re willing, honest open and willing to go and do something and have the experience. I saw it and I have not unseen it since then. Since then I’m much more aware that the source of whatever’s going on for me is my thinking has nothing to do with my husband. It we our relationship is better for it, he’s also quicker to apologize, he doesn’t really go down that path. Honestly, we don’t do the Jab Fest anymore. It’s because of what I saw.

The application of that story that you just shared is so profound to me that we can apply that in our homes with our spouses, children, but also with our clients. With anyone that we have a relationship with, that matters to us. Because it’s often that you think the people that are closest to us or that we feel closest to, that we give the most power to in terms of caring what they say and reacting to it because-

Definitely.

We just, there’s a history of interactions that comes into play. And so that, again, your HOW, Honest, Open and Willing to me all three of those really play into being willing to be more effective in situations like that.

Absolutely, and you’re right. This can be applied to clients, prospective clients, colleagues, friends, and what it really does is it, it blows up the scorecard. Like this three right, I got my score card. Well, if you put that down, you now have the possibility of engaging with someone in a really connected way human to human, and the scorecard is not there anymore. You’re not reacting to your scorecard. I agree, that’s great.

That’s good. Well, let’s move into another area that you write extensively about in the book related to learning and stages of learning for a coach or consultant. Talk about those a little bit and tell us a little bit about your own journey as you went through those.

I really struggled to create a profitable business. I didn’t know how to serve, I didn’t know how to have sales conversations, enrollment calls, I didn’t know how to do that. It was made even more challenging because of all of the self-judgment that I heaped on top and really honestly not even quite aware of how much. It was just kind of rumbling beneath the surface. I had stories about I can’t do something or I came to the game too late or I don’t have a business background, I had all of this going on which just muddy the learning waters. And what I came to find out after had been a little bit further down my learning path, about service and about creating clients. I discovered that there was a three stage process.

It’s actually something that Matthieu Ricard had come up with. He’s a Buddhist monk and I can get it a little bit into him later, but he said that there’s three stages to learning meditation. Well, my coach had said, hey, there’s three stages to learning anything. Stage one is where you jump in and you try something and it doesn’t work. And for me that was jumping in and really try to be helpful to somebody and then have them become a client. Well, it didn’t work. You might try again and I did couple of times. And then after a while you start to think to yourself either something is wrong with me or this thing doesn’t work. At that point, I decided something was wrong with the thing, with what I was getting taught. So I headed off in a detour and I started doing all kinds of things trying to sell my coaching that didn’t work either.

Stage one is you try something, and it doesn’t work out. Stage two is, you may have taken a detour but if you’ve gotten back on your learning path, you get to stage two and it’s a ball of chaos and confusion but this is where creativity resides. This is where you’re going to roll up your sleeves and you’re going to practice. You’re going to keep practicing and practicing. And over time, it’s going to get easier. And practicing means you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to succeed, you’re going to make the same mistake again, you’re going to make a different mistake. You’re going to do all kinds of things. There’s a lot of ego bruising if you decide to go there.

Sometimes it happens but for the most part, you even get better at learning. Because now you’re on the field, you’re practicing and you’re doing whatever it is that you want to learn. And you stay with that. I think in the book I said it was like the old adage of the thrill of victory the agony of defeat. That’s kind of it’s the up and down long enough you’ll get to stage three. Which is mastery, which is it’s more natural, feels more natural. You it almost seems like you’ve been doing this your whole life. People might say to you, you’ve seen so natural at it. You are like no, you should have seen what it looked like before. And then there’s more learning there because learning never ends. You’ll see more, there’s more nuanced, there’s more possibility, you can up your game, you can get better as a coach in your coaching and in your service and in yourself selling them your services.

That’s for me it was really useful to know about the three stages because it took me out of this story of what’s wrong with me, why is this taking so long I’m in the Remedial group. I’m watching all these young coaches coach with less experience than me – remember because I coached back in the day, they’re taking off, they’re like these little airplanes doing certain tricks. I’m the 777 rumbling down the runway. It just took all of the personal out and it normalized what the learning process is. Then I just realized if I fall in love with learning, what’s possible. That’s what I offered in the book that helped me tremendously.

Yeah, I think that because I’ve been such an avid lifelong learner. But there has been that time when I think I ought to arrive, right? But you never get to the end of it. There’s always lots more to learn and there are mistakes that you’re going to make. I’m just curious though if you have any thoughts about, if someone wants to really accelerate their learning, so they don’t get stuck in stage one, stage two for an extended period of time. Do you have any tips or suggestions on how they could move more quickly to get to stage three?

One would be and this is just my preference and other coaches and consultants that I’ve seen, your growth can get accelerated if you hire a coach. And the reason being is because you can’t see yourself, you can’t see what’s going on. You’re swimming in your own little pool and you’re not aware of how you’re coming off. You’re not aware of a lot of people call your blind spot, you just can’t see it. The story I told earlier about I’m going to bring the Jab fest, Steve’s not going to be able to figure this one out. Well, it was really obvious to him. Now, but for that coaching I got to tell you, I don’t think I would have arrived at that place.

I’ve been coached for 10 years, is that I feel like in 10 years, I’ve grown 30. The growth is incredible. I can look back three months ago, six weeks ago, I’m not the person I am today. Now that’s freedom, that’s a liveliness, that’s expansion, that’s just this amazing self-expression. One would be get a coach. And I was somebody who was not going to get a coach because to ask for help was evidence that I wasn’t capable. And you have a growth mindset. That’s incredible. I showed up with the most fixed mindset there ever was, I truly feel that way.

I had to unlearn that. But that’s one thing. Another thing would be keep prioritizing your coach ability. What I mean by that is like I said earlier make it a priority that you’re going to stay open, you’re going to be honest and you’re going to go do things that even if there’s some discomfort there, you can handle emotion, it’s going to come and go, just go have the experience. There’s so much more I can do than I thought I was capable of, because I would stop myself. Those two things prioritize your coach ability or developing a growth mindset and get somebody to help you. Somebody in your corner that you’ll stay open to what they have to say and you’ll go and take what they’ve offered and go and test it out. Make it roll your sleeves up real learning.

Well, when you think about it someone who is coaching others a natural question from a prospect seems like it would be and do you have your own coach? It says no, then it’s like, well, then why do I need a coach? It seems to me that that’s an important aspect of being a coach or consultant to say to have another person who can serve as that sounding board and kind of growth accelerator and accountability person for you so that you stay on track and accelerate your own learning.

I’ll tell you to have somebody that’s not a family member or a friend, because I mean how many of us like to be told by our spouses or our children what we need to change.

Yeah, and I think working with someone that has those skills and the experience ha tuned in and trained to be tuned in to picking up little things and being able to provide insights. I mean, that itself is a real important skill for someone coaching. You can’t just ask anyone to be your coach, if you want to accelerate at the rate that is going to allow you to really be at your maximum. One of the other things because I’ve because I’ve worked with consultants and coaches for like 25 years as they’ve used our software and I’ve had lots of conversations around business development.

One of the things you talked about in your book that I know they will relate to is this fluctuation in income. You get a full book of clients whether it’s working in an organization or working with a lot of individuals, and you’re intensely delivering your services while you’re fully booked. And then you come to the end of the engagements. And now what? You’re stuck and it sounded like you went through that cycle a number of times, and then you figured out how to solve that problem. Would you talk about that a bit?

Sure. As an entrepreneur that’s a problem that you want to get a handle on. Because if you’re inside of a business, and again, it depends on how you’re getting paid. If it’s not just 100% commission inside of business even if you’re not, you don’t have a book of business and you have to ramp back up. You’re still getting paid, maybe being paid less but there’s still some money rolling in. What I discovered was that I was operating under this misunderstanding that If I got really good as a coach, then people would naturally want to hire me. Well, they don’t.

I had to get good also at the sales piece. And I started getting really good at that, I was improving. And then I got to a place where I had a book of business and I sat back and I thought, this is great. Money’s in the bank, I’m coaching the thing that I love to do, this is great. And then I would wake up exactly what you said to where is everybody? And I don’t have any money. This whole notion of inconsistent income started. Well, then what occurred was it happened so many times that I realized why did I stop having conversations with people? Why did I stop selling? And I realized that I thought, well, I had this myth that again, people would just naturally come to me and I realized I needed to set up my calendar where I had ongoing space on a weekly basis to keep talking to people.

And that if I could keep talking to people and deliver my coaching, then I could keep consistency in my business. I could stay consistent because I’m 100% commission based. Then I just got into that practice. And I created a system where even if I had X amount of clients, I also required that I had X amount of conversations per week. I just committed to it and I practiced that system. In the book I talked about, I called it my Sisyphus system where I roll the boulder up the hill, and I’m like, yeah, I’m killing it. Then everybody would finish with me and then I would be desperate and needy and I got to make money and then all the stories would start back up. I decided to take that regal out of it. Everybody can do that too. There’s questions in the book you can ask yourself-

Those are excellent, to me that’s worth investing in the book, the questions that you ask people about their current systems.

Yes. What I love about current systems is that it takes again the personal out of it. This isn’t about me, and then I’m a loser and why did I do it again? I should have seen it coming. How long is this going to take me? I need to tweak the system.

Yes. And I’d love that about your own journey, Melissa, because there were so many things you talked about in terms of the, like an undercurrent of self criticism and that self judgment and I could feel myself relaxing as I was reading what you wrote because I related to it. And I’m guessing a lot of folks who read it will also identify with that desire or need to get it right.

Yeah.

And yet it’s different for each person. So it’s what kind of a system do each of us need to create and stick to, in order to keep that the cash flow steady and the clients coming in steadily, so that you’re not sitting there from its feet. It’s not feast and famine.

Exactly. It doesn’t have to be there is this myth that there’s the ups and downs to business. Sometimes you get a windfall, sometimes the client leaves. But if you have the system in place you’re good to go if you keep practicing it. You’re right, it depends on the individual, what kind of business do you want? Then you can design that system and stay conscious to it because it is a living system. As you evolve, the system’s going to have to change.

I have a lot of people who come to me and they want to rework their system, they want to have more time on their calendar but they want to and fewer clients, but they want to make the same amount of money or more. Or they’ve been just grinding and grinding away. They finally say to themselves, why am I living like this? I’m not even enjoying my family, or the money that I bring in? How can I redesign this, so it truly serves me. Serves me, serves my business and the people who have hired me.

Yeah, that balance between serving yourself and serving your clients, I thought was also very effective. I’d love you to talk since the name of your book is “Living Service.” I’d like you to talk a little bit about what do you mean when you say Service? What does that look like in terms of what someone actually does with a potential client or with a client?

For me, service. When I first learned about it I was given this question, how can you help? Over time it evolved, it changed because if that’s where I started, how can I help? And it changed because I started to see things that I could change internally, that would make my service stronger. For instance, how can I help today might look like filling a small group for coaches. It is for a company called Intentional Prosperity for Coaches, it’s about this piece about serving your business and keeping your income consistent.

Well, today filling this group, there are coaches who come to mind and to be in service to say, a coach by the name of Dave, the highest form of service I can do is I can email him and told him about the program and tell him why I’m sending it to him. The focus is off of me when it comes to service and it’s on the other person. Whatever I can do to continue to increase that level of service, whether it’s my professionalism as a coach or knowing, being direct in a way that lets the person understand what I’m saying so they don’t have to connect the dots. I’m kind of being general here. I don’t have a specific but it’s more about how do I keep the focus on the other person and help them?

I continue to deliver in ways that I know are going to make a difference, and ultimately lead to the highest form of service, which is a paid coaching relationship. Because I can’t help you unless we’re working together, I’m getting paid your pain and you’ve got skin in the game. I don’t know if that answers that for you Meredith?

Yeah, but it also makes me think about this whole idea of mindset. And you write about some of the coaches that you have worked with, who feel like a Service means giving it away free.

Yes.

And what are some of the ways you’ve needed or you have found coaches need to adjust their mindset? In other words where they are and where they could be in order to have a really successful practice.

I see three areas, one is just really getting a firm understanding of what Service means to them. And it could simply be how can I help? That’s fine. Now where does your ability to help get diluted? What happens? Well, there’s usually two areas. One is you’re showing up much more social with the focus on you concerned about did they like me? How am I coming off? I hope I’m not offending anybody, I wonder if my fee is too high to low? Will they hire me after this conversation? So I’m solely focused that my Service now is kind of this hollow shell of whatever I’m doing, because I am so self-absorbed. Now I’ve prioritized me rather than helping you.

Coaches get caught in what I call social ladder, social self. And when they upgrade, and they learn how to be the authentic version of themselves in a way where they are professional of serving somebody else, they’re still warm, they’re still friendly. But the focus isn’t about them anymore. That is one area. That took me some time because my social self would show up in my emails and my texts, on a phone call. I had to learn how to develop this professional self. What was great about it was that my coach said, everybody has to learn that. I just thought again, that well, that person’s just really naturally good at it. They had actually mastered it. There’s that piece, and then the other piece is the coach’s relationship to money. That’s a biggie.

Yes.

Yeah, and what does it mean? What if I charge X dollars and you say, you can’t afford that? What does that mean about me that I don’t help you. And maybe I charge too much or there’s just so much mental clutter, and I had it and it can still show up around money. I just want to become clear and clear about that. If I deliver value what I get in response, because this is the world we live in, is I get paid cash. I get paid money. That’s how it works. I don’t want to get caught up in that. I want to really look at what can I do to help? If they want more here’s what it costs? This is what we’ll do. Do you want to do that? It’s just developing those mindsets around those two things, me as a professional and my relationship to money.

Well, and it seems to me to the way you describe the kinds of conversations you have with people where you’re really looking for how can I help them in this moment, in a way that they feel served. We are looking out for them, then they are really inspired to want more of that. Because so few people have those skills and have the ability to give in that way. I think when you’re focused on them and not yourself as you said, and they sense that they want more of that. And so the next natural step is figuring, how can we work together?

That’s it. Something also that helped me was to realize that I want to be in service to other people, but I’m also running a business. So I’m in service to my business. A lot of coaches never reach that level, they reach this place of they give and give and give and give and give and then feel really disappointed if somebody doesn’t hire them or angry about it. It leads into this inappropriate over giving, and they get lost in now it’s personal and I’ve somehow, it means something about me that they didn’t hire me. If you slow it down a little bit, start to see, well you’re good at serving other people. What do all businesses that thrive have in common, they have a profit, they make a profit otherwise can’t keep their doors open.

I want to redirect coaches and entrepreneurs and consultants and say, “hey, you’ve got a business, be in service to the business which means it’s got to make a profit, you got to know your end game”. Which is making money creating clients, you need to be direct so that my husband would say you’re not playing footsies. Like they need to understand. And then you want to take more of the personal out of it because then if you the more personally you take out of any business, the more fun the business becomes. I am just, I’m learning that more and more. That’s my ongoing development. It is so much fun to see, if I run my business 5% more like a business. What’s the next thing I’m going to do?

Great question.

Right. I’m going to get on this podcast and not one that talks to people about their love relationship. So I guess I could, but you know what I mean, it’s just, it makes running a business so much more enjoyable. When I’m serving my business.

Yes, yes and that I think is an excellent question to ask in looking at choices, because we all have so many choices of how we can spend our time in the course of a day. And I know I’ve been guilty at times of being busy, very, very busy, but not productive. And so it’s the idea of is this action or this use of my time going to take me closer to what it is that I want to achieve or will helped me grow my business. So I love that question that you had. And as we closer to wrapping up, you touched on this phrase, slowing down. And I just love that because of course, Steve Chandler talks about that in his books as well. I liked the way you addressed it because you were clear about what it’s not slowing down in regards to and also what it is. So talk a little bit about what it’s not and what it is.

Yeah. Especially in the beginning, almost every other word out of Steve’s mouth. And I say the beginning when we started coaching was how can you serve? How can you help? That those were, those questions were going on. The other one was, well, let’s slow this down. Now in my mind, slowing down meant taking extended naps on the couch, it meant staring out the window and drooling. It meant, I don’t know what it, it’s having a spa day a bath with candles and chocolate. I’m like, I’m not into this. I don’t want to slow down and I was trying to make it clear to him. I realized what wasn’t clear to me. Slowing down for me meant slowing my mind down, relaxing my mind.

Because when I’ve got all this what I like to call noise pollution going on, all this thinking and I’m analyzing and I’m caught in my thinking all this is going on. I have no room for any kind of creativity. I have no ability to connect with anybody because I’m so caught in my head. Slowing down, was to relax and quiet my mind. Now a lot of people don’t want to do that. We’re taught about multitasking, we’re hearing now not such a great idea, because it’s not how our brains work. But people get so revved up that this notion of slowing down seems like it’s being irresponsible. I have a daughter who lives in New York and she was running an email by me for a potential sales conversation. The person didn’t want to get together because he had just too much going on.

He had a scattered calendar. That is everybody!. It is counter intuitive, “I am so far behind the eight ball and you want me to slow down??” That’s crazy. Well, what I’ve discovered and you have to be willing to test is that if you slow your mind down, and you just say just like you said, Meredith what’s the one thing right now that I’ve got a handle and all the mental clutter goes away, you can handle that easily, You’re engaged, you’re really into it, you get it done, and it takes less time. And you come out the other end calm and inspired. And what’s the next thing. That’s slowing down and anybody listening to this, if your first thought about that is boy that’s just not a great idea. Really slow down and experiment with it. Just see, I use it all the time. And it’s like a superpower now.

When we start feeling like I’ve got to do this and this and this and this and this. That is the very time, it seems counterintuitive that we do need to slow down. Because we’re overwhelming ourselves and feeling almost like a victim. I can’t do everything I need to do. And if we can slow down and realize what’s the most important thing to do. First, that relieves a lot of the stress we’re putting on ourselves. Because when you look outside it’s nothing out there that’s doing this to us. It’s all we do to our own health.

That’s it. So when I hear about stressful environments and this work stresses me out, all I can think of this, I wish I had a magic want and I could just get somebody to see it has nothing to do with that. It’s all self-imposed. And sometimes the thing on the list to do is if my mind is so revved, I did it the other day, I went for a walk. I had all this stuff to do and I’m like you know what, I need to chill out, I need to just settle down.

That’s great. Well, we could talk I know for another hour, but it’s time to wrap up. What I’d like to do is ask you to tell our audience how can they learn more about you, the services you offer and especially get your wonderful book, “Living Service.”

Thank you. Well, of course go to Amazon, right. You can just go over there and type in, “Living Service,” Melissa Ford. You can find it there. And if you want to know more about me, my website is melissafordcoaching.com . You can go on there, you can look at the best. And there’s also you can type in if you want to send me something a message and I’m happy to get back to you.

That’s great. Well, thank you, Melissa. I highly recommend picking up a copy of her book. It’s really wonderful. We just touched on a few areas of it. I think it’s something every coach really ought to own and review often because there’s so much richness there. Thank you again, Melissa, for being with me today. It’s been just such a pleasure to get to talk to you.

Thanks, Meredith. I have had a great time. Thank you.

 

Episode 006: Build Relationships with the ABCDs of Giving and Receiving

Episode 006: Build Relationships with the ABCDs of Giving and Receiving

 

Strong for Performance Podcast

 

006: Build Relationships with the ABCDs of Giving and Asking

by Ana Melikian

As a coach and consultant, you probably find it natural to give. You may find it more difficult to ask or receive. Dr. Ana Melikian shares a powerful set of actions steps that can strengthen relationships with your core network in a meaningful way. She explains the difference between nurturing your core network of 100 and doing outreach to 20 people you want to know and add to your network. Ana is the host of the MINDSET ZONE Podcast and Founder of Tech Tips for Coaches. She works closely with coaches, consultants, trainers and speakers to help them achieve their big goals.

You’ll discover:

  • The benefits of sharing relevant information with your network
  • How you can become an effective connector
  • Why it pays to cultivate positivity and relate on a basic human level
  • How to put your “Ask” in gear to generate new business

 

Watch the episode:

 

Connect with Ana

Get this free PDF.

Give it to the leaders you work with!

Ana’s Website

Learn about her services and sign up for Tech Tips for Coaches:

AnaMelikien.com

Read the Transcription

Hi, welcome to another episode of Strong for Performance. I’m your host Meredith Bell and I am so delighted today to have with me Dr. Ana Melikian. Ana, welcome.

My pleasure to be here.

Ana is very special guest because I met her… It’s been at least three years ago…when I got involved in a program that she had co created called More Clients More Fun, which helps coaches and consultants do more business on LinkedIn. It was such a valuable program and Ana has been dedicated to working with people who are coaches and consultants. She has so much great value to share with us today. I want to not delay any further and get started. Ana, so that our listeners who aren’t as familiar with you and your work, so they can learn more about you and your journey, tell us a little bit about how you came to work coaches and consultants.

So keeping it short. As people can tell by my accent, I was not born in this country that now is my home. I live in Arizona, in Phoenix. But originally I’m from Portugal, and all my background was in academia and in psychology. I was a clinical psychologist before I moved here to the United States. And when I moved I also, by reasons of the art, I met my husband, then when we decided to get married, he was living here, so I moved here. And I had an opportunity to restart my professional life too, and I decide to become a life coach. And from a life coach, I did all the training, I got all the certifications. I saw many coaches out there, in what area of expertise they have, and then where are the clients?

I was wanting to have an online business, and so then I started really to study the online marketing. I see other people succeeding, so I knew that was possible. And I found this system called the Book Yourself Solid. And I started to apply it, I start to see results. To make a long story short, I connect with the creator of the system Michael Port. He was to do some training, I got into the training, I became a certified coach, I became an elite certified coach. I became the director of education for the Book Yourself Solid School of coach training. And I transform a from a life coach to a business coach.

That is what I do now, helping other coaches and consultants to have their online business and attracting their ideal clients.

That’s great. And of course, that is the goal of everyone who’s in business, is to be able to attract and work with your ideal clients. And I know over the years, you’ve evolved that Book Yourself Solid system into your own framework that’s uniquely yours. And that’s what you teach now, and that’s what I’d really like to focus on in our conversation today. Because I think what you’ve created is a very powerful and effective way to have people draw in the right kind of folks that they want to work with. I believe you call this now A, B, C, D, is that right?

Correct. ABCDs of giving and asking to have conversations that create opportunities. And it has a lot to do with, when I think about it, my background in psychology, I was a psychologist, I still am. And everything is really, and even in relation to marketing, that honestly coming from clinical psychologist, I looked down with marketing and industrial psychology, to be honest with you, marketing is. And then I realized that marketing is just a way of communicating, of taking a message to people that need that message.

So when I start to see things as a communication, and really that is what also attract me to the Book Yourself Solid system that is all about relationship, creating relationships. And there’s two elements communication – effective, relevant communication – and relationships. And our marketing as service professionals such as coaches, consultants, speakers and trainer, we can have our marketing, our way of self-expression and creating relevance that we exist and what we have to offer mainly then through good communication, and creating solid relationships. And it’s from there that the ABCDS of giving, asking to create that opportunities for business comes from.

In a nutshell, it’s just a way to memorize a menu of actions that we should be doing to communicate effectively and cultivate the relationship. So the A, of ABCDs is always share information. So I’m going over them and then we can dig in each one of them and maybe we can give examples that.

Okay, excellent.

That sounds good?

Yes.

So the A, always share information. B, be the connector, connect people there to really benefit from knowing each other. The C, cultivate positivity, is about gratitude, empathy, fun, so bring some positivity to the mixture. The D, is the direct outreach, reach out to someone that you don’t know yet, but you like to know. And then always give referrals, testimonial support for review. And then ask too, we have to put like a colleague of mine always say, “We have to put our ask in gear.” We have to also develop that muscle of asking for referrals, for testimonials reviews, to people that can help us. We manage to ask, we are going to be helped. So it is really important.

And then all that, creates opportunities to have conversations. That’s where the magic happen, when we start to have these beautiful coffees in person meetings, and we start to have real relationships that can lead to business.

I love that model. And I do want to go deeper in each one. Just thinking about … Tell me if this is accurate based on your own experience working with coaches and consultants, because I’ve worked with hundreds of them over the years, as they’ve used our software products. And they are extraordinary givers. They’re always looking for how they can be of service. More of them have challenges with asking.

Totally.

Does that resonate with you?

Totally, they identify as the helper. They don’t like the position of being the one that needs help. So it’s meant for them to give, then to ask. That is why in these ABCDs of giving and asking, I put the giving first because it comes more naturally. We have to balance with the asking. It’s like if we think about as a service professional, as a professional out there, people have to know that you exist, otherwise they will never buy from you. That is the reality. And after they know that you exist, they are going to check you out. They are going to see if you have a solid foundation.

But this is just the beginning. Very few people just with that are going to buy your services. There is like a gap, if you can imagine, they know that you exist, they know that you have a solid foundation, that what look they like is like you, you specialize in helping people like them. And then on the other side is your service, the opportunities that you can help them with. But you have to build trust and credibility to bridge that gap. And the way that you bridge the gap that you create the connection between the two sides, is a lot by giving. But by asking too, and if you only give and you don’t ask, you are going to have an unbalanced bridge. If you only ask – there are many people out there that only ask – and don’t give, it’s an unbalanced bridge. And who is going to cross that? But if you give and ask in a balanced way, you really shorten that reach and make it a very solid place for people that feels comfortable to cross and to try your services.

I think one of the things too that what you’re bringing up makes me think about is, often we do like to give, and we don’t think about how others enjoy giving too. So we put undue pressure on ourselves to be the one that’s always giving. And in a way, we’re robbing others from being able to give back to us. And I’ll give you a quick example. I’ve been a guest on dozens of podcasts now over the last few years. When I launched my podcast, I thought, I’m going to reach back out to some of these hosts, and I decided to contact about 18 of them.

Do you know 90% of them said, “Absolutely. I’d love to help you.” And they remembered a thank you gift that I had sent them after being on their show. And in some cases, it’s been three or more years. But it’s that whole thing of when you give, and you give in a way that’s thoughtful, people remember that. And so if you go back to them to ask for something, they’re more than willing to help you in some way.

And I love, because you are a master of that. You are a master of network in general, and the small attention to the small details. Because that is what is memorable. Nowadays for good and for bad it’s not difficult to become memorable. Just writing a hand written note stands out. Writing an email, of course, will be something that after podcasts is easy, that is almost expected. If somebody doesn’t do that, maybe we don’t think too much about, but we notice that the person didn’t email us. But if we receive their little thank you card by the regular snail mail, that is much less overwhelming than our email inbox. And you have that kinesthetic thing in our hands, so powerful.

This person took time to put pen on paper and write, it’s really powerful. And you take that to the next level, because sometimes you send something more three dimensional and that makes it even more memorable. And I remember when you sent me that beautiful glass with my first thing initial there. I use it quite a lot. And every time that I take that glass out in the kitchen, I think of you.

Well, thank you. And that’s something that if everybody listening takes just this one idea away, it’ll make a difference, if they implement it. Which is, number one, how many thank you notes or handwritten notes have you written in the past month or quarter, to people to let them know you appreciate them, because they keep these notes? And also small gifts that don’t have to be, outrageously expensive, but they’re things that are not consumed by the person. And so in your case, it was a glass. In other cases, that might be a tumbler. But something that people use regularly and they will think of you in a positive way. If you just say, “Thank you.” for something that they’ve done.

And sometimes giving a book, if it is the right book for the right people. The book is tricky sometimes because some people have a pile of books that they want to read, and it’s just another book to read. That sometimes giving the right book that is relevant to the person and tell them, “Okay, read just chapter number or just the introduction.” Make their life easy, makes all the difference.

Yes, that is excellent. And so what you’re really saying is, a thoughtful gift that they will realize you put some effort into considering what would be meaningful to them?

Correct.

So let’s go back to the ABCD, so we don’t get focused just on the giving and the asking. Go a little bit deeper with each one of them now.

So always share information, relevant information. That tells a lot about the giving, but like for instance when we do a post in LinkedIn, or in Facebook, with an article that we read that we thought, “Oh my gosh, this is really good information.” It can be our things, but it can also be other things that we come across or video or pep talk. So we can send that in an email to a person that when we are seeing the video or the article, we thought okay, this is relevant because of that, or even in a post we can tag people on LinkedIn or Facebook, as a way of saying, this is relevant for you. And if we do that one-on-one connection to the person saying, “I read this and it reminds me of the conversation that we had. And I think you are going to find it helpful because of this and this and that.”

Again, the person will think, “Oh, that person was listening when we had that conversation, and she still remembers.” It’s the one of the ones that always came easy for me.

The second, the B, is be the connector, connecting, introducing two people who benefit from each other. And this one honestly was a little bit more difficult for me to create as a habit. It was easy when I was in a live event speaking with people because I was like, “Oh, I think I should introduce you to someone.” That after live events, I didn’t have any problems doing introductions. But on the day to day, in front of my computer, it was not easy. And by practicing and really making that effort in the beginning of thinking, “Who will be relevant to this person or to that person?” Now, I do it very easily, and I have my template, I adapt for some people that I introduce to more people, I even have a blurb of them about what they do or I ask them, ‘I would like you to introduce to so and so. How do you want to be introduced?” If we don’t know, we ask and we are training our “asking” process.

So that is really powerful. And then the cultivated positivity I see it more as an article or again, the thank you card. It’s a way of practicing the gratitude, the impact because if we know that somebody is going to surgery or has a cold or the flu, if you send them something, gosh, that is going to stand out. Or if they are going through a hard moment in their lives or a celebration, they publish their first book. How can we be there as people, be there as authentic people? You and I had the pleasure of meeting in person in Hawaii. But before that moment, we already had a solid relationship, because of cultivating a relationships through the waves of the internet.

And it’s all about having some fun in the process, because I’ll just say, why not enjoy the process, because I think that’s the best way. So those are the basis of the ABC. I don’t know if you’d like to add something, because you practice these things too all the time.

Yeah, I want to go back for a minute to the B, because be the connector. I don’t know if it came as naturally to me, maybe it did. But I know I’ve practiced this a lot. And so it’s like your radar gets tuned in to noticing if somebody is saying, “Here’s something I’m looking for.” You can immediately think, “Oh, this? Well, Ana, you did it to me recently.” When you and I were talking last week and I was mentioning … I forget now what the item was that I mentioned.

But you immediately had a book that you went to grab then said, “This book will be very helpful to you.” So it can be connecting someone to a resource, not necessarily to another person. But all of your four elements really are interrelated ,too.

Yes.

Because it’s this always be sharing is this whole aspect of connecting people to information, to people that could be valuable for them. And I had a chance to do it just this morning, I had a podcast host, one of the ones who said, “Yes, I’d love to support you.” And she wrote back and said, “I’ve promoted this here.” And then she said, “Do you know somebody that might be available to be a guest on my show on Friday?” Hers happens to be a live show. And so she had to scramble and I immediately connected her with somebody that I knew would be an ideal guest, and she emailed me just before our call and said, “Thank you. We had a great conversation and he’s going to be on the show on Friday.”

So it’s that responsiveness to situations where someone may not reach out to you like she did to me. But you sense there may be a way that you can add value to them.

And the couple of things…you show there that sometimes one action can meet some different letters in the ABCD here, and that is totally okay. The important thing is to cultivate this mode, because in the always sharing information, be the connector and cultivate positivity, these are really actions that we are doing to strengthen our relationships with our core network of people. And people can say, “Oh, this is like the book Love Is a Killer App.” Yes, yes. That is a great book to be read all about cultivating their core network in a meaningful way.

We also need to be expanding our network with new people, because some people move on to other projects or other things. So we always have to bring some new blood in. And that is the D, the direct outreach. So who can I reach out to? In Book Yourself Solid, we call it the list of 20. Who are the 20 people, the 20 companies, the 20 organizations that we have in our list to reach out in a meaningful, relevant way because we’d like to have them as part of our core network?

And let’s talk a little bit about that, because that may be a new concept for folks. This core network of 20.

That I call the outreach, I call the list of 20. The core network, if you want to put a maximum number, no more than 100 people in the core networking, in the group of people that you want to develop one on one relationships. And there is scientific evidence about this, the 100 to 120 in your tribe group. But the reality is we have limited time in our day to keep strong one on one relationships, so it has to be a limited group. That is totally different than a mass email or an email subscriber list. These are people that we want to keep relationships one on one.

So talk a little bit about the difference between the 20 and the 100.

So that list – what I call the core network that I say maximum of 100 people – it could be just 20, if they are the right 20. Quality is really more important here than quantity. These are people that already know you. If you write an email, they identify your name and they are going to read that email. For most of them, you even have their phone number and you can phone them. These are people that already know you, they know what you do. And they are willing to help you, to make it a mutual relationship.

The outreach is to people you know, or most of the time sometimes you have an idea will be great to know somebody in that organization, that there are people that you want to establish a relationship, want them to be part of your core network, but they are not there yet. So you have to outreach to them in a relevant way without being spamming, without being annoying, of being relevant and being of help. And then you start to cultivate that relationship with them. When they see your email, they smile, “Oh, she’s writing me.” Or they start to remember your name, and you start to cultivate that relationship.

And I am guessing that when you think about or when you’re helping coaches and consultants to identify who those 20 are, one of the steps after they’ve identified them is, what’s the best way to reach out to them? So talk a little bit about strategic introductions, because I know that’s something you advocate. And that’s a very effective way to get known by somebody that currently does not know you.

So here’s the question, once we identify the institution, for instance, if you are a speaker, or if you’re a coach, consultant and you’d love to work with a certain company. The question is who is in that company, who is the organizing of that event? You will identify that person. So you have a name, you have a face, and then you can ask, who do I know that knows this person?

And LinkedIn is wonderful for that, because of the common connections and even Facebook if you see them communicating with each other. And of course, mainly in LinkedIn, sometimes we are connected with one person and we don’t know the other person. So we have to ask, do you know this person well? That is the opportunity to make that connection. And if you have somebody that can make that email or their luncheon, or coffee or whatever, that allows you to invite to that situation now. I would like to present you to this person, I think you are going to enjoy each other. That accelerates the process.

Absolutely. Because I think that’s one of the things that causes those in the service industries like coaches and consultants to cringe, when they think about cold calling. And when you’re talking about outreach, you’re really not talking about cold calling

No.

You’re looking at different ways that the person can become known without having to make this cold phone call.

You have to warm up even if you are going to cold call, warm up the relationship, warm up for instance by connecting on LinkedIn, commenting where people are, following the people on social media wherever they are active – it can be LinkedIn, Tweeter or Facebook. And share their content that is relevant, comment on it. Put some thought into it. If they are an author, write the review of one of their books. You are going to get on their radar. That’s how can you get in their radar in a relevant way for them, by adding value to them. Then when you outreach to them and say, “Hey, I’d like to connect on LinkedIn or I’d like to-” then they will be much open to that. For instance, just to give a concrete example.

I’m part of the National Speakers Association, there is on a chapter here in Phoenix. And they do amazing meetings once a month, and they bring incredible speakers. And if I’m going to the meeting, when I register to the meeting, I like to put something on Facebook or LinkedIn saying, “I just registered for this event. I’m really thrilled that I’m going to listen to so and so speaking about this topic.” And of course, I tag at so and so, most of the time, they have a LinkedIn profile. And if they are active on LinkedIn, they see the notifications, and they say, “Thank you.”

And then I look a little bit more at their material, and I say something like, “I really I’m looking forward to listen to you speak about that.” Something that is relevant, and then I send them an invitation to connect to them. So now, they already saw my name and most of the time, they are going to accept that invitation, and now they are a first degree connection on LinkedIn. When I’m in the live event, I go say, “Thank you so much for accepting my invitation. I really appreciate that.” Now we are connected there, and now they remember you, because they saw you there. And this applies to association events and conferences. So many things we can do to warm up the relationships even before we go to the event, and then to follow up afterwards.

And that’s such a key piece that’s often missing. But you know, as I’m listening to you describe that one example of what you’ve done. What you’re talking about there is really being strategic. And so when I think about being strategic around the outreach for these 20, is to take time to slow down. Too often, we’re just moving so quickly from thing to thing, but to stop and think, who are the 20 people? That if I connected with them, if I became known by them, it could make a huge difference in my business.

Totally, we have to be strategical. And we have to be authentic. The two things are totally possible at the same time. Because we want our core network and the people that we will outreach that brings to our core network. We want them to be people that energize us, that we love to be around. Because if we love to be around those people, it’s going to be much easier to keep in touch with them.

Exactly.

So when we strategically are thinking of the list of 20, the people that really can take our business to the next level, if we cultivate that relationships. Yes, we are being strategical in calculating that, that we want if we find somebody that drains our energy, let it go.

But if somebody, I love the energy, I love the values, I love their work. That book was really transformational for me when I read it. Those are the ones that you want to put there, because this allows you to be strategical and authentic and even go beyond the business. Because I was seeing my doggy in the background, this is a home office and see sometimes my husband passing, my dog is also coming by. And sometimes even in the sharing information being the connector and cultivating positivity, we have to start to go beyond business, beyond the professional. What are their hobby? Do they like outdoors? What do they like? Because in terms of gifts and presence, we can be more relevant if we know that information.

That’s such a good point. I think too often we think we’ve got to be all business. But we’re all human. And we all have interests and it’s amazing how a person’s whole physique and facial expression can change when you ask them, what do you like to do outside of work? What’s your passion away from the office? And getting them to start talking about that, they can become so animated and you realize, oh my gosh. And you hit on something really important here.

And you are seeing them as a three dimensional person, not just the … And there if you look … Oh, sorry, speaking about three dimensionally and the aspects here, the dog is barking. So at the moment, I can bring it here. I’m going to introduce your audience, my little dog that is fluffy and he’s a sensation in Facebook. But hopefully will not bark more. But it is how can we use these things, if I know that somebody is a dog person, they are going to understand this totally. If somebody is not the dog person, of course I have to excuse the interruption on all of that. And even if somebody is just listening to the audio version of this interview, again, some of them are going to find this endearing, because they are dog person, they have an online business, and wow, other people are, “Huh.” That is okay, we are going to connect with some and not connect so much with others. That is the reality of things.

I always think about that video. I don’t know if you remember of the BBC interview, that was this expert in politics that was being interviewing by the BBC in England. And yeah, the home office was set up, and the kids come into his office in the middle of the interview.

Yes, I remember that.

First one, then the second and then the poor wife running in. And you can see him metaphorically sweating saying my career as a commentator is over. But he was trying to keep, I’m still here, controlling all the chaos around, the wife takes the kids out and the poor guy. But because now so many of us have our online business, a big percentage of people were drawn in. And it became a viral sensation and then he was brought back to be interviewed about the experience. This is being human, how can we be human online? How can we be human on TV? On YouTube? To connect with people is everything. It goes back to real people, real relationships and how can we communicate in a relevant way with people?

And that’s what I love really in wrapping up, because we could talk for another hour I know. But these principles that you’ve laid out here in very clear terms, that’s really what they’re all about, is valuing another human being. Because when we feel valued, when we feel understood and appreciated, we want more of that person who’s giving us that kind of appreciation for who we are as humans. And so I think that while it’s helpful to have a framework that you’ve given, we don’t have to get hung up on exact steps. It’s looking at how can we be our authentic selves, and connect with other people in a way that causes them to want to continue that relationship?

Yeah, this is totally right. It’s the thing about … This is like a template, like when we have a template for an email or a template to talk, is the starting point. It’s just to avoid that feeling of the blank page. What should I do? If we have that, we have a menu of options to inspire us. But then we have to bring our voice there. Otherwise, we are just another thing, but it’s just nice.

So I think in summary, as a way to give people an action step, is to take a few minutes when you’re not driving or involved in some other activity, to make a list of those 20 people you want to reach out to. And then the other hundred or whatever number it is, it could be 50. But whatever number that is, identify those individuals, because these are people that will respond to you. And that you can have as a base of support in building your business. And I think that that’s really valuable. So Ana, I’m confident many of our listeners are going to want to know more about what you have to offer. So tell us how they can find you online.

So the best way is my name, Ana, just with one N. And then Melikian is, M-E-L-I-K-I-A-N.com. So my first, last name.com is the easiest way to find my website. And then from there, you can go to where I have the social media presence in Facebook and LinkedIn. That are my main stopping spots, I also have a Twitter, but I’m not very active there. So even if you Google my name, Ana Melikian, you will find me there in the first page of the Google results. And I would love to hear from any of you, if you have a specific comment, a specific question. I would love always to say, “Hello.”

Yes. And let me just add that, Ana is one of the most generous people I know. She is always looking for ways that she can help. So you’ve been very generous today, Ana, with all the things you’ve shared with us and I really appreciate your openness, and your wisdom in life and in business, and what you’ve brought to us today. So thank you very much for being my guest.

My pleasure!