What Men and Women Really Want

by Clarence Thomson

When we talk to someone about becoming a coaching client, think of it as an invitation to dance. You have a certain set of presuppositions about the way things are and ought to be, your prospective client has an equal number of differing, opposite and identical concerns. How do the two of you meet both of your needs and still follow the music?

First, become aware of your own communication style. I'm a Seven. I wrote promotion copy for a publishing company where, in some circles, my nickname was "Slick." I went with the CEO of a video production company to pitch a group to make a video of their work. My CEO friend is an Eight. He has a loud voice. We met with an indecisive Six.

I was itching to talk to her. I was sure I could talk her into doing exactly what she wanted. I mean just that. I thought I could persuade her through questions, suggestions, and painting pictures in her head until she found one she liked. We could have produced what she wanted. If you are unkind, you will notice just a trace of conscious manipulation. You're wrong. It wasn't conscious then. But a slick Seven could have described things with enough juice to make her want our production.

I never got a chance to talk. My Eight friend sensed her indecision. He didn't let her work through it. He told her what to do. He told her what the video ought to be like, what kind of equipment we had, what awards we'd won and how we would do it. He added why we would do the best job. Actually he told her that several times.

Of course, we didn't get the job. She was frightened, which made her not trust her ability to decide even more. My Eight friend was furious that she didn't decide then and there. He didn't help her with her real problem, which was deciding what she wanted to create, not whether to use us.

When you talk to clients about using your services, start by being at their service. Find out what they really want. They often are not clear or accurate when they tell you. Don't be too quick to believe what they say they want. Filter it through their Enneagram style for one more layer. If Threes say they want increased productivity, you might believe that. You also might believe they may be meeting someone else's notion of productivity that they don't really accept. If Eights say they want more productivity, believe it. But also look for indications that productivity is only one of the symbols of power they want, and it may not be the most important one.

Our Enneagram style is the world within the heads of those you are addressing. All the words, especially the key words, have another meaning-sometimes differing, sometimes merging with the words you use. Find out what they mean to your clients.

The best advice I can offer when someone might want your services is to find out what they really want. Frequently, it is what they say. But it is also what they assume and don't say. Those assumptions are on the Enneagram level-the level, by the way, from which they make their decision to use your services.

Connecting the Dots

by Mary Bast

You're about to complete your introductory meeting with a potential client and it's time to "close the sale." Right? No. You will be much more in alignment with your own integrity and much more useful to your clients if you are being in process with them-whether seeking commitment at the beginning or maintaining a connection during the coaching process. Our key injunction is this: Be present at all times with your clients. Of course you want them to hire you, but that is not the goal of a good introductory session. You want to make your first contact real contact, to build a relationship so engaging that potential clients convince themselves they want to work with you.

Remember the Nine-Dot Problem where you're asked to connect the dots with only four straight lines? Most people who see this puzzle for the first time will rack their brains trying to figure out how to connect all nine without going outside the box. There is no box in the diagram, as you can see, but our generic worldview is one of boxes. The only way to solve this problem is to go outside the implied box.

So instead of closing the sale, I think of opening the relationship, giving potential clients the opportunity to convince themselves they want to hire me. My goal is for them to have a shift in perspective, an "aha" moment during their 30-minute complementary call. If they want to make it an interview, I answer their questions then guide them back into an experience of the coaching process. I ask a lot of questions and mirror back a shift of any degree ("I noticed a long pause and a sigh. something got to you there?"), then refer back to it as the call comes to a close. I also use open-ended questions that presuppose hiring me ("How do you see yourself benefiting from continued coaching with me?").

Finally, if they haven't convinced themselves within 30 minutes, but they're close, I'll extend the call a bit. People are naturally afraid of change and may wait to bring up a key issue until it seems there won't be time to deal with it! A key notion in sales training is to both deepen and broaden perceived needs. One client got to the crux of an issue with only five minutes left on the initial call-anger toward someone in his life. Deepening questions included, "Give me an example of the most recent time you felt angry. What was that anger like for you?" Broadening questions included, "What other kinds of situations have triggered your anger? Has it shown up differently with different people?" I gave him a specific exercise to go with his anger in a healthy way instead of stifling it or blowing up. Then I asked, "How shall we move forward from here?" (Another presupposition.) He paid for three months in advance.