Many people are intimidated by the idea of having to contact strangers to get them interested in hiring them as a coach. My answer to that is, “don’t try. Selling to strangers is very hard.” I suggest another approach – selling through people you know. Selling coaching to a person cold is really a two-part sale – first they have to buy into the idea of coaching, and then they have to buy into the idea of hiring you. I firmly believe that most people can begin their push into the market by dealing almost exclusively with people they already know. It is called the Wedding Invitation method.
It is said that most of us know between 100 and 200 people well enough to invite them to a family wedding. Typically, a wedding invitation list might include current and former neighbors, colleagues from work, friends from college, relatives of various kinds, friends of friends, etc. It almost doesn’t matter what your connection is to them or their current occupation. The idea is to contact each of the people you would put on a notional wedding invitation list and let them know what your intentions are around coaching. It is most likely the case that you will be the only coach they have ever met, and the only description of coaching they will have heard will be the one you provide them. As those one or two hundred people move through life they will encounter people in their networks who may be good candidates for coaching. What will happen next if you’ve asked them to, is they will say “… I know someone who is a coach……. you really ought to talk with them…..here is their contact information….” The magic of this approach is your initial contact with the potential client will be warmed up by your referral source. In a sense their credibility with the potential client transfers to you.
To move to more specifics, when I employed this concept as I transitioned to self-employment, I sorted my master list of names into different categories based on those who were natural sales people or peer leaders, those who held influential jobs within their employers, those who would be naturally inclined to advocate for me, etc. I divided and the sorted names into three categories based on how I intended to be in touch with them. There were those for whom I thought an email informing them of what I was up to around coaching would suffice. There were others whose value as a connector I judged would warrant a phone call to discuss my plans, and finally, there were those whose potential to connect me with future clients warranted an invitation to an in-person meeting, be it coffee, lunch, etc. I tried to match the degree of personal touch (and effort on my part) to my assessment of their potential to refer me to potential clients.
I also had a saying I repeated to myself frequently, “there are no clients in my home office.” I used that to push myself out of my home office. The only reason I would permit myself to be in my office was if I were doing something (sending emails or placing phone calls) to get me in contact with my target population of key connectors. Eventually I fell into a pattern of office days used to set up personal meetings and away days during which I conducted the personal meetings I had set up previously.
What I would say to you is, “you already know the person who is going to refer your first new client. They can’t do so until they know you’re in play. Let them know what you’re up to and that you would like their help in getting the word out into the world.”
My final bit of advice is to consider the people on your “wedding invitation” list to be your biggest cheerleaders as well as source of warm leads. Let them know of your successes; let them know when you need a boost. And don’t forget to stay in touch with them after your calendar fills up with clients. Coaching can be lonely at times, and we need to keep our key connections to help us stay in the game emotionally and mentally.