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yogipreneur radio Season 2 :: Episode 4

Welcome back to Yogipreneur Radio. I’m Racheal Cook, your host, and I’m so excited to be joined today by our co-host, Francesca Cervero.

Francesca: Hi, everyone!

Racheal: Today, Francesca, we’ve got a question that both of us have unique perspectives on. It’s the whole question around how you keep people who have come to you to work with you — usually on a one-on-one capacity.

How do you get those clients to develop that relationship and stay around for longer than just one session?

This is an epidemic, I think, in the yoga community. A lot of people are afraid to ask their students to make a commitment, they’re hesitant to put together some sort of program or have some sort of packages.

Basically, they’re hesitant to ask people to stick around for longer than one session and, as result, as a community as a whole, we’ve created this drop-in community — whether it’s group classes or private sessions — where it’s just willy-nilly whenever people feel like showing up.

At the end of the day, personally, I think it doesn’t serve the students at all because they’re not developing a meaningful, committed, regular practice and it doesn’t serve teachers at all because they never know who they’re teaching and when.

Francesca: Yeah. That’s true.

Racheal: I’m really excited to dive into this because you have students who stuck around with you for five, eight, 10 years. For forever!

Francesca: Yeah. Yeah. I’ll have some clients for life. I mean, I just moved from New York City, so I’m not teaching those clients every week anymore, but a lot of the clients that I’ve been with since 2005/2006/2007 are working now with teachers that I trained and when I go back to New York I see them.

I’m still in a relationship with those clients and will be forever. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.

Racheal: I think this is a big challenge for a lot of yoga teachers that are not thinking about each new client they bring on, it needs to be a relationship. It needs to be something that serves them.

Our goal is always to serve our students first, but also — let’s face it — if you’re trying to build a profitable, sustainable yoga business, you need to know who’s showing up every week or else that is never going to happen.

You’ll not be able to actually build the business side of it. I have a way that I generally teach this and you have a way that you teach this. What I love is, I think out of this conversation people will be able to figure out what could potentially work great for them.

Let’s start with the more intuitive relationship-building side and then we can go into the more strategic approach for those who feel like they need a stronger container to help them.

Let’s start with what you do, because it’s so opposite of what I do.

Francesca: It is. We teach totally opposite things here, but there’s so much value in both. Racheal and I were talking about this episode and she asked me:

“What do you do? How do you get people to commit to a lifelong relationship with you?”

I had to think about it for a second because I haven’t been intentionally super-strategic about the way that I do this.

Racheal: No, most of the way your approach your business is very intuitive.

But, I do have to say for anybody who is just listening to us, Francesca has a background of a lifelong love of movement and dance and I think that shows up in the way that you approach and the way you teach your students because you have a lifelong history of being disciplined and showing up.

Francesca: That’s true.

Racheal: You expect that of your students right out of the gate.

Francesca: Yeah. I think I model that discipline for my students as well. When I have a new person come to me and ask me how it works to have private sessions with me, I like to be pretty open and flexible about this.

I don’t have a specific package that I sell people, I don’t require any specific commitment from them.

But, what I do is I say, “Most of my private clients work with me once a week and they have standing appointments with me every week. I have some clients who I see twice a week and I have some clients who I see every other week or even once a month, depending on what their schedule and finances
allow for.” I say —

“We can figure out what works best for you. I’m happy to be open and flexible. I think it’s great to have a standing time-slot because that makes it easier for my scheduling, but why don’t we just have our first session and then we can take it from there.”

We’ll, in those first few conversations, talk about scheduling because I’ll find out where they live and say the time-slots that would probably work best for me are Tuesday morning or Wednesday afternoon.

We are having that conversation as if it’s going to be a standing appointment every week, but I’m happy to give them what they need.

What I really don’t want is to put a lot of unnecessary barriers between my student and I.

I’m really professional in the way that I show up and I have very clear professional boundaries, but I want the feeling of my relationship with my private student to feel intimate and for them to feel really seen and cared for.

When you have the focus in your private client relationships be about the relationship itself, then of course people work with you long term because it’s a relationship.

Racheal: Yes!

Francesca: My intention is for my private clients to feel really seen and heard and understood by me and the more I know about what’s going on with them in their bodies and in their minds and in their hearts, the better able I am to create sessions that meet their deepest needs.

Then, when I’m teaching them sessions that meet their deepest physical/emotional/spiritual/mental needs. Then it creates real meaningful change out in the world.

Racheal: Yes.

Francesca: They love that. That’s good for them. They’re happy and we continue our work together for years and years.

Racheal: One thing that I love about the way that you approach this — and, again, because I know you, I know that you don’t have some fancy marketing tricks up your sleeve, you didn’t go out and take a bunch of sales training.

But, the one thing you do is set the expectation that you’re here to establish a practice with me. Establishing a practice with me means you’ll have a standing time-slot. Again, there’s nothing salesy about that. It’s just–

“Here’s the expectation. I’m your yoga teacher. We’re establishing a practice. We’re going to work together on a regular, consistent basis.”

Francesca: Yeah.

Racheal: I think that’s really great.

I also love that when you’re going through these sessions — if anybody hasn’t checked out Francesca’s free video series on how she handles some of these sessions, she’s checking in with her clients all the time as they’re going through the session and talking to them and assessing them and figuring out where they are and what’s going on.

This is what helps inform her and helps her make these sessions so personal. When you do that, it’s so different than what I think a lot of people are experiencing in those type of sessions.

Part of that just comes from being a really skilled private yoga teacher, part of it comes, I think, from you just setting that expectation and being a total pro up front and saying, “We’re establishing a practice. This is how it works generally.”

But, a lot of what I love is it doesn’t feel forced or pushed or contrived or prepacked and then just sold to somebody.

Francesca: Yeah. I hope that what it feels like is very warm and friendly.

Racheal: Deeply caring.

Francesca: Yeah, but with a real air of professionalism. I think it’s a really hard balance for yoga teachers to find.

Sometimes people are boundary-less with their time, with their energy and with their money because they want their students to know they care for them.

Then, the other extreme side that sometimes happens is people are so careful about their boundaries that they put up all these walls between them and their student and then their student doesn’t feel cared for, seen and they’re not able to get to know them to create a practice that’s really useful.

Racheal: There’s a nice middle ground. I think boundaries are so important, but there does become a point where it goes from boundary to barrier.

Where, now, you’re asking them to do stuff that can create friction in a relationship that you want to feel natural and good.

Francesca: Natural is a good word.

I think finding that balance can be tough, but if you just go into the relationship knowing that you want them to feel cared for and you also want them to view you as a professional, just having that intention will make it easier.

Racheal: It will make it so much easier. I think that’s fantastic and I love it. It’s a bit different from what I general teach people.

What I’ve general taught in the yoga space, especially, has been to go into that first session when you’re working with a new client for the first time, use that as a time to assess/to get to know them.

Then when you’re talking about how you continue moving forward and how you continue working with them to let them know up front that you prefer to work in some sort of package or a start and a stop to the work that you’re going to do together.

This generally works well for a lot of teachers, I find, when they need more boundaries and when they need more structure to the work that they’re doing.

Maybe if you’re a newer teacher or if you are just building up that relationship skill-set, I tend to prefer having those stronger start and stop times, personally, so I know it works for people who need a lot of structure around their work.

Francesca: Wait, I just want to pause. When she says, “Start and stop time,” she doesn’t mean you start at 10:00 AM and you finish at 11:00 AM.

Racheal: No.

Francesca: I am very strict about my start and stop times. She means like —

Racheal: I mean working together.

Francesca: A package. Like you would have someone create a signature package that includes six private sessions with a bonus — do you want to explain about that a little more?

Racheal: Yes. Sure. What I mean by that is when somebody comes on to work with you, you have that first session with them and then you tell them how you work.

How you work is you have “Option A” and “Option B.”

Option A is the fully-loaded, mac daddy VIP version of what you do. That usually is more sessions with you, more time with you, sometimes it includes some bonuses that can help people when they’re not with you.

It could be you’ve recorded meditations they have access to or they have their own practice that they do in between sessions with you — something that you’re leaving them to make it easier for them to continue working with you.

Usually, these packages are going to be three months or six months long. That’s what I mean by a start/stop.

They know when we’re starting, they know that this package is going to get them through this length of time.

Then there’s another option.

I generally say two options because it goes into the conversation assuming that they do want to work with you, they just need to know how and what it is going to look like.

Usually, there’s a bigger version. Which his either longer term or more time or more access to you or more bonuses and things that help support them when you’re not physically with them.

Then, the other version is usually just kind of a much simpler version of that. Not as many sessions. Maybe instead of weekly sessions, it’s every other week. Maybe it’s a shorter three month package versus a six month package.

Something that’s at a more affordable price point so they don’t have as much time with you or as much frequency with you. The important thing I find is that a lot of yoga teachers and private yoga teachers I would see would see packages similar to a yoga studio.

Like, “You can buy five private class sessions with me.” But, because they didn’t have a structure, because they didn’t say a standing time spot, this is how it’s going to work and we’re going to schedule it all out.

They would have people buy those one-off session packages or one-time sessions and they would just be scheduled all over the place; they’d have to sell themselves all the time to try to get that person on the schedule on a regular basis.

Which causes a lot of anxiety for a lot of yoga teachers when they feel like, “I had a private session with you. Now I’m going to have to basically have a sales conversation at the end of every single session to try to book a new one.”

If they don’t book it right away and there’s no standing time-slot, it creates a lot of anxiety and inconsistency, both in your student’s practice and in your business, which is what we’re trying to avoid.

That’s what I think is the major goal for both of what we’re trying to get at.

We want you to have a consistent business and we want your students to have a consistent practice.

The best way to do that is to find some way to set the expectation that they’re going to repeat working with you and it’s not just going to be like a wham, bam, thank you, ma’am session and then maybe I’ll hear from you in three months.

Francesca: Right. Right, right. I love this. This is two very different ways of looking at this, so I want to leave teachers with some things to think about and how to figure out which approach is best for them.

What I’m thinking about for Racheal’s suggestions here of explaining in a really systematized way how people can work with you. The benefits to that are it makes it easier for you if you haven’t done this as much.

It gives you some confidence to act like a professional if that’s something that you’re struggling with.

Racheal: Totally.

Francesca: I’m having this vision — When I teach Asana and when I teach, especially, my advanced group classes, I talk about binding. You know, creating binds in the arms.

You only make a bind if that structure creates a more sense of ease, a more sense of freedom.

You sometimes will get to a point in your standing pose where you would be more grounded in your feet and you’d be able to breathe more deeply into your belly if your arms were bound. But, unless that’s the case, you shouldn’t be binding. That’s a whole other podcast probably.

Racheal: I totally understand what you’re saying, though. That’s where I come at this from.

I think a lot of reasons yogis feel so stressed out about this whole idea of trying to get people on a regular schedule is because they feel like it’s forcing them to become a salesperson and at the end of the day, that’s not what you’re supposed to do.

You’re supposed to be a yoga teacher.

If, for you, you feel like you need that structure and support to make it easier to have those students create a more consistent practice with you, then create the structure; make it easy for you to tell them how to work with you.

If it’s not easy to do that, if that creates unnecessary structure or creates any friction in the relationship between you and the student, then Francesca’s approach of just setting the expectation that I have standing appointments with my clients and we’ll figure out what works best for you.

We’ll figure out the right time, we’ll figure out the right day, we’ll figure out the right frequency, but we’re going in this as a team and I’m here to be your yoga teacher.

Francesca: Right. Right. For me, where I am in my teaching, I’ve been teaching very full time for a really long time. I’ve seen a lot of great success with a lot of long term clients and I have a lot of confidence in my teaching.

For me, having that outside structure would make things more complicated. I have seen some really experienced, talented teachers sometimes creating these structures and over-complicating things when both them and their students would be better served by just modeling student focus and disciplined once a week, if you can manage that, would be great and then just having an easy, open, warm conversation around that.

The bind, in that case, would in that case, would make me less free. But there’s a lot of teachers for whom the bind, the structure, would make them more free.

Racheal: I love that you brought that analogy into it. It’s so perfect. Just to wrap this conversation, I just want to really reiterate that there is no right or wrong way. At the end of the day, it’s really about how you can serve your student the best.

But, the more that you can go into any relationship really setting the expectation and having that own clarity for yourself will make you feel more confident, will make your student have more confidence in you as a teacher —

Francesca: That’s huge.

Racheal: And really will set you up as a professional, which makes all the difference in the world.

Francesca: Go forth.

Racheal: Go forth and teach.  A lot.

Francesca: Love it.

 

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