As an early coach, I met someone who subsequently hired me to coach 34 of his employees for 18 months, launching me into full-time coaching. I learned how this person, and people like him, are connectors who know a lot of people and can really make things happen.
You can spot a connector by the things they say when you meet. For example, if I’m at a training event, most people ask about the skills and the lessons I’m teaching, while connectors will say things like, “This would fit really well in….”, or they might ask to meet for coffee or lunch. You can almost see the wheels turning as they listen, and you can just tell they’re thinking beyond how the information affects them, to how it might affect a group or organization they know.
This concept of connectors challenged my old story that building my business had to be a grueling process of adding one client at a time. Yet it took a while to realize that once you’ve made your initial connection with these influential people, you need to keep those relationships going and cultivate new ones.
In marketing lingo, this is known as a pipeline or a funnel, and keeping it full means you have a steady flow of potential clients. So I make sure to spend 30-40% of my time filling the funnel.
What does that look like? One thing is that I’m attentive to email and social media messages, and I reply quickly so that people feel heard and cared for. How you approach people matters – from a genuine desire to help, rather than any sense of scarcity or needing the business. “How can I help?” or “What can I do to help?” are my go-to questions and the mindset I bring.
When I first got started with social media I fought it tooth and nail and just did not want anything to do with it. Now I see it as a way to stay connected and connect with new people, and it’s well worth my time.
That includes putting together these articles for you on a regular schedule. This is a chance to share my expertise and give people a taste of what they might gain from working with me directly. More importantly, it means you and I can be together – virtually – for a few minutes each month as we build on the relationship that began when we met online or in person.
I’m lucky to have many opportunities to bump into people in live settings as well when I do training events or give presentations. Early in my business I joined my local Chamber of Commerce and let them know I was available as a last-minute speaker if they ever had a need. Then I made sure to have something prepared.
I’d give a presentation that included a coaching demonstration, and during my talk, I’d pass around a clipboard where people could sign up for a complimentary coaching session. I still do a lot of presentations and it’s a great way to get in front of people and make connections.
Your funnel-filling activities will probably be different from mine. We just need to be intentional about protecting 30-40% of our time for this. When I started out I filled every inch of my coaching time with clients and I didn’t leave any space for keeping the pipeline filled, so I had to back up and redesign my schedule. You can save yourself this trouble by putting it in place now.