Client Prospecting

Client Prospecting

The best and most powerful way to get new clients is through your existing network. We call this prospecting.

The classic new-coach mistake is to think that they should start out by marketing on Twitter or Facebook. If you don’t have any track record, any followers, or any feedback on your pitch, then there’s no way digital marketing is going to work for you.

Take a deep breath, relax, and now consider this: “Why would a stranger trust you enough to be their coach if a friend won’t?”

The #1 rule of marketing your coaching business is that you need to talk to your friends first. There are two benefits you get.

A) Your friends and acquaintances are often your most likely clients. They will help you build up a track record.

B) Talking directly to people will help you learn what sort of coaching is necessary and how you should be describing yourself. Your pitch when you finish prospecting is going to be different than the one you started with.

We’re going to give you a script that always makes your coaching better and always leads to more clients. Steps and script are below.

I started out as one of the shyest people on the planet. When I started working, I couldn’t even make eye contact with people. Now I do a lot of sales work (you’ll notice this if we’ve ever sent you a client).

But I started from such a shy place, that I know that if I can do sales, anyone can.

A couple things to know going in:

  • You’re not a coach if you don’t have clients. Finding clients is your job. It’s not a one-time trick you do. It’s a daily responsibility.
  • Sales is partly about volume. That’s why sales scripts exist.
  • Use your network (people you’re connected to on Facebook and LinkedIn).The script I’m going to share here is for using with people you know.
  • If you can’t sell to friends, then you won’t be able to sell to strangers.
  • So this is the script everyone should be starting with.

Prospecting in three parts.

One. Choose people who will open your email because they know you. They don’t need to be a potential client because the script covers both converting them and asking if they can make introductions.

Two. Email asking for advice.

Three. Follow the script which starts with advice and then asks if what you talked about is a good match for them or anyone they know.

Part One. How to choose people.

I just go through my LinkedIn by letter.

For example, I just reached out to every one of my contacts whose first name started with A and who I thought would respond to an email from me.

That turned out to be 14 people.

For each of these 14 people, I asked them for advice. I didn’t try to sell them. Instead, I just asked them for advice.

They’re my friends. They’re happy to give me advice.

Part Two. How to email people

I use the following email.

Hi [name],
I’ve recently joined a community of coaches, because I’m starting to coach online. Do you have 15 minutes to give me some feedback on how you approach your own goals and whether you have ever considered coaching as a way to boost your progress?
Hope you’re well otherwise. [Submit some small talk, i.e. Saw that your son just turned 8, he’s looking so big!]

That’s all the email needs to say. You don’t need to convince them of anything, so you don’t really need to say much.

Either they like enough already to spare fifteen minutes or not.

Part Three. Use this call script

Let me be super clear about this script. It’s not a sales script. It’s a customer research script. Many people will just give you interesting answers that will make you smarter. A few will be exceedingly excited about coaching and will practically force you to get them a coach.

No matter what, if you use this script, you and your friend will feel like it was a worthwhile call.

This script works like a mad-lib. There are parts where you fill in with your own details. So before you get started know:

  • Topic. Take what you coach and name the most general topic for it. So weight loss is a health topic. Productivity is usually a work topic.
  • Inspirational fantasy. You should be able to talk about the epic outcome that is motivating your clients. If you don’t have clients yet, then you should guess what the inspiration is.
  • How you coach. Be ready to share a little bit about the underlying mechanism of how you help people achieve the fantasy and the scope of your service.

Here’s the script. I put commentary in brackets, [like this]. Print one of these out for every call and scribble notes in the margins.

[Get them talking about themselves. You can pitch coaching at the end.]
Thank you so much for taking the time. I’ve been doing a couple of these calls and they’ve been really helpful just to hear how people are thinking about their goals right now. Is it ok if we start with a little bit about you and then if you want, I can tell you more about what I’m up to at the end. It’s really exciting.
[Most people won’t have articulated a top goal. Question below is worded so that they have to pick something.]
Great. First question. If you had to share your top goal right now, what would you pick?
[Almost always they’ll give a general goal.]
That’s great. Can you be more specific? What does success look like? What does it take for you to get there?
[Now that they’re warmed up, get them to offer more goals. Make sure to list your topic. If they don’t list a goal in your topic then that means then that’s a sign — don’t press them]
That’s a great example of a goal. Can you think of any other goals you might have, for example in terms of eating, exercise, productivity, relationships, or health.
[Now get them thinking historically]
How about in the past. Can you think of the last major goal you set for yourself? It could be a New Year resolution or a goal at work or something you were working on in your relationship. What was that goal and how did it turn out?
[Get them thinking about solutions]
When you set a goal for yourself, do you have an easy time following through or do you feel like you need help with accountability? Do you have any tricks of your own?
[Start them thinking about coaches]
Have you ever had someone in your life that played a coach role? For example, a sports coach growing up, a really good manager, or even a time when your parents really helped?
[Have them examine the coaching relationship]
What did you like or not like about this relationship?
[Start investigating their willingness to try a coach]
If you were to consider working with a coach again, what goal would you work on and what would be most important about the coach?
[Now, get their feedback about you]
That's all very interesting and helpful just to hear how an ambitous person like you approaches their goals. Can I tell you a bit about what I've been working on?

I’ve been coaching and many of the people I’ve been coaching are motivated by [insert inspirational fantasy]. The way I coach for this is by focusing on [insert how]. When you hear that I’m coaching people in this area, what questions come to mind?
[Answer their questions, except for price.]
[You might not be in the right place, so allow them to suggest adjacent areas to coach.]
Are there other related goals that you think would be important to coach for yourself or for other people?
[Now, price.]
I have a price for my coaching. But I’m curious what people’s expectations are. Based on what you’ve heard so far, what do you think I’d charge on a monthly basis?
[Now it’s time to close them. There are three options and you need to use your judgement. The three options are below, A, B & C]
[A. If they are not excited by now about the idea of coaching then thank them profusely for their time. ABSOLUTELY DO NOT TRY TO SELL THEM PERSONAL COACHING. They are your friend and you don’t want to burn the relationship. Instead, ask if you prompted them to think of a friend or colleague who should talk to you.]
Thank you so much for your time. Your feedback was incredibly useful. One last question. If you had to pick one person in your life who would be most likely to choose coaching who would you pick? Why? If I wrote you an email, would you be willing to forward it on?
[B. They are excited for coaching, but not on a topic where you are the right coach.]
I happen to know a bunch of coaches who specialize in X. Do you have an interest in getting an introduction to one of them?
[If the answer is yes, find a coach through #looking-for-a-coach in Slack. Then send the link with your referral code to your friend. Ideally, you should do this on the same day that you talked to your friend — they’re all hyped up and ready to do work.]
[C. They are excited for coaching and you are the right coach for them.]
This goal you have is something that I specialize in. Would you consider using me as a coach?

Why is this script so long?

This script is long so that you can give it to anyone. You can use it on your uncle, your minister, your old boss, your UPS driver.

By the time you talk to them, they are all going to share one characteristic: they want to do you a favor.

This is not a sales script. That’s why it’s safe to use on your uncle.

Instead, it’s a script about reciprocity. They are doing you a favor by giving feedback on who they think buys coaching and what is good and bad about your coaching in particular.

In return you will pay the interviewee back with a favor: either the opportunity to do a favor for one of their friends by recommending you to them, offering a different coach to solve the problem they described to you, by offering your self because you just happen to be the right coach for them, or, last, by saying thank you.

If the script were shorter, it would look and feel like a sales script. And that wouldn’t work with friends and acquaintances.

How to Pivot

You’re going to find out in about ten conversations if you have a coaching product that people want.

If ten people in a row don’t want your coaching and can’t think of anyone who does, then you have to change your pitch.

If a couple people buy it or make referrals, but most don’t, then that’s normal and great. You should celebrate. You can now use this pitch to go through your entire network. This might take you an entire year. And right about at that time, you’ll be getting new referrals from all the great clients you helped. Congrats — on this path you now have a fully booked coaching business.

But most often, you’ll find you haven’t pitched yourself right. What to do?

  • Pick one of the areas that your prospects were passionate about. They’re telling you what they want to buy.
  • Flip your pitch around. A lot of times you’re selling the solution rather than the problem. For example, I think a coach selling business writing coaching is selling the solution. The problem is career advancement and better communication is the solution to that. So that coach should try flipping their prospecting script to talk about raises, promotions, and speed of advancement.