As coaches, we spend most of our time in conversation with our clients, unlike a marketer or a software engineer, for example, who spends long hours in front of a computer.
Coaching is a client-facing job, so it makes sense for a coach to have strong client-facing skills. What are these skills, you ask? This article answers that question, specifies which ones are essential for you as a coach, and provides tips on leveraging these skills in your own business.
What are client-facing skills?
Client interaction is inevitable in the business of coaching. Client-facing skills are your soft skills that improve the customer experience for your clients, whether during face-to-face interaction, online communication, or over the phone.
Our clients need someone they can communicate with, who understands their worries and is adept at conflict resolution. While these communication skills would usually be required in a customer support department, as freelancers and solopreneurs, we’re often our own customer service representatives.
This is why brushing up on our client-facing skills to improve the customer experience can do wonders for our business.
No matter how skilled we are at coaching, we could lose clients just because they were disappointed at some point while interacting with our business. That’s why these soft skills are an essential part of any coach’s toolkit.
5 essential client-facing skills coaches should have
Now that we understand how client interactions affect our businesses, let’s take a look at five examples of client-facing skills:
1. Active listening: A large part of being a successful coach is supporting clients through difficult periods. A great coach is a great listener. When we actively listen, we understand better, reflect on what is said, and respond effectively.
Active listening also includes maintaining eye contact and attention to body language to gauge mood and emotions.
We could also take notes while listening to get our thoughts in order, and ask relevant, thoughtful questions in response.
Effective communication with our clients includes being able to give and receive constructive feedback. Ask clarifying questions, if needed, to avoid misunderstandings.
2. Professionalism: Rapport with clients is crucial, but not at the cost of professionalism in client relationships. It’s helpful to remind ourselves of our purpose: To provide excellent customer service alongside the main task — coaching.
What does it mean to be professional? Respect the client’s time, be polite, use appropriate language for the occasion, be accountable, and take feedback gracefully. These are all important aspects to consider in a client-facing role. And it demonstrates that we’re capable professionals who take our jobs seriously.
3. Clear communication: Remember, our clients don’t have a coaching background like we do. They’re not familiar with our jargon. Ensure that you speak in a language that they’re familiar with. Give them context when talking about specific situations and provide details and examples where you can.
Encourage clients to come forward with questions and reassure them that you’re always happy to help.
4. Conflict resolution: Conflicts are inevitable in any business. No matter how good your service is, there will always be a client (or two) who isn't satisfied. For those occasions, conflict resolution skills come in handy.
Our goal isn’t to always be right in a disagreement but to defuse any conflict before it escalates. In these stressful situations, get to the root of the problem and take responsibility for any mistakes. Instead of pointing fingers, focus on solutions. Agree on a course of action, and get to problem-solving as soon as possible.
5. Negotiation: This is an underrated but crucial part of a coach’s skill set. Negotiating well will get you the payment rate you’re worth. We do our best work and are the most motivated when we’re compensated fairly for our time.
To negotiate well with potential clients, convince them that your services align with their needs. Clients are paying us for our time, so it’s fair for them to know why we’re a good fit. Have a strong value proposition ready and be able to demonstrate your skill and experience. Keep your credentials handy and build a portfolio of testimonials from past clients.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of client-facing skills, but a great place to start. As we spend more time acting as our own customer service reps, we’ll see that clear communication and analyzing feedback can provide us with a roadmap for improvements.
How can you improve your skills?
The best way to do this is by asking for feedback. Asking customers for feedback can be daunting, but it’s worth the effort. Detailed and consistent client feedback is some of the most valuable data we can gather to support business growth and profitability. It also improves our client-facing skills and helps us provide good customer service.
As customer service professionals, we spend a lot of time dealing with complaints. It’s important not to take this negativity personally. Use criticism as an opportunity for improvement, and recognize that clients are putting time and effort into addressing a difficult subject.
When we demonstrate our commitment to our jobs in this way, clients feel valued and become loyal to us.
Never stop learning
Improving soft skills in a client-facing role is an ongoing process. Nobody starts off as an expert. An important quality for a coach is staying motivated and educating themselves alongside their clients.
The more we exercise our skills, as coaches and customer service agents, the more awareness we’ll cultivate in spotting our mistakes and improving ourselves.
At Practice, we understand that it can be difficult to wear many hats while running a business. Try our all-in-one client management system today to lighten the load.