Episode 76: Cultivating Community in your Group Program

Today I’m calling out the growing no-sales-calls movement. Connection calls are a vital part of shaping the community aspect of our programs and skipping over them does both you and your members and students a disservice. I’m sharing the benefits of doing these calls and how you can establish and cultivate community within your group program.

76: Cultivating Community in your Group Program

When you're investing your time, money, and energy into a high ticket program, you deserve to have one-on-one time to ask your questions and explore your concerns. Those pre-admission calls are vital to fostering the sense of community we want to create within our programs. That's why I'm confused and, honestly, kind of angry about the growing trend I'm seeing in the online entrepreneurship space advocating against sales calls.

Subscribe:  Apple Podcasts  |  Spotify  |  Android Devices  |  Stitcher  |  RSS

Show Notes

When you’re investing your time, money, and energy into a high ticket program, you deserve to have one-on-one time to ask your questions and explore your concerns.

Those pre-admission calls are vital to fostering the sense of community we want to create within our programs. That’s why I’m confused and, honestly, kind of angry about the growing trend I’m seeing in the online entrepreneurship space advocating against sales calls.

In today’s episode, I’m calling out that growing movement, talking about shifting our mindset around sales calls, why it’s important to connect one-on-one with our members and students through those types of calls and how you can approach them.

Topics covered

  • The growing movement that led me to share about this topic
  • Rethinking our mindset and approach to sales calls
  • How sales calls can be the first step in creating community in your programs
  • Setting clear expectations and creating opportunities for consent
  • Why one-on-one conversations are vital for programs with a peer-work component
  • Why the no-sales-call movement goes against my values
  • How you can establish and support a sense of community in your coaching programs
  • Knowing when to step back and when to step in

Resources mentioned

Now it’s time for you to show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity! Screenshot this episode and tag me on Instagram @coachwithclarity and let me know what you’re more excited to explore in future podcast episodes!

* * * * * *

Grow Your Coaching Practice! Go from idea to income in 90 days or less with the free Coach with Clarity Business Blueprint!

Want to connect further? Follow me on Instagram and continue the discussion in the Coach with Clarity Facebook group.

Want to work together? Become a Coach with Clarity Member today!




Well, hello, my friend. Welcome to the Coach with Clarity Podcast. My name is Lee Chaix McDonough, I'm your host, and I am thrilled that you are joining me for today's episode. Now, I have to be a little honest here. This episode, the topic for it, was inspired by something that actually first off confused me, and then made me kind of angry. So I promise I won't go too much into a rant mode in this episode, but I do want to be clear about something I'm seeing in the online entrepreneurial space, and why it concerns me so much, and why I'm choosing not to buy into this new approach or this new way of doing business. And the reason I don't like this particular approach, is because I think it runs counter to what many of us want to create in our businesses, and especially those of us who are running group programs. We value a sense of community, and we understand that our group programs foster a sense of community. And what I'm seeing online right now, in my mind, does the exact opposite. So that's why I want to call it out today, I want to talk about it. And I want to talk about some alternatives to what we're seeing. 

* * * * * * * 


Alright, by now, you may be wondering, “Okay, Lee, what is it that has you all hot and bothered?”. I am really disturbed by this big movement away from conducting connection calls, or sales calls, with people who are interested in your programs, especially higher priced or higher ticket programs. Now, you may have seen this too, there are some very well known people in the online entrepreneurial space who are advocating against sales calls. And in fact, their whole approach is never do another sales call again, instead, do this. And I have to tell you, that is exactly the opposite strategy that I use in my group programs, especially in my Certified Clarity Coach Training Program. I do not want to enroll people in my program that I have not had the opportunity to connect with one-on-one. Now, whether you call that a connection call or a sales call, I think the language doesn't really matter here. But the point is, when you are investing your time, your money, your energy in a program, like the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program, as the consumer you deserve to have time, one-on-one, to ask your questions, explore your concerns. That's not a waste of anyone's time. And so that is not something I'm comfortable with people moving away from, or worse, pitching programs that teach you how to never hold another sales call again. What that tells me is that we're viewing sales calls from a scarcity mindset. And let me explain why I view it that way. People who tend to feel nervous about sales calls, are going into it wondering if they have what it takes to convince someone to join their program, or to enroll in coaching with them, or whatever the outcome is. There is this fear that, “Oh my gosh, I have to really make sure that this person says yes, and so we need to show up in the call and do all these things to convince them to say yes”. Well yeah, if you're coming into a sales call with that type of perspective, and you're really coming from a place of convince and convert energy, then I can absolutely understand why you wouldn't want to do sales calls. And why you might be looking for an approach that is, never hold another sales call again. Like I get it. What I would say though, is instead of throwing sales calls out the window, we need to be really clear about what sales calls are and how we approach them. For me, anytime I'm conducting a sales call or a connection call with someone who's interested in working with me in any capacity, it's not about me needing to convince or convert them. That's quite frankly, not my job. My job is to present them with the information they need to make an informed decision, and then trust that they will make the decision that's right for them. That's what it comes down to. And that is why I personally interview every single candidate for the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program, because I believe they deserve to have that time to connect with me, to learn more about me, to see if we're a fit, and to get all of their questions answered. It's not an inconvenience. And it's also not a time for me to convince them that they need to do something. If we approach it from a place of building connections and developing relationships, then why wouldn't we conduct those sales calls? So here's my caveat, if you are someone who subscribes to the “no sales calls” approach, and it's working for you, and it's working for your clients, more power to you. Again, I'm not here to convince or convert you to change your ways of operating. I am here though, to share with you why I'm choosing not to adopt that strategy in my business right now. And while I don't have a crystal ball, and I can't predict the future, I'm fairly confident moving forward that with the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program, there will always be an opportunity for potential students to speak one-on-one with either myself, or one of my team members, who are supporting the program. And there are three reasons why. So reason number one, when I conduct calls with applicants to the program, it's not just about whether or not I think they would be a good fit, or whether they think they would be a good fit. It's also where we begin cultivating a sense of community within the program. It is important to me that every single person who applies and then is accepted into the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program, understands and consents to the program values, guidelines, and rules of engagement. When we do that, when we're clear from the start about the values of our programs, of how we run our programs, and of the rules of engagement, then people are on the same page. And applicants can consent to our practices in advance when they learn about them on a sales call. So we're not surprising them with any sort of expectation. They are fully informed from the get go. I believe in consent at every turn, that is part of having a trauma sensitive approach to coaching, is that we are actively seeking opportunities for our clients to consent to what we're doing. And that starts with holding a sales call. We lay the groundwork to create environments that are safe and stable, and will enhance everyone's learning and experience within the program. And we do that in these initial calls so that we are all on the same page. And if there are any questions about the expectations or the rules, then we're able to explore those in advance in a private setting, so that we're all on the same page. This is why I hold a sales call, or a connection call, or a pre-admission call, whatever you want to call it. Because I value this opportunity for both the prospective student, and for me, to be clear about our expectations of each other. That's the first reason why I am a proponent of having these one-on-one calls. Number two, and this one is a little specific to my program, but if you have a program that involves any sort of peer work, then you're going to want to listen to this as well. As I've mentioned in past episodes, the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program includes peer coaching. This means that every student is matched with another student who will be their peer coach, and then with a third student who will be their peer client. We have a 10 week round of coaching. So in those 10 weeks, you will have 10 sessions with your peer coach and 10 sessions with your peer client. And then we do a second round, where you'll be matched with new people as your peer coach and your peer client. This peer coaching component of the training program is vital, which is why it's so important to ensure that we have good matches. And this is one of the things I learned through the beta round when I first ran this program, how to match people so that they will bring out the best in each other. And I use the pre-application calls, or sales calls, that I have with prospective students to get to know them better, so that information can support me when I am making those matches. I really do take the responsibility of matching students very seriously. And the more information and data I have to support those matches, then hopefully the better the outcome will be. Now, not every match is perfect. Not every match goes without some sort of hiccup, and I definitely experienced that in the first round of the Certified Clarity Coach Program. And that's actually allowed me to refine my matching process even more. But it starts with having a one-on-one conversation with someone who is interested in the program. So, that is the second reason why I will always have those calls as a part of the application process. It's not just about sales, it's about connection. And it's about ensuring that not only is my program the right fit for this person, but they are the right fit for the program, and I know where they belong and how to match them with other students in their cohort. It's not a random process to match people. It's really important to consider each person's goals, their style, their strengths, their areas for development, even who they want to work with moving forward. That is so important to consider when you're making these coach client pairings in a program. And so I really rely on those pre-admission calls, as an opportunity to get to know each student prior to the program starting, because then I've got something to work with for those initial pairings. So that's the second reason why I will always hold those sales calls or those pre-admission calls, because I really care about each student's experience. And I want to make sure that when it comes to matching them with others in their cohort, I'm doing so from a place that is supportive, and informed, and in their best interests. The third reason that I take issue with this idea of, “never hold a sales call again, and still enroll people in your five figure programs”, is because it feels like it reduces someone to a number. It really strips that interpersonal connection that comes when we're able to have a conversation with someone. The fact of the matter is that my students are not revenue sources. They are human beings. They are people, each one of them with unique desires, and fears, and dreams, and goals, and circumstances. And they deserve more than an automated funnel, designed to get them to immediately enroll in a high ticket program. To me that feels gross, it feels deceptive. And it feels like I'm not honoring their individuality and their humanity, because I'm just pushing them through some automated funnel. And then they don't get any sort of one-on-one attention from myself or from another person in my program. It just feels like a cattle call. And I don't like that. That's not how I operate. It's not how I want to do business. And the fact is, that may prevent me from scaling quickly to multi-six and into the seven figure revenue range. And I am absolutely okay with that. Because I know that I value connection above all, and I value relationships. And so if that means slower growth, if that means slower revenue growth, but yet I am building a really solid foundation with the people I serve, then I am willing to do that. That's what matters most to me. I believe that my students, my members, and my clients deserve someone who focuses on getting to know them personally, and someone who is there to help them make the right decision. That's the other thing, I don't enter sales calls assuming that that person has to be in my program, and that I've somehow failed if they don't enroll. Now, my priority is helping them make the best decision for them at this point in time. And it may be that working with me, coaching with me, being in the membership, being in the certification program, is not the best choice for them right now. And if I get that sense, then that's what we talk about. And we talk about how now may not be the right time, and what are some options that they may want to explore, and when they might want to revisit this. I would much rather have someone work with me in the future, when it's a better time for them, than to rush them into something before they're ready. And I won't know that unless I actually talk to them. And that's why holding these calls will always be a part of my process. Those are the three reasons why I really take issue with this movement towards just enrolling people in high ticket programs through a funnel and not having one on one calls with them. First, it's not just about accepting students into your program. It's about creating community, and that starts with the call. Number two, if you have any sort of component to your group program that involves connecting students with each other, then you want to make sure that you know your students really well so that you can make those matches from an informed place. And then finally, number three, your people are not just money signs. They're not just revenue sources. They're humans with stories and with desires, and they want to be heard. And they deserve to be heard, especially if they're investing their time, their energy, and their money with you. All of these things factor into the sense of community that we are able to co-create with our people, whether we're seeing them individually or in group programs. And it starts with connecting through that call. That call is the first step in cultivating a sense of community within your group programs. Now, certainly, it does not end there. Once you've created this group program, and once you have a cohort of people who are working with you, then as the coach and as the facilitator, you play a vital role in establishing and supporting that sense of community. And there are a few ways in which we do that. First, we are very clear about the values of our program and of our business, and how those values inform the work that we do. Now, as I've said in the past, we don't all have to have the same values, we can have diversity of values and still work really well together. We can even have some shared values, but the way we express those values, through our actions, may look a little different as well. So it's not that we need to be carbon copy, cookie cutter, replicas of each other. But it does help to be upfront about the values of your program. Because what you'll find is that it attracts people who either share those values, or whose values are consistent with yours. So when we have that sense of shared values, or that sense of consistency, then that provides additional safety and structure around creating a community. So as the coach and facilitator, your job is to communicate those values, and to let people know how they inform the work that you're doing together. The second piece is to be very clear around group expectations, and ground rules for your program. Part of being in a sustainable community means that we're not only working towards similar goals together, but we're doing it in such a way that is compatible with each other, that is respectful, and that ensures that we're all on the same page. And that's why we have group rules. That's why we set boundaries. And that's why we're really clear about our expectations when it comes to participation, contributing to the group, attendance, workshopping ideas, whatever it is that's involved in your program. Your people need to understand what's expected of them, and even what they're obligated to do, now that they're in your program. When everyone's on the same page, and everyone agrees to those same rules and expectations, then we are shoring up that sense of community. So as the coach, as the facilitator, it's your role to first be clear about what your expectations are for the group, and what rules you're bringing into the process. And then I would also encourage you to create an opportunity for your students, or your group members, to contribute to that process too. What expectations do they have of you and of each other? What other rules would they want to see in place to ensure that this environment is one that is safe and productive for learning and growth? So creating that opportunity to develop rules and expectations is so important. And yes, you as the coach and as the facilitator can start that process. But I would encourage you to leave space for your people to provide feedback and suggestions around what they want to see as well. Thus far, we've talked about shared values, or at least values that are in harmony with each other. We've talked about expectations and ground rules. There are a few other techniques that we can use as coaches to contribute to the sense of community in our groups. And one of them is really highlighting each member's contributions, and the skills or talents they bring to the table. I don't know if you've had this experience, but I certainly have, where I've been in a group program or in a course. And the coach or facilitator is not only a subject matter expert, but they want to be THE subject matter expert. And so they are the source of all wisdom, all knowledge, all suggestions moving forward. And there's not much space for other people to contribute, to offer their suggestions, or their feedback. If it's not coming from the facilitator, then it's not welcome. And to me that really goes against the whole focus on community and creating space for people to share their contributions. So what could it look like if instead of feeling like,  “as the facilitator, it all needs to come from me”, and instead we shift that. And we do really create a client centered group experience by centering our clients, by centering each group member and highlighting their unique traits, talents, skills, abilities, experiences, and creating opportunities for them to showcase their knowledge as well. Doing so really strengthens the group. And of course, we want to be careful that we're doing this in an equitable manner. You know, we don't want to single out one person and only one person, and then they're the gold star or the shiny penny of the group. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about highlighting each and every member of the group and being really clear about their strengths, and what they bring to the table. And then looking at ways to highlight that, or incorporate that, into the group's process. So as the coach or facilitator, just remember that you do not have to be the source of all wisdom, and that your group members, your students, bring a lot of that to the table. So let's highlight that, and allow that to strengthen the community. There are a couple of other things I want to talk about in terms of our role in cultivating community, especially within our group programs. And these are, I would say two sides of the same coin. First, we need to know when to step back. And second, we need to know when to step in. So let's take that first one, knowing when to step back. This is a little bit in the same vein as the previous point we just talked about. Sometimes coaches or facilitators feel like because they're running the program, the spotlight needs to be on them, they need to be doing all the talking, they need to be doing all the leading, and then the group member or student is more in a passive role. Of course, there are times in every program where the leader needs to lead, and the coach needs to coach, and we need to step up and do that. But it doesn't have to be all the time, every session. And in fact, it can get really old, really fast, if everything is coming from the facilitator. Instead, I would argue that one of the responsibilities we have when we're leading a group program is knowing when to step back. Knowing when to let the students or group members self manage, and conduct the conversations themselves. That might look like when a student or a group member asks a question, before you rush in with an answer, open it up to the group. Let the group explore, ask some clarifying questions, provide some feedback, incorporate the use of powerful questions to get the questioner thinking about options. When we can defer to the group wisdom as opposed to feeling like it's got to come from us, then we give more opportunities for the members to connect with and support each other, which strengthens that sense of community. Now based on the type of group you're running, and the length of time of the group, this will vary. Oftentimes earlier in the process, it will be appropriate for the coach or facilitator to take a more active role in answering questions and providing information. But after some time, and after the group has gelled and established their sense of group identity, it can really serve the group process for them to be the source of ideas and answers versus us handing it to them. So that's why it's really important to know when to step back in a group format. Because when we allow the group dynamic to emerge, and we allow the group members to support each other, it can really build that sense of community. So that's knowing when to step back. But then, as I mentioned, the other side of that coin is knowing when to step in. So at what point do we as the coach or facilitator need to step in and take the lead if say a conversation is getting tangential, if a group members behavior is starting to get close to overstepping an expectation or rule, maybe it has crossed the line. We have to be ready to come in and be the leader of that group, and maintain the safety and the structure of that group when things are going awry. Now, how you step back in will vary based on the circumstances and how the group is functioning. It also may depend on who is the target or who is receiving the effects of that behavior. Now to be clear, it is not always comfortable to have to step back in, and to redirect a conversation, to remind people of rules and expectations, and to take the reins back when necessary. It does require a willingness to face conflict, to not avoid it, and to hold the line. And if you are someone who has had challenges in the past, with avoiding conflict or not standing up for yourself or for someone else, well, then this might be an invitation for you to consider how you would want to engage if you were facilitating a group and things were starting to kind of run off the rails a bit. And how it could possibly be an opportunity for growth for everyone involved, including you. I've been in this situation before, I've had to redirect a group member who was teetering on the edge of being aggressive and disrespectful towards other group members. And it did require a lot of focus, and assertiveness, which honestly has not historically come naturally or easily to me. Now, I do think the older I get, the less I care about what other people think of me. And so to assert myself around something that is really important to me, it doesn't bother me as much as it used to. And that is especially the case when I am running a group program, because I take my role seriously as the person who helps cultivate that sense of community. And if there is a group member whose behavior goes against the agreed upon rules and expectations, and that needs to be reined in, well, that's my job. And it's not my job just because I really enjoy being the boss. No, it's my job because there are other group members who need me to stand up and protect the integrity of the group process. And it's not their job to have to do that for me. So when you're running a group, understand that if it's a high functioning group, they may be able to work out some of the kinks and work out some of the issues on their own. And even in high functioning groups, disagreements happen. And tempers can flare. And if people start getting close to some boundaries that you've set, it will be your job to rein them back in. And that's why it's so important to know when to step back in. Okay, let's do a quick summary. So we've talked already about why I think it is so important to conduct sales calls prior to someone joining your program, because that's where we start planting the seeds for the community we want within our group programs. And then once those group programs have started, then as the coach and facilitator, you do have a very important role in maintaining that sense of community. And we do that by articulating the values of the business and of the group, so that people can ensure that this is an aligned fit for them. It means communicating the expectations and ground rules that we have for the group, and also creating space for group members to share theirs. It means highlighting each member's skills, and talents, and contributions to the group so that we're really centering the clients and the group members versus our own expertise. And then finally, it means knowing when to step back and let the group work through things on their own. And then when to step in and intentionally direct the flow of the conversation, especially if we're heading into areas of boundary violations and not following the rules of engagement. All right, we've covered a lot today. So why don't we go ahead and move into this week's Clarity in Action Moment. 

This week's Clarity in Action Moment is brought to you by the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program. So my friends, we are heading into the final week in which applications will be accepted. If you are listening to this episode the day it drops, it is Monday, August 9th, 2021. And we are accepting applications through August 15th. Which means you have one week left to get your application in for the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program. Now as a reminder, this is a 125 hour ICF accredited program. Which means when you graduate, you will have all of the training hours you need to apply for either your Associate or Professional Certified Coach credentials through the International Coaching Federation. And we do it through a program that emphasizes strategy and intuition, that provides you with structure and tools that you can use with your clients and also that you can modify and make your own. Because coaching is not about following formulas. It's about showing up with the client in the moment and using the tools we have in our arsenal in a way that's going to support them best, and that's what we talk about within the Certified Clarity Coach Training Program. So if you are ready to take your coaching to the next level, and you are ready for a full on comprehensive training program, then head on over to CoachwithClarity.com/apply to apply to the program today. You've got one week left, so I really hope I see your application come through today. For today's Clarity in Action Moment, I want you to think back to a time where you were a member of a group that functioned really well together. So get that experience in your mind, get that group in your mind. And I want you to jot down the factors that made it such a successful group experience. So, what worked? What about that group made it such a great experience for you, and probably for your other group members as well? Once you have those down, I want you to think about how you then can incorporate those elements into your own group program. As an example, I think about a group that I was a part of, and the facilitator was dynamic and encouraging, and she never forced anyone to share or speak if they didn't want to. That's personally one of my pet peeves, when someone gets called on. It just takes me right back to like eighth grade and being called on in math class, and being terrified that I was going to have to go up to the blackboard and solve a problem in front of 25 other people, and that I would get it wrong. Little flashback there. But seriously, that really bothered me when I was a kid, it still bothers me as an adult. And so I really appreciated being in a group where I knew that while I was free to contribute and share, I didn't have to. And it wasn't going to reflect poorly on me if I chose not to be verbal in my contributions. Now, here's the thing about that group. Even though there was never any obligation that I had to contribute verbally, there was absolutely an expectation that I would be present and focused during the group session. So that meant turning my phone on to airplane mode, it meant closing out all of the windows on my browser, it meant not surfing the net or checking my email during session. Now I needed to be fully present, and focused, and there for the group. Now I didn't have to speak, I didn't have to share, but I needed to be present. And I really appreciated how the facilitator made that point early on, and then modeled that herself. So that's an example I have about a group that I was involved in that worked really well. And when I sat down to think about why I liked it so much, it came down to the expectations and the rules of engagement that the facilitator had created and communicated, and then made sure that we all honored throughout the program. So when you think about the program you were in, and you can identify what made it work, then you can decide whether those are practices you want to incorporate into your own group experience as well. So let's take inspiration from the programs, and activities, and events that we've been involved in that have really worked. And let's see what elements we can take and apply in our own work as coaches. All right, my friends. I hope today's episode was inspiring. I'm really interested to hear your thoughts about everything we've talked about, but certainly this idea of not having to do sales calls for high ticket programs. I definitely feel like I'm bucking a trend on this one. So I may be the naysayer in the minority, but I'm really interested to know your take on this as well. So feel free to reach out to me, I'm over on Instagram @CoachwithClarity, or send me an email. My address is info@CoachwithClarity.com, and I would love to hear what your thoughts are about this and what insights you took from today's episode. I will be back next week with a brand new episode in your feed. So if you are not already following the Coach with Clarity Podcast, be sure to do so now. There should be a follow or a subscribe button in whatever platform you use to listen to your podcasts. And when you follow the show, you can rest assured knowing that every new episode will show up in your feed as soon as it drops. So make sure you have followed or subscribed to the podcast, and I will talk to you next week. Until then, my name is Lee Chaix McDonough, reminding you to get out there and show the world what it means to be a Coach with Clarity.


Click to read the entire transcript

Clarity Coaching

Download the FREE Coach with Clarity Business Blueprint

Looking to Grow Your Coaching Business?

Go from idea to income in 90 days or less with the Coach with Clarity Business Blueprint.

What's your coaching superpower?

I’ve uncovered five primary coaching styles — which one are you?