As your SBDC clients grow their businesses, add employees or even locations, you must help them achieve their sales and profit goals as efficiently as possible. Mastering financial coaching skills is essential to guiding their profitable growth.
Many counselors are comfortable discussing marketing, operations or human resources, but struggle with conversations about financials. Even counselors who are comfortable on the financial side of things sometimes struggle to get their clients to take action. How can you get clients engaged in this important topic? Here are some tips using goal focused, solutions-oriented coaching conversations to jump-start your clients’ financial success.
Tip #1: Switch from consultant mode to coach mode
Easier said than done when you are itching to pass on your hard-earned wisdom! Unlike consultants who excel in telling people what to do, effective coaches lead others to discover their own solutions by asking insightful and probing questions.
The goal is to get people to act. This happens when clients leave the counseling session understanding their situation and “owning” the call to action. And while it is easier to tell them what to do (you are, in fact, the expert), when you lead someone to discovery through inquiry, the solution is their idea. People don’t argue with their own data!
Be a curious, open-minded collaborator instead of a subject matter expert, and you’ll be on your way to impactful financial coaching interactions.
Tip #2: Get good at asking powerful questions
Good coaches ask questions that give clients opportunities to:
- Clarify their understanding of the issues.
- Say what they believe is important.
- Share more than just the facts.
Powerful questions give you, the coach, the opportunity to:
- Gather information about your client’s agenda.
- Clarify your understanding of the issues.
- Connect with and understand the client better.
Tip #3: Ask open-ended questions
Open-ended questions begin with “how, what, when, and where.” They cannot be
answered with one word (like yes or no), so they yield more information that goes
Avoid asking questions that begin with “why.”
Asking someone to justify a position can feel accusatory and lead to defensive posturing instead of collaborative problem solving. For example:
NOT “Why are your sales so disappointing?
INSTEAD “What would it take for you to get back on track with the sales goal?”
Tip #4: To Make the Most of Your Time Together: Be prepared!
Before the meeting, make sure everyone is on the same page. Clearly define the outcomes you’re after so everybody knows what will make the meeting a success. This will focus your conversation on the best strategies for achieving those outcomes. Only then can you develop an appropriate agenda.
Consider in advance what information you will need to support the agenda. When will you need it and who will provide it? For example: Do you have financial statements? Not just any statements, but the most recent income statement, including a percent of sales column and a year-over-year comparison for assessing trends. Have you identified the essential Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and gathered current figures? Do you have relevant industry benchmarks for comparison?
Preparation makes meetings efficient, productive, and impactful. Confirm responsibilities of all attendees, and make sure everyone is clear on logistics like date, time and location. Choose a time and place so everyone is free from interruptions.
Tip #5: Keep the conversation focused on the desired outcomes
At its onset, clarify the purpose of the meeting. Clearly state the desired outcomes
and confirm the agenda. Then execute the agenda. Here is a structure that works well
for discussing financial results and establishing a profitable pathway forward:
- Assess – Where have you been; what is going well or not so well?
- Prioritize – What are the most important things to work on now?
- Brainstorm – What drives superior performance in your priority areas? What’s getting in the way?
- Measure – How will you measure success? What are the targets?
- Engage – What are the most essential elements of the plan?
Tip #6: End every meeting with a clear call to action
Use a flip chart, white board or screen share to summarize these in writing:
- Who will do what, and by when?
- What major milestones (rocks) and timelines will reflect progress?
- What are the essential next steps? Be very clear.
- Set a date for when you’ll check back on progress.
Tip #7: Reflect and focus after the meeting
Within a day or two of the meeting, follow up with a quick chat or email to reflect
- Positive outcomes and insights based on the meeting’s purpose.
- Goals and commitments agreed upon.
- Definition of improvement – what will confirm we are on the right track?
- Related ideas that came up since the meeting.
- Things the manager will continue working on.
- Things you will concentrate on during the next visit.
- Stated calls to action.
- Your follow up plan (check in date, time, location).
Tip #8: Practice!
With any skill, reflection, practice and observation helps you improve. Evaluate your
own effectiveness and seek opportunities to lift your skills. Consider these practice
Reflect: Think about a time in your life when someone asked a question that made you dig deep, gain insight, and take action. What was the question? What made it so powerful?
Practice: Avoid giving advice in any conversation for at least one day. (Bonus points to parents of teenagers who pull this off!) You will be surprised at how often you find yourself slipping into expert/boss mode.
Observe: Listen to expert interviewers and observe how they use open-ended questions to get people to relax, reflect, and share.
Pro-Tip: Use the time you would have spent giving advice to ask open-ended
questions that lead others to develop their own solutions.
Don’t get me wrong – counselors do not need to give up sharing expertise. But
bolstering coaching skills with these tips can take your financial conversations to a
new level. One that makes an impact, drives action and gains traction.
Want more? Join us for our SBDC 2023 Pre-Con Workshop
Profit Soup is excited to invite you to a special Pre-Conference Workshop guaranteed to
take your financial coaching skills to the next level! The highly-rated full-day session,
Level Up Your Financial Coaching: Profitable Growth from Day 1, is offered at ASBDC
2023 on Tuesday, September 5th from 9 am to 4 pm. This fun, interactive program will
boost your financial coaching skills and confidence and equip you with practical tools
you can immediately apply to with consulting clients to set and achieve strong financial
At Profit Soup, we deliver financial training that sticks. We are confident that you will find the program engaging and informative. You will practice skills that improve your
financial coaching impact while networking with other SBDC professionals.
For more information about the program or to register, click here. Questions? Contact
us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206.388.3888.