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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

How To Be A Coach To Your Clients

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“This is really working well,” he said to me. “Do you think I could do something like this with my clients?” He was a new coaching client in financial services and was amazed at how well the experience was helping him.

He continued, “I have been a coach to young people for many years and have been very successful at it. I guess I never thought of coaching my clients. I have just been selling. Is there a way to do less selling and do more coaching for my clients and prospects? I am a better coach than a sales person.”

For years many in the insurance and financial services industry have sought out the services of a coach to improve their performance and build their business. Now let’s take some of those coaching practices into our own work with prospects and clients and help them make good life and financial decisions, and then take action.

Unconscious competents

Unfortunately, even many who are good coaches in other realms such as sports and the arts are not conscious of how they do it. Many good coaches and sales people are “unconscious competents”: They are good at what they do but have never taken time to figure out how it works for them and why they are successful. Often, my role as a coach to them is to help them become “conscious competents” so they can more easily duplicate their performance.

Based on research and experience, I have developed an easy-to-understand coaching model for guiding people through the discovery of what they want, the direction they want to go, and then encouraging them to take action. It has 5 stages: affirmation, attention, concentration, direction and benediction.

Stage 1: Affirmation. To affirm people is to find and declare a positive thing about them and to make them feel important. This is not the usual warm-up conversation of the sales pitch but a genuine way to help individuals know how important they are and that you are grateful for the time they have given you and for seeking help for themselves. This is about them, not you or your company and it leads to the next stage.

Stage 2: Attention. This is where you seek to find their story and what their concerns are. Here you are fully present. I put down my pen and listen and do not take notes. You are not finding facts as much as you are finding stories of problems, desires, hopes, and aspirations. This is full-bodied listening: asking questions and hearing stories.

Often, clients will articulate what they want in ways they have seldom done before. Here we seek to discover what they want, not just what the problem is. Good coaching and good selling is not about problem resolution as much as it is about working toward hopes and aspirations.

Stage 3: Concentration. Now the coach slowly begins to guide the conversation to areas we agree to concentrate on together. Here you use such phrases as, “It sounds like you are most concerned about ______.” “Would it be best if we could work on _____ first?” “With your permission, I would suggest we start by seeking ways to work on _____.” Remember that coaching, unlike selling, is always about starting to do one thing better or solve one problem.

Stage 4: Direction. In this stage, we seek to find together what we should do about concentration. This is where the coach says things like, “I have a request: please consider this idea or taking this action.” “With your permission I would like to make a suggestion.” “Would you be open to a recommendation?”

These questions are the mark of good coaching. They use questions, observations, suggestions and recommendations. Then from time to time they even issue a challenge. I often say,

“(Name), I would like to challenge you, may I? Let’s decide and commit to do (action).”

Then I continue, “May I hold you responsible to that?” “When will we get that done?” “Let’s promise each other that we are going to take action and get this done together.” “When will we celebrate the achievement of this goal?” “How can I help you?” These statements commit the client to change in the direction desired.

Stage 5: Benediction. That’s right, pronounce a benediction. No, a benediction is not just the closing words of a religious service. They are to be the closing words of a coaching conversation that sends the client off to greater awareness, responsibility and enhanced performance. The word benediction has its origin in the Latin (bene = good, diction = speak). Benediction means to speak goodness, wellness and encouragement to another.

No matter what happened in your conversation, end with a benediction. Even if no resolution has been found for the situation or if the resolution is separation, close with good words. In closing a coaching conversation, such words as “I wish you the best,” or “May it go well with you”–spoken with directness and sincerity–bring us to the right conclusion.

It can be another profound experience for the client. Remember the Mr. Spock character of the original Star Trek series? He would say, “Live long and prosper!” He was pronouncing a benediction, and so can you.

By using this model and your own wisdom and experience, you can start being a coach to clients and prospects, will achieve greater selling success and have a lot more fun.

Stan Hustad, M.A., is the leader of The PTM Group Coaching Experience, Tucson, Ariz. You can e-mail him at .


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