It goes by many names in coaching circles: complimentary coaching call, free introductory session, discovery call, free consultation, I’m sure you’ve heard others as well. Considering my love of cars, I’m trying out “test drive” for our discussion today.
Some new coaches and our coaching students wonder why bother with a trial session, why don’t people just hire me? So many coaches really just want to focus on coaching and don’t realize that business development is a crucial part of being a coach.
Even if you are employed as a coach by a firm, you still need to market yourself and help people understand your worth. This was confirmed over and over as I interviewed internal coaches for my upcoming book.
Introductory coaching calls serve two essential purposes for a prospective client, helping them determine A) if coaching is for them, and B) if you’re the right coach for them.
If coaching is brand new to them, this session lets them experience it, not just hear about it. They actually get coached, with no strings attached. They walk away with new insights, new ways of thinking and being, and steps to move forward.
We talk about rapport and relationship a lot in our coach training. During a test drive coaching session, prospective clients experience not only coaching but you as a coach and whether it feels like a good fit.
Establishing rapport and determining fit are just as important for the coach. You want to work with someone you’re comfortable with and you interact well with. There’s nothing worse than feeling disconnected from someone with whom you’re meant to be in an intimate helping relationship.
By listening for the right cues, I can establish whether this person is ready for coaching, if coaching is right for them right now, if I am the right coach for them, and if I want to work with them.
Not everyone who wants to hire you is someone you should serve. Your gut may be sending you messages even before the call starts. Have you ever been preparing for an introductory call and you find yourself hoping the person doesn’t show up? That is a good sign that you shouldn’t let this person hire you!
You might think that ending an introductory call without landing the client is a waste of time, but I guarantee you it’s not. Even if they don’t hire you, if the session has gone well, that helps you develop a positive reputation. I’ve had people who didn’t hire me, who ended up referring other people to me.
Test drive coaching sessions are especially important for newer coaches. You can use them to develop confidence in your skills and gain real experience coaching people.
Boundaries and expectations
It’s important to set good boundaries around time, and also establish expectations about follow-up communication. For example, I’m always happy to answer a quick question by email, and I offer that to everybody. But I am also clear that I have a full load of clients and training, so it might take me a day or two to get back to you. I also refer people to the Coaching4Clergy blog, because many questions could be answered there.
My typical coaching sessions are 30 minutes, so that is what I offer for complimentary sessions. Time? Do not be tempted to go short because they’re not paying, or to spend longer because you want to make a good impression and make sure the client gets what they want. You want this to be an authentic sample of the coaching experience, not longer or shorter than your regular coaching sessions.
I usually ask that we schedule about 40-45 minutes since they may have questions, and they might want to introduce themselves a bit. Thirty minutes might not seem like a lot of time, but the prospective client gets to experience the time frame we typically work in, and it IS enough time. People are amazed at how much we accomplish.
Now, I’d love to hear from you! What do you call your complimentary coaching sessions? How do you attract prospective clients to sign up? Are test drive sessions a valuable part of your business development strategy? Why or why not? What has worked well for you? What is a struggle? Let me know in the comments.