Whether you are at a point in your coaching where you are completely comfortable approaching and securing new clients for yourself, or you have just begun, the tips below will support you in taking your coaching practice to the next level.

The Exploratory Session

1) Set the context of the session

This really just means: agree why you are both speaking to each other. Is it one-time inspiration? A feel good chat? Or a pre-cursor to major change in their life?

For me, it's to explore whether together we can make a MAJOR change in their life, or not. I let them know that at the end of the session there will be - if I feel it appropriate -an invitation to set up a committed coaching structure to support their goals.

If you skip this step, it's possible they will feel 'sold to' - best to have everything up front. Let them know there's no obligation at all. And that you don't work with everyone. You'll only go forward together if it feels right on both sides.

2) Locate their 'Hot Button'

Ask them to come up with ONE goal. You can start with three, but focus in quickly on ONE. Otherwise it's too scattered.

Help them to clearly define what one thing would really make a difference in their life right now. Ask how they would feel if that were to happen and how their life would be different once that occurs. See if they can connect with the feeling.

Check if they believe it is possible. 'Pie in the Sky' dreams are not something they will pay for. If it doesn't seem possible, help them pick a more realistic goal, or help them see how it IS possible.

3) How a coach will make the difference

Help them see how the coaching will 'look'. Most people haven't had a coach, and don't even understand it's once a week appointment for a fixed period of time, with homework. (I like to have them read about this before the session, so they are already getting used to the idea, and we don't waste time on it in the session).

Let them know coaching can be a fun, enjoyable and rewarding process. But more importantly - ASK THEM HOW COACHING WOULD HELP! It's ten times more valuable to both of you, if they come up with how it will help, instead of you trying to sell them on it. You can hint if they flounder and you can intuit how coaching will help them.

4) Commitment

Get them 'off the fence'. Ask them, "How serious are you about making this change in your life?" Then they can truly look if they are just blowing smoke or they really are going to do something. If they say they are really serious, your chances of signing a client just jumped higher.

Challenge them with 'uncommon compassion'. If you honestly think that if they don't sign up they won't do anything differently, consider telling them.

Let them know that it’s OK to think about it, but that’s NOT WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT. Thinking about it doesn't actually change lives. You are there, if they are ready for it, to get them to the place where they are doing more than “just thinking about” whatever it is they REALLY WANT in their life.

5) Objections

Find out their objections, fears, doubts - if any - to working with you. Allow them the time for this and really hear where they are coming from.

#1 objection: parting with the cash (see below for a counter).

#2 objection: not enough time to devote to this (so how important is this change really? Keep looking till you find one WORTH spending time on).

#3 objection: don't think the change is really possible or that they really deserve it (they won't say this though).

#4 objection: I can do it on my own; don't need a coach (so why don't you have this goal achieved already? What's getting in the way?).

Some questions for bringing out objections: "How is all this feeling to you?" If you have a feeling they have an objection: "I sense a little hesitancy - is that right?"

If they’re uncertain about getting results consider offering a one-month coaching trial, with the understanding that if results are happening, it will extend to three or six months.

If money is the issue, have them look at what they have spent similar amounts on in the past five years. Often the reason they are where they are, are that their priorities are a bit off. i.e. they will invest in a holiday but not in their relationship. They will invest in a car, but not in a new, fulfilling career.

One option if they ask 'to think about it', is to request that they give an answer now just so things can move forward and there can be some kind of action. If they are leaning towards 'no' then they say 'no'. If they are leaning towards 'yes', then they do a trial month. They can always contact you later if they say 'no' now and then change their mind. (You'll probably get more people saying 'yes' than if you leave them to think about it and breed doubt).

6) The Invitation

You don't ask, you don't get. Sometimes all it takes for someone to say yes (and this applies to all areas of life) is to be invited.

Once you have found their hot button and inspired them, they are serious and committed to making a change, they realize working with a coach will make a difference, and any objections have been dealt with - what else is there to do but set them up as a client! At this stage I might ask something like: "How does it all feel?" and "Do you have any really pressing questions at this stage?" or "Should I tell you how I set up new clients, and you can tell me if you like the sound of that?" (My BEST question. Works VERY well. Most say "Oh that's fine - let me hear how you set up new clients". But if you ask "Do you have any questions," they'll almost always come up with some as they feel they should). I give them a preview of 'set up' (see the next step) and then ask 'How does that sound?'

OK - so it's not a direct invitation. If they say it sounds good, I often move straight to setting a coaching time, and then we're in. If necessary, I would ask: "Would you like to set up a coaching structure for your goals?" or "Would you like to give it a whirl?" or "Should we get moving on this?" But often the implied version works very well.

7) Setting Up Your Client!

Once a person has said yes, they can feel very uncertain over the next few minutes and days - unless YOU are certain. So some steps you might take are:

A.) Set up your next session, so they can already feel they are in a structure.

B.) Let them know you will send an email or follow-up paperwork with guidelines, fees, homework, and any particulars.

C.) Arrange their homework for the next 7 days.

D.) Ensure they know the coaching time and schedule.

E.) Go through one or two really important policies you may have.

F.) Acknowledge them for the courage they are showing in taking action.

G.) Ask them how they are feeling about suddenly having a coach in their life. Always a great way to wrap up the session.

Use these guidelines to set up future exploratory sessions for new prospects. Of course, you'll want to adapt it to your own coaching style. Take what works best for you, practice, review each session, fine tune, practice again, and repeat to the point where you are confident. You'll then be getting the response, results, and fees from your clients that you want and deserve.


Author's Bio: 

David Wood is an IFC certified coach who has been coaching since 1998. During that time he has coached clients in 15 countries and mentored 90 other coaches. He currently focuses on helping others start or build coaching practices. You can learn more about David and the help he provides at SolutionBox.com.