I remember going through coaching school back in the dark ages (2005 which was before most people knew what coaching was) and they taught us to give free sessions (aka “sample sessions”) as a way to get clients. When I gave away free sessions, only 5-10% of my “prospects” would hire me. This was a new skill for me, but having come from a sales & marketing background, I was shocked at my lack of efficacy. But then I found that my coaching colleagues had similar results, even the ones with more experience than me when they gave away free sessions. Needless to say, I stopped doing them and changed my strategy (more on that later)
I was shocked to hear from a recent coaching client of mine that they still teach this practice in coaching school as a way to get new clients, and that she had the same type of results (or lack thereof) that I had back in 2005. After gathering feedback from clients and colleagues of mine, I’ve come to the conclusion that free sessions don’t work as a client enrollment strategy. Yes, I have gotten some clients through this strategy (and maybe you have, too). However, I would guess that the people who have hired you from free sessions already knew they were going to work with you as long as the free session met their expectations. And this is why I believe this is true:
1) When we give our gift away for free, people ascertain that our time and our gift is not that valuable – Of course there are some people that will value you and truly appreciate the generosity in your heart by giving them your gift for free, but most people aren’t wired that way and assume if you are giving your gift away that something is amiss – that you need (vs want) clients, that you are an amateur, etc. They may be fully conscious of this or their subconscious may be at work , but it will still effect them from saying a powerful “yes” to working with you.
2) When you give a free session you give a taste of what it would be like to work with you and it doesn’t do justice to the huge transformation that is possible – I have experienced (as well as given) amazing coaching in as little as 15 minutes. Coaching can be transformational immediately (and so can most healing modalities) However, most of us need reinforcement to battle our issues and get through our blocks, challenges and physical/mental limitations and a long term commitment to working with a coach or healer can insure that sustainable long term change happens. It’s hard to give a small taste of an amazing buffet and have it really do it justice.
3) If you do amazing work in one session, some people will freak themselves out and disappear – When we discover what is possible on the other side of our blocks and challenges, sometimes we want to hop back into our comfort zone because we don’t know how to handle it. This can happen with people that have a free session with you that is really powerful. This has happened to me and it had me scratching my head before I realized what had happened. Some people are just not ready to pick up what you are laying down.
4) When you give a free session, it feels like a bit of a bait and switch to say “sooooo…would you like to work with me?” – In a free session, it isn’t part of the design for you to talk at the end about whether you want to do more work together, so it’s awkward (unless the client gushes about the experience) to bring up working together. And it is particularly difficult to start talking about your 3 month or 6 month package – it is just too big of a leap.
So how do I enroll clients that are potentially interested in working with me?
I teach my clients to do powerful discovery or introductory calls/sessions instead of free sample sessions. These can be dual purpose calls – like having a Business Breakthrough Session like I offer to my potential clients – where you help them identify specific challenges that you help solve, paint the gap between where they are and where they want to be, and the cost that this gap is having on their life/business/health/stress/balance, etc. I also get them connected to their “big why”, which is the reason they deeply desire to have the transformation that you could help provide for them.
I also I tell my potential clients (and teach my clients to tell their potential clients) that they will walk away with huge clarity and value from our session whether we choose to work with each other or not, and that this will be an opportunity for us to mutually explore whether we would be a good fit to work together. Although this approach is a perfect hand-in-glove solution for coaches, this also has worked like a charm with my other types of clients (wedding officiants; personal trainers; therapists; consultants; shamanic healers, etc) with some careful crafting of the right questions to ask. Note the language I used. This is not them test driving whether they will hire you, it is a mutual exploration on whether this is the right fit. This shifts the power dynamic and sets the foundation for a mutual respectful relationship.
Additionally, I recommend you ask them some pre-qualifying questions. You will be spending 30-45 minutes with someone and you want to make sure 1) their is potential there for you to really help this person and 2) that they are willing to spend 5-10 minutes answering some questions (hint – if they aren’t, they wouldn’t have hired you if you had a discovery session with them). You can check out my questions here if you want a sense of the type of questions you could ask.
I plan to write more in an upcoming post on how to craft a set of questions for your discovery sessions that really align with your gift and the transformation you provide. So make sure to join my newsletter or subscribe to my blog if you want to hear more on the subject!
What will you do differently as a result of what you read in this blog post? What questions or comments do you have? I am all ears!