I’m sure someone has told you to grow your coaching business, all you need to do is get out there and talk to people.
That’s good advice as far as it goes. But it doesn’t specify the type of conversation you should have.
Going out and shooting the breeze with people in your network over coffee, or worse, trying to encourage every person you know to work with you is not likely going to bring you a steady stream of committed, awesome clients, yet that is often what coaches do after hearing “get out there and talk to people.” This also gives false evidence that getting out and talking to people doesn’t work when it is in fact one of the best ways to draw potential clients to you.
The key, however, is having a conversation that has others see you as the amazing coach and expert that you are and to do that without you telling them how great you are and why people should hire you (ick!)
Changing the Conversation can Change Everything
I have a brilliant new client who’s an experienced leader and executive who is pivoting to leadership coaching. He came to me for help building out his new coaching business, and like the work I do will all of my clients, our first focus was getting really clear about his ideal client, his niche and his sweet spot in that niche.
To that end, I encouraged him to talk to leaders that he believed were his ideal clients so he could better learn about their biggest challenges, what they want to shift and what type of leaders they want to become. The primary purpose of these interviews is to listen and learn. I advise my clients let their curiosity about the other person shine through.
The first interview he did was with a colleague and friend he has known for many years. This conversation, however, was different than any they’d had before, even though this was someone my client talks to all of the time and knew well. They’d even previously discussed his shift to focusing on growing his leadership coaching practice.
This conversation was different than any they’d had before.
During this conversation, the focus was on the colleague’s leadership challenges and how they’ve impacted his success and the success of his team. My client listened and asked probing questions, but mostly let his colleague speak. As a result, it became abundantly clear to the colleague that he had some big gaps to bridge in order for him and his team to grow and thrive at the level they wanted and needed to. Without my client talking at all about working together, his colleague asked “Would you be willing to coach me and my team? We clearly need support.”
Although my client wanted to say yes on the spot, I had coached him to be prepared for this kind of lean in so he was prepared to say, “I would love to have that discussion with you. I want to honor the intention of this interview and not stray from that. Let’s set up a separate time to explore whether working together would be mutually beneficial.”
While it can be tempting to switch immediately to enrolling the client, they will respect you for holding this boundary as it will show that you are trustworthy and have integrity. All necessary qualities in a coach. In fact, when a client has jumped on the opportunity about working together in that initial interview, it usually goes sideways for a variety of reasons. Let’s be clear, you can definitely go into these conversations with the hope that they will want to discuss working together, but if it is your primary intention, it will come off as a thinly veiled sales technique.
My client and his colleague had shared many, many conversations over the years, and his colleague was well aware of his journey to being a leadership coach, but never before had he seen him as someone who could help him overcome his problems. What make this conversation different? They were engaged in meaningful dialog.
“Meaningful dialogue” is communication that offers direct interest and benefit to both people in the conversation.
Think about it. Often when we are out in the world, like networking events, people talk about what they do, how they do it and for whom and it often just feels self-serving and uninteresting. What if you had a conversation that was truly meaningful for both of you? How would that change the level of engagement? How would that change your interest in getting out there and talking to people? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Tara Butler Floch