Organize your thoughts and process. Be transparent, tell the client what they can expect and what you will expect. Clearly state that the consultation will take an hour, or whatever time you choose to give. Remember this is your first chance to “Wow” a potential client. I’ve found that taking the time whether that is a half an hour or a full hour for the client to get everything they need to know to hire you is paramount.
Be clear that not every prospect who calls you 1) will hire you and 2) will you take on as a client. I personally explain this to each prospect so that at the end of the session we are clear what paths we have to choose from.
So what and how do you most effectively create the environment to produce a positive outcome for both parties. What is it a coach needs to find out during this consultation.
1) What is the problem the client wants to work on?
2) Can you help this client reach their goals?
3) How did the client hear about you? ( you need to know either to Thank someone for a referral or to note where your marketing dollar/time has paid off)
4) Can the client afford your rate? If they can’t afford your services that’s OK, not everyone will be able too. Now some coaches would take the approach that they don’t even want to waste their time on clients who can’t afford them. I personally think every interaction you have with someone is a chance to shine. What if this person mentions how nice you were to someone who could afford your services? What if 6 months or a year down the road they are able financially to hire you? How you treat someone will determine if they call back. But it is important for the money issue to be discussed. New coaches tend to fear this part of the conversation, don’t fear it everyone wants to know the bottom dollar. I recommend you wait till after you’ve discussed their issue though.
5) Be transparent and let the prospective client know that you will be asking if they are willing to make a commitment after the session. Tell them up front at the beginning of the consultation that at the end you will be asking them to make a decision about moving forward. This not only gets their permission but also puts them in the mindset of making the decision. It is just like at the end of an interview, telling them you want that job. Clearly state you want to work with them and are they ready to hire you.
6) Is the client appropriate for coaching? International Coach Federation has guidelines about how to determine if a client is appropriate for coaching. They have the top ten reasons for a referral to a mental health professional. I recommend that you have a working relationship with a counselor so if you choose not to take a client on because you think they need therapy rather than coaching. Ethically, the thing to do is give an actual referral,and document it. This again can come back to you in positive ways. If the person goes and gets the appropriate help they need they will see you in a positive light and most likely will hire you later if the situation is right.
7)What does your gut tell you? As coaches we hopefully are able to look at each person and see them as unique and wonderful, however sometimes you just don’t click. It’s OK to choose not to work with someone. I’m going on the assumption that you’ve already discussed their issue and your fully capable of helping but something just tells you it won’t be a good outcome. This still could be a chance to give a referral to another coach.
8)I personally have found when your genuinely honest with people in this world, where that is rare, you’ll attract clients who want to work with you. You will have a higher transition rate from prospect to paying client.
9)Go over your philosophy of coaching and explain why your an effective coach. Even if you don’t work together at this point in time. You’ve had a chance to impact the coaching profession by educating someone about the process.
10)Give a short brief coaching sample, this usually happens when you are discussing what the problem is/what is their goal. Don’t be put off by a prospect who states the problem rather than the goal. We live in a world where it comes naturally for most people to point out what they don’t like rather than focusing on what it is they want or what they do like.
Ultimately there are three possible outcomes to a consultation. Yes, No or Maybe. It’s at that point that I actually take the lead and rule out my half of the decision. I share with them my thoughts and feelings about the consultation. If I’ve ruled out that they aren’t appropriate for coaching, then I make a referral to a therapist. If I decide I’m not the coach that would best suit their needs, I make a referral to another coach. I don’t want to work with them because my gut tells me this just isn’t right, I share with them honestly that I don’t think it’s a good fit for me. Then I go directly to asking them if they want to hire me. Remember I’ve already up front told them this question is coming. Second they meet all my criteria for a good client and I ask them to decide if they want to hire me. If it’s a maybe make sure you find out what the obstacle is which is keeping them from making a decision. Help them walk through it and using your great coaching skills get them to set a time frame for making the decision. Follow-up with them.
I have found that if your able to lead the initial consultation gracefully it becomes more about educating the prospect than selling yourself or your services. It also should feel like a seamless conversation to the prospect, so practice it