Whether you are new to coaching or you’re a seasoned coach, are there times when you question your chosen profession? Have you ever sat alone with your thoughts and asked yourself: “Why did I get myself into this? I love coaching, but I didn’t know it was going to be this hard to get clients!” While many coaching practices thrive, statistics from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) suggest that 82% of coaching businesses worldwide fail within the first two years. So, as coaches, how can we prevent ourselves from becoming a statistic? How can we consistently and authentically get coaching clients to grow our coaching business sustainably?
A common fallacy is that coaching can be sold transactionally, simply matching problems with a solution and then communicating it with a marketing funnel and sales process. At the beginning of my coaching journey, I remember thinking I could just invest in a clever CRM and then the rest would flow with ads, marketing funnels and automation. During the first three months of my coaching business, I engaged an automation company to set up my e-Commerce and payment systems as well as an automated CRM system capable of handling 30,000 emails daily. Did I need all of that? No, at least not at that point of my 24-month coaching journey. In hindsight, I would have been better off investing the AUD 8,000 differently.
The market is full of advice for both new and established coaches on what to do when starting a new coaching practice. If you have recently started or are about to start a coaching practice, you may be familiar with some of the following advice: “Be the authority”, “Help first, get paid later”, “Ask the right questions”, “Use your background to your advantage”, “Create videos”, “Network with other coaches”, “Identify your ideal client and turn others away”, “Know your brand”, “Become the coach you want to hire”, “Be consistent with your nurturing”, and the list goes on.
As you can see, there are an endless number of mechanical strategies and quick-fix approaches on offer. While you might logically understand what you need to do, I invite you to consider an ontological approach to solving the real challenge of getting coaching clients and growing your coaching business.
How to get coaching clients and grow your coaching business – an ontological (‘let’s get real’) approach
Step 1: Work on yourself first and choose a proven framework
How can we coach our clients to address and work on their challenges if we are not working on ourselves and our challenges? In the words of Socrates: “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom”. Reflecting on my own coaching business journey, I know that having a coach made the biggest difference to me as a coach. Being coached supported me to know myself, which was key to becoming the six-figure coach I am today. While many coaches follow individual programs, I recommend choosing a proven framework that can scale, enables you and your practice to grow and gives your clients consistent results. I use the Being Framework, which provides a defined structure to methodically develop how I am being and lifts my effectiveness and performance as a coach. The framework also significantly enhances my ability to get coaching clients and grow my coaching business.
Step 2: Assess where you are today with a profiling tool
“As long as it [an issue] remains invisible, it is guaranteed to remain insoluble,” writes Margaret Heffernan in her book, Willful Blindness. To accelerate the process of increasing your own awareness and assessing your leadership, performance and effectiveness, I recommend using a profiling tool. Many of the popular profiling tools used by coaches today only assess your behaviour, mindset and personality, putting you in a box and classifying you as a fixed object that cannot change. However, I employ the Being Profile® as it supports you in uncovering how you relate to thirty-one Aspects of Being and through a process of transformation. It is a measurable approach to coaching.
Step 3: Be aware, authentic and vulnerable, and connect with people who already trust you
What would it look like if you were to expand your awareness, vulnerability and authenticity to become present to the people around you? You could also set an intention to:
a) become aware of what people really want,
b) be vulnerable enough to share what you got from step 1 – your own coaching, and
c) authentically share that you are a coach who loves supporting people.
Instead of engaging strangers via an ad or a social media post, I encourage you to start with the people that already trust you. Friends, family, former work colleagues, customers and partners who already know and trust us are often willing to give us a chance to experience something new.
Start by inviting them to engage in a 45-minute conversation without any outcome or result in mind. The challenge is to set an intention to do nothing more than listen and pick up on what’s possible for them. Whenever they ask you a question, ask yourself the following before you respond: “What would be valuable for the other person to hear based on what they shared with me?” Let them ask you how to take the conversation further.
Step 4: Provide value upfront with an easy-entry product
Often coachees are stopped by something they can’t yet see. Now is the time to suggest they complete a Being Profile assessment, as outlined in step 2. The results discussed with them during your debrief session will increase their awareness by casting light on who and how they are being. If they want to take the next step of transformation, they will willingly step forward and ask, “What’s next?” or “How can I shift my relationship with that way of Being?” Support them to understand the cost of being stuck and the potential benefits of transforming, e.g. revenue growth, optimal health, etc. The extent to which they value those benefits will indicate how you can price your coaching offer.
Earning someone’s trust begins with a conversation
Let me share an example of a client I have worked with for a long time who started coaching with me after a short ten-minute phone call. Reflecting back on our first conversation, I was vulnerable and openly shared that I had just started coaching. After listening to him, I told him I would like to support him if he wanted me to. He agreed to a face-to-face conversation during which I was once again vulnerable, sharing that I always believed everything I did had to be perfect and how I often experienced not being good enough. It only took two hours before he said “Yes” to completing a Being Profile assessment and debrief with me. After the debrief, he realised what had been impacting his performance at work, and also how he showed up at home, constantly worrying about the worst-case scenario. At that moment, he chose to sign up for three months of coaching and has continued one-on-one coaching with me ever since. We are now discussing the expansion of my services to support his entire organisation to become more effective as they undergo the growth they are foreseeing. It all started with a ten-minute phone call.
If you decide to go through the four steps outlined in this article in pursuing your path as a coach, I also encourage you to consider the benefits of aligning yourself with an effective community to support you. As Henry Ford put it: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success”. In my experience, there is no better or more authentic way to get coaching clients and grow your coaching business sustainably. I invite you to join the introductory session for coaches, to find out more, send me a private message to learn more.