When Good Coaches Struggle to Get Clients

Whether you make your living from coaching individual clients and groups, or you’re an internal coach waiting for employees to be sent your way, you need to drum up business.

It’s not enough to be a great coach; you must promote yourself and show people the value of coaching. Here are four key ways to do that:

1. Always give people a taste of coaching

Whenever I’m in front of a group or talking to someone about coaching, I give them a taste. Last week I sat down with a group of four leaders over lunch. They wanted to hire a coach but were confused about exactly what that would look like or how it could help.

As we talked, I prompted them to say more about themselves and what they were looking for. You could say I took “a coach approach” to lunch. When one of the leaders said, “You know, Val, we invited you because we wanted to hear what you have to offer, but we’re doing most of the talking,” I let them in on the fact that I’d been coaching them all along – and that’s what coaching looks like.

I knew they already had what they needed to make their decision, and they agreed and decided to move forward. What they experienced over lunch was what they wanted from coaching.

This principle applies just as much to internal coaches who tell me people in their organizations still don’t really understand what they do.

2. Stop selling

When you meet with someone to discuss your services, stop selling and just start listening. Put your coach hat on because that speaks to your credibility as a professional. Coaches are helping professionals. When we participate as active listeners it conveys that we are here to help.

This goes a long way toward that person getting clear on what they want and what’s really going on with them. Even better, they will be able to attribute that clarity to you and this conversation.

Having a real conversation also helps you both assess your fit, and whether you will have a productive, collaborative and enjoyable working relationship.

In most cultures, people don’t have positive connotations of salespeople – they have something they want to push on you. Selling is about the seller. As coaches, we are about the other person, about meeting a need. If I don’t think I’m the best candidate for this, I’ll tell you and connect you with someone else. That comes back to credibility.

In coaching it’s not about you, it’s about the client. That philosophy should be the core of any conversation with a prospective client as well.

3. The power of word-of-mouth

Who are the connectors in your life? They’re the people who know people and know how to make things happen.

So many people have said to me, “Oh, I didn’t think you wanted new clients.” I’m a business owner, of course I do! Don’t keep yourself a secret! Simply mention to your clients that if they find your coaching valuable and know another person or group who might benefit as well, it would really help you if they let them know.

Once in a while someone will call me up and say, “I’d like to hire you. I don’t know what you do, but you helped a friend/colleague of mine. I don’t know what you did to him, but he’s doing really well and I want you to do for me what you did to him.”

That’s the power of word-of-mouth.

4. Be distinct or be extinct

To help others recommend you, tell them exactly who you’re looking to coach and which niche you are wanting to serve. Also notice who’s finding you – who’s showing up? They may not be the same group at first, but pay attention to what your market is trying to tell you.

If you try to be everything to everybody, you won’t be as effective for the targeted group of people you were meant to serve. Show up for them – give them a taste, without selling, and empower them to share you as the treasured resource you are.

All the best to you,

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