Steve Mitten

Article Summary:

How to give powerful sample sessions that get you hired as a coach.

How to Give Sample Coaching Sessions

As coaches we know that coaching is a very powerful and successful service. In fact coaching is proving to be one of the most effective methods of growth, training and development available. ICF research data shows that even though we have a relatively new service, 98.5% of our clients are happy with their coach. 83% of our clients stay with us for at least 3 months. The majority of clients stay with us for half a year. And some clients simply never leave. Other studies in organizations have shown that coaching programs have achieved between 500 and 700% return on investment. These are impressive numbers by any standard and speak to the great value to be had in working with a coach.

Clearly there is something very powerful happening in coaching relationships. Yet coaching is so new, and so few people have actually discovered its power and applications, that many coaches struggle to fill their practice. This short report is intended to help coaches reveal the power of coaching to more prospects and thus generate more happy clients.

In the early stages of your coaching business, before you have developed a niche and marketing strategy to attract large numbers of qualified prospects, your ability to deliver a great sample session is a critical factor in building a successful coaching practice.

Since most prospects have never worked with a coach, don't understand coaching, and probably are not even looking for a coach, a sample session is often your best way of introducing them to the process, giving them experience of the benefits, allowing them to see the potential payoff, and thus moving them to a place where they would want to work with you.

For a moment, put yourself in the position of your potential prospect.

  • They may be nervous.
  • They may not know or trust you yet.
  • They may not know what the benefits of coaching will be.
  • They may be worried about costs.

    These are all concerns that need to be addressed and overcome for anyone to decide to proceed with coaching. The sample session is your principal opportunity to address these legitimate concerns and offset them with something of greater value.

    After years of experimentation, I offer a rough recipe outlining some of the key components that will help you deliver powerful sample sessions. As a cautionary note, remember coaching is most powerful when it is fluid, natural, and unscripted. So don't try to impose these steps in a mechanical way. Think of them as guidelines that you can naturally weave into the conversation where appropriate and when the opportunity presents itself.

    Take Your Prospect Deep (Coach on Something Important)
    Sometimes when you engage a prospect in a sample session and ask them what they want to work on, they will reply with some superficial topic. They might say, "I need to organize my garage." Respond by affirming you both could certainly spend time on that, then inquire if they might have something a little more important--perhaps a dream, challenge, or change they want to make--for which they would like some coaching. Even if you are successful in helping them organize the garage, it won't be seen as an important enough benefit to justify hiring you as a coach. However, if you can help them make a breakthrough on a dream or some big challenge they are facing, the prospect will more fully appreciate the value of coaching.

    Take Them out into the Future
    Let's say a person wants coaching on a big goal or dream. Ask: "If you are really successful with this, where will you be in XYZ months?" (You want them to create and experience a very clear vision of the most successful outcome.)

    Find the Meaning
    Once a prospect has described where they would be if the coaching was hugely successful, explore the meaning of that goal. "What is important about this goal to you?" or "What will achieving this goal give you?" (You are beginning to move them out of their thoughts about the goal--which have a short shelf life--into the more powerful realm of the meaning and emotions associated with the goal.)

    Explore and Embody the Emotions
    Once you have a prospect in touch with his most desired outcome, continue to explore the emotional payoff. "What will you be feeling when you know your dream has come true?" Ideally, you want the prospect to see, touch, taste or otherwise embody the emotional reward. Again you are building the prospect's emotional connection to the goal; this emotion will fuel the actions needed to overcome all the obstacles in the way. (Naturally, there will be situations - perhaps a business client who is not comfortable in discussing emotions with you yet - where you might wisely choose not to explore the emotions associated with a goal.)

    Coach the Person, Not Just the Circumstances
    Remember the most powerful work you will do is in coaching the prospect, not the situation. So don't forget to explore who the prospect wants to be--the qualities they need to bring forth--to achieve the desired outcome. For example if the prospect wants to get into a leadership position in their career, explore what leadership qualities they need to bring out or develop to become the best possible leader. And wherever possible, coach the prospect to a place where they feel and physically embody these qualities. If you get your prospects to this place, nothing will stop them.

    Find the Payoff
    Find out what would it be worth to your prospect if they were successful in achieving their desired outcome. "So if you do find a job that you love, (double your sales, lower your stress, improve your health, etc.) what would it be worth to you?" The answer to this question may or may not be financial, but as long as the prospect connects with or reflects on the value or importance of the changes they might make through coaching, they will be far more likely not to begrudge paying for your services.

    Bring the Prospect Back to the Present and into Action
    Once the prospect has seen and experienced the outcome they want, and experienced the associated meaning and emotions, bring them back to the present and wrap up the sample session by asking: "So what is the next--or first--step forward?" (toward the great dream or outcome they have described). Coach the person to break off one tangible first step and set up some accountability, so the step gets taken.

    Ask for the Business and a Referral
    Once you have taken a prospect through a powerful sample session, you and they will have a sense of whether there is a fit. From your side, you simply need to confirm you would like to work with this prospect (and that they can afford to hire you). You can say, in your own words, with 100% integrity and authenticity, "That is a powerful vision you have for your future. If you are serious about realizing it, I would love to be your coach." Or you could say something like this, "I really enjoyed coaching you. If you want some support in reaching your dream, I would love to be your coach."

    Find a way to point out that knowledge and intention alone does not translate into changing behaviour. (Otherwise everyone would be keeping their New Year's Resolutions.) Everybody has had the same experience of wanting to change, but never seeming to get around to it. The format of coaching allows the focus, accountability and growth necessary to make changes happen and stick. If you can get this point across, you will get your share of enthusiastic clients.

    Steve Mitten MCC is an ICF Master Certified Coach, and business development specialist. He helps individuals find their niche and get the results they most want in their lives, careers and businesses. He is the author of Marketing Essentials For Coaches.

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