#29: How To Structure an Initial Consultation

Discovery call, health history, initial consult…whatever you call it, it’s the first time you’re talking to a prospective client about the possibility of working together. In this episode, Michelle shares:

– How to structure your consultations so they are less nerve wracking.
– When and how to have clients complete a health history form.
– How to think about pricing a group program
…and much more!

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This episode is sponsored by:
Master Class: Turn Your Health Coaching Business Into a Full Time Salary

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Hello there Health coaches! Welcome to the health coach power community Q & A. My name is Michelle Pfennighaus. How are you guys doing this week. It is like the dead of summer and so many people are on vacation it tends to be a relatively slow period for health coaches. So talk to me. How’s it going? What’s new and good day. We’re going to be talking specifically about the discovery call where the health history or the initial consultation whatever you want to call it. It is the first time that you’re talking to a prospective client about the possibility of working together. And these calls or these in person meetings can be absolutely nerve racking. Yes. Oh yeah. No joke in this episode will talk about how to structure these sessions so that you feel confident clear and not at all like a used car salesman because I’m quite sure that you never wanted to get into health coaching so that you could be a used car salesman.

Now if you’re here with me live and we are streaming at HealthCoachPowerCommunity.com here’s what I want you to do. I want you to go into the comment area and tell me what freaks you out the most about having that initial consultation with the prospective client. Like what makes you the most nervous the most sweaty in the armpit. I want to hear about it. And before we dive in let me remind you that this episode is brought to you by my free training for health coaches. It’s called How to turn your health coaching business into a full time salary and you can sign up for that at https://findyourbalancehealth.com/earn. I’ll show you how to actually map out your time onto a calendar. Really we get very practical in this training and plan your priorities so that you are bringing in the income that you want to make and it’s free and it’s available https://Findyourbalancehealth.com/earn.

So this past week we got a lot of questions all about the initial consultation in the group, so I kind of collected them all and that made a perfect topic for today’s episode. The first question that I want to address came from Kayla and Kayla said I have my very first discovery call tomorrow and another scheduled next week. I’m so excited but nervous tips, tricks, what to cover in it?

So yes Kayla, so much yes! We’re going to be talking all about that and I thought we would just start with this idea of what to cover in it because I know when I started my business I wasted a lot of time on these calls either giving away too much help for free. It’s easy for people to just start asking questions you know. Hey Michelle what do you think about collagen peptides should I be using that?

Michelle what do you think about whole 30? Hey Michelle, you know what do you think about being vegan and all of a sudden you are like ping, ping, ping, ping, ping. Try to answer questions for someone and prove that you know your stuff and make them like you. But totally lost the point of the call which is to find out whether or not you’d be a good match to work together whether or not you want to work with this person and make an offer. It really is a sales conversation when you get right down to it. And then another way that you can waste time is by letting someone talk and talk and talk about whatever they want to talk about and never piece it together with how you can help them… What big problem they have. How you can help them. How you’ve helped others in the past and what their next step should be in working with you.

So let’s talk about what to actually cover inside one of these calls and I truly think they do not need to be longer than 30 minutes. Again we don’t want you to waste your whole day talking to people who may or may not become paying clients. So there are several ingredients that I think go into any good consultation and the first piece is about you and your approach to the conversation. The idea is that you need to own this conversation from the get go. It’s not like oh hey so-and-so how are you. Thanks for setting up time to talk. So tell me about yourself. That’s super Oprah open ended. They can go anywhere with that. And you’ve kind of given them the ball. That’s not how you want this to go. You want to own the conversation so I like to remind folks that I have them down for say a 30 minute session.

And is that OK with them. Because I do have another call directly following or I do have an appointment directly following and that is almost 100 percent of the time true because my schedule is pretty back to back. But even if it’s not I think it’s really good to draw the boundary about how long you’re going to be on the phone and then let them know what you’re going to cover. By the way the same thing goes if you are meeting in person. I’m planning to be here for the next 30 minutes with you. Here’s what we’re going to cover today. Tell them what’s going to happen and then ask them how does that sound. And they’re going to say that sounds great. And that was your bottom the same page about what’s going to happen over the next 30 minutes. So that’s really important you want to own the conversation.

The first bit of the conversation and you’ll tell them this. First I want to hear about what’s going on for you and what challenges you’re facing and why you reached out to me so that. I called them before. Because if you ever saw you know before and after picture of someone who like losers a lot of weight or whatever we want to really get the idea of the before for this potential client. So you can let them tell you all about their challenges and then you’re going to ask them to tell you about what success would look like for them or the after. Right so someone might think that success looks like losing 100 pounds and you know clearing up all these different health conditions and completely being off her medication. That might be what their vision of success is it is important for you to know that.

But another person with the same exact health issues to start with might have a totally different vision of success. Maybe they just want to feel less anxious about going to the grocery store because they know they have so many health issues. So let them tell you what their version of success will be so that in your mind you have a before and an after picture. Now this is really important. And by the way we talk more about the before the after and this next bit which is the gap in episode 7 that was called closing the deal anxieties. If you want to hear more about the gap go ahead and go back to Episode number 7. But just briefly go over what that means here. That gap is the difference between the before picture and the after picture. Right. Something has to happen to get from point A to Point B.

So you’re going to ask this person. Well what’s keeping you from making these changes and getting these results for yourself or why can’t you make this happen on your own. And that’s an honest question because lots of people do change their diet change your lifestyle on their own. You need to know it’s not like a facetious question like why can’t you do this on your own. Is an honest to goodness question because there must be something holding them back if they know they want to make the change and you need to figure out what is that something. So go ahead and ask about the gap. OK. Now the purpose of this call or this in person meeting is not to close the deal. I have news for you. It’s really not to close the deal. The point of this conversation is for you to decide as a practitioner if you want to offer this person a spot in your coaching program or package or whatever it is that you are selling.

It’s almost like they’re auditioning that takes a load off your shoulders. Right. They’re the ones that should be nervous because you might decide there’s no way I want to work at this person for any reason it doesn’t even matter what the reason is.

You get to decide. So after you have heard the before, the after and you’ve talked about the gap you’re going to. Think to yourself Do I want to work with this person or not. And if so if you feel like it is a good fit then you are going to ask permission to share details of what would be like to work with you. And it’s really important to ask permission because somebody might come into the session thinking that they’re going to get like a free coaching session which is false and you’re going to make your expectations clear in the beginning that you’re going to ask about their problems ask about what success looks like for them. This is not a coaching session. But still that may have been their expectation moving into the session. And so for you to go from listening to their problems and then all of a sudden turn into a salesperson making an offer or talking about money.

Usually that’s the part where everybody gets the sweaty armpits right. It’s no fun if you go over like went to go buy a car.

You know there’s one guy that does like the sales and then there somebody else that you know does the other ask like it when you go pick up a car somebody else that’s going to bring the car out for you. Customer service is like a whole other group of people so it’s kind of awkward as a coach that you have to act in both capacities you have to be the coach you are you are really the product that you’re selling, right? Like you you’re coaching. So it’s all about you whether you’re also the sales person who’s selling it. It can be awkward. So my point is you want to ask for permission. You might say something like You know what I would love to work with you. I feel very confident that we could get you from point A to Point B. How about I tell you more about how I work with clients.

And they’ll say yeah that sounds great. And then they’ve given you permission. So that makes all the difference. Now you can go ahead and make that pivot and start talking about details and pricing and all the rest to ask for permission. If you have decided that you do in fact want to work with them now if you don’t want to work for them don’t ask permission. If you don’t want to work with them you say Okay I see what’s going on with you. That’s very interesting thank you for sharing your story I’m sorry I don’t feel like I’m a good fit to work with you take the blame. Doesn’t matter if it’s your fault or not. Just take the blame. I don’t feel like I’m the right coach for you. However I have a great book that I can recommend you to I’ll send you a link or however I know another practitioner try to try to give them something so you were being useful.

You’re being authentic in wanting to help them and send them on their way with that. However they give you a yes. You want to work with them they want to work with you. Go ahead and share the details of your program. You do not have to get into the nitty gritty details you don’t have to tell them oh you’re going to get 16 worksheets and you’re going to get four meal planning packages including shopping lists and they come and vegan and gluten free and like don’t get into all those little tiny bits of minutiae. At this point you just want to share like the top level details. OK. My program is 6 months. Here’s the results that you’re going to see. This is the cost. Boom. That’s all they really want to hear about the results. And everybody wants to know what it costs. At that point you’re going to sign them up because they’re going to be so enthusiastic or they’re not going to be enthusiastic in which case I say don’t try to strong arm anybody.

It would be very I’ll tell you from experience it is very awkward to work with someone if you have somehow manipulated them into agreeing to work with you does not make for good coaching experience for either of you. So if it’s a you know what does that saying? If it’s not a hell yes then it’s a hell no. If it’s not a hell yes, then give them time to think about it if that’s what they want. That’s fine. You don’t need to pressure them. You don’t need to pressure them. But I do suggest that whatever excuse they give you and people are always going to make the excuse of money even if it’s really not about money. It’s just easier to say oh that’s really expensive even their real reason is like oh gosh I’m really terrified about making changes and I’m afraid to play big in my life like no one is going to say that they’re just going to tell you that you’re asking for too much money so don’t take it personally. And you say OK that’s fine. They said I got to talk it over with my husband you say ‘Okay, when are you going to talk to him, tonight?’

Great actually tomorrow and you can let me know if it’s a yes or no. That’s it.

That’s it. OK so let go of all the stress. You don’t have to close the deal you just have to decide whether or not you want to work with someone. Let’s see what some of you were saying about how how you get nervous during these types of situations.

Marnie says I never enjoy a consult when I’ve had a person fill out a health history form before the call. It always feels like a doctor appointment me a doctor and feels unnatural but without it I’m afraid I’ll have no aim. Oh that’s really interesting Marnie. And thank you for that because that’s going to lead me right into the next question that I wanted to answer. So this one came from Kathleen. And Kathleen said, I’m a bit curious how everyone is handling the first free health history. Do you send out the health history form beforehand to be filled out or fill it out during the session?

And why do you choose either or. I’m still playing but I feel a bit torn. Sometimes I find it easier to fill it out in the conversation and that seems to work except maybe some of the topics are hard or hard to take up. I feel awkward sitting there while the client fills it out and it takes a lot of time. But sending out beforehand I feel like I’m adding more workload to the client at a very early stage. So I love to hear your insights. So Kathleen basically saying the same thing. Do you have somebody fill out a health history form beforehand or while they’re sitting with you in the session or how do you handle it. So I’ll let you know what I do because I agree it can be awkward both ways. If you have like a full on health history form that can take a while for somebody to fill out and then you’re just sitting there like to do do do what a dumb waste of time that is. So, what I do is I have a prescreening process.

Anybody who wants to work with me and you don’t have to consider it a prescreening process I suppose. But the point is before we have that initial consultation everybody has filled out a short form. It’s not a complete health history it’s not going to tell me about you know their great aunt who had breast cancer. And the you know 20 different things that’s wrong with their body. It’s just going to top line the information. So the questions that I would put into an initial survey that you would have someone fill out before your consultations would just be top lining. What’s your biggest challenge right now.

I like to ask why are you contacting me versus another practitioner. I like to ask why now. Why are you contacting me now? Why not next month? Why not next year? And I like to know if they have done anything else to solve this problem already these questions will give you a sense of what this person is all about.

Another question that’s really helpful to ask if you are prescreening. Prescreening means that you don’t necessarily do a consultation with everybody is to ask if they have the means necessary to afford your services because if they say no they literally have no disposable income then you’re just wasting everybody’s time by getting on the phone. So those are the type of questions are asked beforehand and then I actually save the full health history form of which mine is pretty darn expensive for the first session once they have become a paying client. So that very first actual coaching session is where we go in-depth about their health history. But if someone’s not paying me any money I don’t really need to know all the ins and outs of their health history. I just need to know their biggest problem. And the basics about them and really about their personality and their financial situation. That’s kind of what I need to know to figure out whether or not I’m going to make an offer to this person.

I hope that’s helpful. And see what else you guys are saying. Morrows saying about not. I think he was referring to the fact that you are auditioning the potential client he says that relieves the pressure a lot. Mai says I’m an IIN student. I would like to name my business… Oh Mai will come back to that question in a little while. So let’s get back to this idea of the initial consultation with another question from Melissa.

Melissa said for anyone here that is using practice better for initial Consults now practice better is an electronic client management system. So instead of like using a notebook to keep track of your client notes and your client everything maybe a paper calendar, practice better does all of that for you. And that’s a really great service I use it in my in my health coaching practice. So anyway she’s saying for anyone who’s using practice better do you invite these potential clients to sign up for an account first in order to fill in the intake form.

It seems rather fast that I don’t even know if they’ll end up becoming my client or not. Also I prefer going through material in hardcopy if I’m meeting with someone face to face. So this is kind of the same question that I just answered except now we’re talking about the format. So if you’re using a client management system like practice better and by the way you’re interested in practice better you can go to find your balance health dot com slash practice and you can see what that services all about. It’s it’s actually really an amazing service at a really great price. So I agree with you Melissa. I think that it is a little overkill when someone says that they are interested in talking with you about the potential of working with you. They say OK here is sign up on my client management system create a log in and password.

They’re going to be like whoa, whoa. You know we’re moving a little too fast here. So I agree with you. So I suggest not having someone sign up on the platform in order to create an order to fill out a form quite yet. I use a different service for my online forms. So you could use if you’re online you could use a google form. I use something called Jot forms that jotforms.com. There’s tons of different online forums you can use any of them or like you said you can have a hard copy form and if you’re meeting someone face to face that may just be better. So I don’t go through the headache of having somebody create a log in and then a password for my flight management system until after they have agreed to become a client and then that’s when they’re actually going to submit payment through the site. So all that kind of happens together now there is one other thing that came up a while ago several weeks ago about should you charge for an initial consultation. So since we already talked about that I just wanted to refer you guys to Episode 20 if you are thinking should I be charging for this initial consultation. And there’s no clear answer as to, yes you definitely should, no you definitely should not. Kind of depends where you are in your business. And I go into that again more in-depth in episode 20.

Taylor says when it’s time to present the financial cost. I get nervous and always skip to just asking if they want time to think about it versus asking if they wanted to sign up right away. Suggestions? Well I wouldn’t ask either. I wouldn’t ask if they want time to think about it.

Someone’s going to tell you all you have to do is be quiet. As with so many aspects of coaching sometimes empty air. See what I just did there. You were really hanging on that empty space sometimes empty space and the conversation is the most powerful tool you have.

So I would say this is my six month program. You’re going to see this result just like my client so-and-so. This happened to her it was so amazing and it costs two thousand dollars.

What do you think and then wait.

And wait and try not to build the silence. You don’t even have to ask. What do you think you can just say and the cost is 2000 dollars obviously at that point they have to say something so then they’re either going to say that sounds great, sign me up or. That sounds great but I need time to think about it and they’ll tell you. So just give it some space.

There’s confidence when you’re not even on these recordings. I’m live on Facebook. I’m getting questions on the fly and sometimes I speak too quickly because it’s nerve wracking to be on the spot.

So you know in advance that this is a 30 minute call you know what you’re going to cover and your job is to take those pauses and breathe and not try to lead the conversation too much after you’ve made the offer. I hope that helps.

Alrighty here, what other questions do we have?  So Mai was asking, she says I’m an IIN student. I’d like to name my business. What are your thoughts on using my own name for my website business name, Mai Groff.

Now this is not like a standard, like Mary Smith kind of name I’m going to spell this for everybody Mia’s M A I and Groff is G R O F F so it would be maigroff.com or Maigroffhealthcoach.com There are some drawbacks to using your name when it is a difficult name and I know because if you have seen my last name you know I deal with this all the time. If I said my website was MichellePfennighaus.com. No one would ever get to my website and I have thought about this so much through the years because it would be a heck of a lot easier.

So please if you have a nice normal name like Jane Smith please please, please just be Jane Smith or JaneSmithhealthcoach.com or something like that. The rest of us have to come up with something that we can use that people will be able to understand even if they’re just listening and they’re not seeing it written and be able to find us. So my I might if I were you consider an address that does not include your first name. Just because you’re going to constantly be teaching people how to spell it and you probably will have to buy several variations like. I think you pronounce her first name Mai. I’m not sure. But then it would be M Y everybody would be typing in M Y. You may have to buy alternate addresses that all redirect to your website. Maybe you just want to go with MGroff.com. But really I love the idea of using your name. It eliminates so many headaches. Unless you had a difficult to pronounce or understand or spell name I hope that’s helpful.

I have a question here from Amanda. Amanda said Which app are you all using to create ebooks both free downloads and for purchase.

So I thought that was an interesting question because I’m not actually aware of any apps that one could use to create an ebook although there probably are some and I just don’t even know. I just wanted to let everybody know that nine times out of ten all an e-book is is a PDF file. So you could create a PDF file in word from a google doc. You could use PowerPoint any software you had any sort of page layouts offer you might have. You just export your file as a PDF and boom that is your eBook. Whether you’re giving away a free download or. You’re. Charging for the eBook now if you’re talking about creating a Kindle book or something like that that’s a different format. But like I said nine times out of ten we’re just talking about creating a PDF so you can use literally any almost any software to do that.

What other questions do we have today? I have about four more minutes you guys. Marnie is saying how about when a client’s package is ending. How different does the resign offer look?

You know honestly Marnie I don’t often resign clients. I really don’t. I do. I just did this recently actually because I had a woman who bought a small package with me because she was hesitant about spending the money. And I assured her you know that’s fine we can always add on sessions later. So always a little bit more expensive if you do it that way but nonetheless that’s what she felt was the right option for her. So when she was done with the sessions that we had we had uncovered all these different health issues that she needed to address. And I said to her listen. These are all the things that we need to work on together. I would like to work with you. There’s a ways to go here so I recommend that we continue. And I spelled out for her what I wanted.

Essentially, I wanna keep working together for another four months and we’re going to meet twice a month. And what the cost was going to be. I said but it’s up to you. This is what I think would be appropriate for solving your problem and ultimately everybody wants to solve their problem and she went ahead and she signed up for exactly what I recommended. So I am just very honest with my clients if they usually by the end of a larger package they have solved their problems. In which case we smile. We talk about the future and I don’t try to resign. It only really comes up with those smaller packages and. And it’s pretty infrequent actually that I do resign a client right away. What happens a lot more often is that some of package and then like three months six months even a year goes by and they call me up again because.

They have slid into old habits or something new has come up that they want to address and they miss having the support and they come back on their own but everybody does this differently. That’s just been my experience. OK I can do one more question. I think I can sneak one more question in.

Oh and this is a good one. This one came from Jessica. Jessica said What do you charge for a group program and what specifically are you offering for that price? I think I may have overpriced but I’m offering a lot, so I think the value is there.

So Jessica like quick and dirty answer is that typically, for a group program a person will pay half what they would pay you for a private one on one coaching. But I mean come on what kind of group program are we talking about here. Some group programs. I have a group program that’s just five days. So obviously that’s going to be less than half of what someone would pay to work with me for six months in group programs could be long they could be short. They could be very involved they could be very top level. So anyway the short answer is half. But, I would really consider what the problem the program is intended to solve and how valuable is the result to your target market.

That’s like the hardest question right. Because we might think oh I put so much work into this program or look there’s so many videos or I created all these materials and recipes then this and that. But at the end of the day a person is not going to get a result that they find valuable the? In the program is worth zero dollars to them. So how valuable is the result of your program? If you are solving a big problem even if you’re doing it in a short period of time even if you spent only two hours putting the program together. If somehow you’re able to solve a big problem then it would be worth a large price tag. And so that’s really the one piece that you want to pay attention to is how valuable is the result. And the other part of this is how are you positioning this program within your business.

So are you intending it to be a group program like a first little step that somebody does to work with you. And it’s not supposed to cost that much because you’re trying to get them in the door and get to know them and then you’re going to sell them into a higher price program. In that case this program would be smaller less expensive because that’s how you’re positioning it. But a group program could also be your big ticket your highest price offering in which case you need to price that high and someone would probably not meet you yesterday and jump into that program it’s probably going to be something people warm up to or you have to sell them on. And that’s how you’re positioning it. Then the price would be higher. So anyway I guess I’m trying to say Jessica has nothing to do with how many materials you have or how great you think the program is and has everything to do with somebody’s perception of how valuable is this solution in my life and how you are positioning the program within your array of offerings already. That is all we have time for today you guys. Please keep asking all the great questions and I’ll be back next week to answer them.

Have a great one. Bye bye.