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4 Steps To Turn a Consulting Client Into a Coaching Client

By Toku

How to turn a consulting client into a coaching client

Recently a coach asked me about how they could turn a consulting client into a coaching client. It’s a question I’ve gotten from other people as well. Therapists, healers, and consultants often want to bring more coaching into their work but they aren’t sure how to make the transition. 

And the answer is really not that different from how you turn ANY potential client into a coaching client. Here are the steps to follow:

1) Tell them you’d like to try something new and ask them if they’re open to it. 

You might simply explain the difference between coaching and consulting, therapy, or healing.

In consulting we use a combination of teaching and knowledge to help someone get to where they want to go, but we also advise them on where we think they should go and share helpful milestones and steps along the way. 

In therapy or healing, you might work to uncover patterns of thinking or unprocessed trauma in order to help a person live a healthy life in which they can function well and enjoy the things they normally enjoy. 

But coaching is a bit different in that we use inquiry and sometimes teaching to help someone discover what they want, what’s in the way, and how to close the gap. 

Consulting requires knowledge and experience of the pathway the person is walking. Because in consulting you’re helping them walk along a path that you’ve walked and/or that you’ve helped others walk. 

In therapy or healing work the focus is often on the past and preparing someone to work with challenges from the path as they reemerge. 

In coaching, while knowledge can help, it’s not required. Instead what’s required is knowledge and experience about how human beings work. It’s also important to stand for possibility, to create safety, and be an example of someone who’s committed to doing deep work. 

In coaching, you are forging a path with your client in the lead. You follow them and support them. You open up new pathways with them when they get stuck, and encourage them to relate to their world and work differently. 

You aren’t coaching the path or the problem, you are coaching them as they take on new challenges and explore new directions. 

But because all of these ways of working are similar, you might share these distinctions with them in a way that has them be present to what’s possible in the realm of coaching. 

If you find that they are curious and open to the possibility then you’re ready to give them a taste of what coaching is like. 

2) Give them an experience of coaching

The easiest way to do this is to coach them. 

It’s not the only way but it’s the most simple and direct way. You can also share videos and content of your coaching but the best way to share what coaching is, is to have them experience it.

While most people have a concept of what coaching is, few have experienced powerful coaching directly. They haven’t felt what it’s like to have something shift in you that changes things so dramatically in the way you view the world and the way that you relate to your challenges. 

Most people aren’t willing to invest in that kind of coaching unless they’ve experienced it, which is why it’s important to give them an experience of powerful coaching, one way or another. 

When you give them this experience it’s important that you lay out that if they enjoy their session there’s a ‘next step’. A step where you’ll talk about what committing to coaching looks like. 

It helps to create this possibility before you coach them so that you can revisit it at the end. This way you’re setting yourself up to have the conversation continue. 

3) Explore what a coaching commitment would look like

Once they’ve had an experience of coaching and shown interest in exploring more now it’s time to have a conversation about what a coaching commitment might look like. 

Since you’ve already been working with them as a consultant, therapist, or healer you may know some of their goals and outcomes, so you can include those in the conversation. 

But it’s important that you revisit those goals to make sure that they still apply. Very often the goals that arise in coaching are different than those that arise from consulting. 

Do this in the same way you might with any client you’re working with, keeping in mind that you might need to spend some time talking about how you might approach that as a coach vs a consultant, therapist, or healer.

The key here is to create a clear and compelling vision of what your client wants that they are touched, moved, and inspired by. If they aren’t impacted by their own vision then you need to discover why. 

Once you have that vision then you can share how you might work together, again emphasizing how the way you’ll work together might differ from a traditional consulting relationship. 

(A small side note here: Part of what you have to decide if you do both coaching and consulting, therapy, or health, is what your boundaries are in between these areas. Some people freely flow between different modalities, others have hard and fast lines about what role they are in. 
So if you’re going to transition people from another modality to coaching you have to decide where those lines are. That way you can make sure to communicate those boundaries clearly in your conversations with current and future clients. This is especially important for therapists because there are medical and legal implications in the practice of therapy.f
I will say that at the very least it’s a good idea to call out when you shift out of a coaching mode, that way your clients know the difference when you’re exploring with them as a coach and when you’re exploring with them as a consultant/therapist/healer.)

4) Create the structure and offer a commitment

Finally, once you’ve got a clear vision of what they want to create and you’ve shared how you might work with them, you share the structure of what that works looks like. The time involved, the number of sessions, the nature of the work, and the investment required. 

If you are offering them a blend of coaching and something else be clear about what this blend is and how sessions will be used. 

Then work with them on creating that commitment. 

If you’re not sure how to do that, the big thing to keep in mind is whether or not they:

1) Understand the power and value of coaching
2) The boundaries and lines you’re creating between coaching and consulting
3) Are enrolled in using coaching as a way to create what they want out of life

OK, that’s it. Pretty simple. 

The kind of relationship you create as a consultant, therapist, or healer should generate enough trust to transition to working with someone as a coach, but it’s important that you not step over the subtle differences between coaching and consulting and really do the work of helping your client understand and feel inspired by the possibility that coaching provides.

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