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The Art of Enrollment for Coaches

Reprinted from Choice Magazine V3N2: an interview with Leslie Lupinsky

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What is enrollment?

There are many ways that the word enrollment is currently used - from "signing up" as in college registration to "selling" as in getting new clients with a sales pitch. The way I like to define enrollment provides far more power to both the "enroller" and the "enrollee:" Enrollment is the art and skill of engaging and/or inspiring someone in a possibility for their lives.

Enrollment is an advanced coaching skill. When practiced effectively, it can be the determining factor between having a fun-filled, thriving business and one that is full of angst, suffering and slow growth. Practicing enrollment effectively requires a level of sophistication that can be learned. Although enrollment is an art, rather than a science, we can still learn the distinguishing features, unlearn our disabling beliefs, and evolve a powerful presence that brings enrollment into our conversations.

What is the difference between enrollment and sales?

In sales, the ultimate focus of attention on the part of the coach or salesperson is on "the sale" - the service or product being sold. The buyer is secondary, even though they are important. In enrollment, it's the other way around: the person, their agenda and the possibilities in their life are what matter most. The "sale" is secondary. If we replace the word enrollment and call it sales, we are missing a level of connection, inspiration and transformation that is essential to powerful enrollment.

The person, their agenda and the possibilities in their life are what matter most. Of course, the coach or "enroller" wants the enrollee to move forward with whatever service or product is being offered. But the offer and its acceptance are in a larger context. This is the art of enrollment: successful enrollment often includes a final outcome of "yes," but this outcome is informed by the process leading up to it. The emphasis on the process is vital in effective enrollment.

A successful sale is based on the buyer saying "yes" to the seller. Successful enrollment is based on the enrollee saying "yes" to something new that's possible in their lives. The enrollee is altered by the process of enrollment, not just by the outcome. The final outcome might even be a "no" to the offer, and could still be considered successful, because the enrollee sees a new possibility for themselves.

In enrollment, there are no wasted conversations. This fact takes a lot of pressure off the coach, who is the enroller, because they don't have to expect everyone to say "yes". There is room for a "no" without it being considered a rejection or failure.

What most coaches need to develop is a matrix of skills and strategies that blend the best of sales and enrollment. Coaches then can become facilitator, translator and alchemist for their potential clients, and create both a "yes" and an inspired, open pathway for the client's future.

Why does enrollment seem to be such a big issue for so many coaches?

Many new coaches - and even experienced ones - have misconceptions about the practice and intention of enrollment. They often build self-defeating habits based on those misconceptions, which then create a self-perpetuating cycle. This can result in coaches becoming disheartened and avoiding enrollment conversations, rather than relearning a more skillful, effective approach.

One of the key misconceptions is the belief that enrollment goes against the spirit of coaching - which at its very foundation is a commitment to hold the other person's agenda. Enrollment (from that perspective) seems manipulative and self-serving. It is seen as a way for us to get our agenda accomplished - getting them to say yes to our offer - while we are supposed to be supporting their agenda. Coaches often say to themselves "This isn't what I signed up for, when I decided to become a coach!" Yet this limiting belief is grounded in the assumption that there is an "either/or" to the process of enrollment - either their agenda, or ours; either we are purely focused on them, or on ourselves.

True enrollment is a "both/and" process, where the coach explores the territory of the client's agenda, and can both support and expand it, acknowledge and challenge, and be looking for the "yes" to our offer in the context of a bigger "yes" that incorporates all that the client is holding dear.

Coaches also shy away from enrollment so that they don't have to face their core fears of being rejected, feeling invalidated or dismissed. It is a very vulnerable act to ask someone to be our client and accept the offer of our services. We would rather avoid it, than face it. It is ironic, though, that by facing these fears, we actually get stronger.

This again is the art of enrollment: those who are best at enrolling others are both vulnerable and strong; they authentically want the best for the prospective client and for themselves; they hold an intention of success without being attached to it; and they are ultimately committed to a picture that is bigger than either theirs or their clients.

This goes against the grain of our usual "either/or" thinking, so of course, we will have challenges in the area of enrollment, until we get the kind of support, skill and practice that can train us out of these misconceptions.

Do you have magic steps to help someone become an enrollment pro?

There are definitely steps to being effective at enrollment. At the same time, enrollment is an art, rather than a science, so these steps are not tips and tricks that are mastered overnight. Learning to be a great coach takes time, training and practice; the skills of enrollment require the same committed efforts. So with that caveat, here are the steps:

  1. Handle your financial concerns, so that you are not desperate or dependent upon a person saying "yes" to your coaching or business offer. This is the first step in helping you to experience "nonattachment." When we are desperate, the other person senses urgency and tightness in us. When we are "unattached," the conversation opens up and the other person can more easily relax into new possibilities - and so can we.
  2. Use your coaching skills of powerful questions, and become avidly interested in the other person's answers - without being concerned about whether they are a potential client or how you can "use" their answers to build your case to them. Once you are authentically interested in other people's lives and their possibilities, people will be interested in you and what you have to offer.
  3. Learn to make the link between what they are interested in and what you have to offer. This may seem antithetical to #2, but in fact, you can't succeed at this step without fully practicing #2! That is, let go of making the link, while you are fully engaged in listening to the other person's responses. Then, a link will show itself to you, and a natural, organic process unfolds: they see the possibility for themselves, and say "yes" to their lives and your support, with no convincing needed.
  4. Practice, practice, and more practice! Practice with colleagues, practice with your coach, practice with police officers, hotel managers, child care workers, bus drivers. Anywhere you can practice, you will master another aspect of the art of enrollment. You'll actually start having fun, and before you fully realize it, you'll be great at it!
What doesn't work in enrollment?
  1. Trying to convince someone - convincing is in the land of manipulation
  2. Having gimmicks or set ways of doing things - this is the opposite of authenticity
  3. Being anything other than YOU
Does a good enroller need to have a certain kind of personality or born talents?

No, absolutely not. That's another misconception about enrollment. It might be true for certain kinds of sales, but it is not true of enrollment.

What do you say to those coaches that fear the process of enrolling clients?

Face your fear of enrolling clients - it will be the best thing for your business and your life. Don't run from this amazing opportunity to get more for yourself, while also being able to give more to your clients. Get training from a master of enrollment, so that you can learn and fully integrate the steps of enrollment into your life. Your business will flourish, and so will you.

© 2005-2008 Leslie Lupinsky. All rights reserved.