Here are the keys to how I’ve filled my calendar consistently with potential clients over the past couple of years.
Phase 1 :: Build Foundational Skills
1. Practice Connecting – Start by learning how to connect, how to ask great questions, be curious, be interested instead of interesting and make people feel comfortable. Focus solely on this for a week or two, focus on just connecting with everyone you meet paying close attention to what works and what doesn’t.
2. Practice Invitations – Always be practicing invitations because it’s a skill. As you connect with people, always be ready to ask them, “What’s your biggest challenge right now?” . . . then listen deeply and ask a few questions to open up space for an invitation. Do this with everyone, Uber drivers, friends on Facebook, everyone. Learning to help people feel felt and heard makes inviting easier so focus totally on practicing invitations. Not just to coaching, but to everything. The movies, a seat on the subway, whatever – immerse yourself in it.
3. Practice Coaching and Proposing – While these two have nothing to do with invitations or prospecting knowing that you can deliver and propose does give you some added confidence. But you don’t NEED this to get started it just helps as you go along.
Phase 2 :: Take Action
(*this can be done in parallel with Phase 1 or separately
1. Connect with people you genuinely want to talk to – I know this seems too simple, but you’d be amazed how few coaches do it. Make a list of anyone you know well(ish) that you’d like to talk to and reach out to them to connect. The conversations can be short but shoot 100% for connecting on these conversations. If you get a chance to invite GREAT! But focus on filling your calendar with connecting calls.
2. Be honest – Don’t be afraid to offer to coach by saying you’re new to this or want more practice. Yes, it’s not the MOST powerful way to invite but getting practice and having conversations matters more. Once you’ve done a few calls, it’s easier to practice more advanced asking.
3. Serve the shit out of one community – Find a community you love and become the most helpful person in it. Respond to requests for support by asking great questions. Challenge people while serving them. Offer suggestions and encouragement. THEN when you do serve people more deeply, tell them you want to serve them more with a conversation and see if they would be open to it.
4. Write or record stuff – Don’t just focus on sales, also create things. Things to post on Facebook, on your blog, in other communities. The more things you have that share your perspective and point of view, the better. It may not seem like a direct way to conversations, but it will help you talk with clarity about what you do and also make you seem more legit.
5. Find clients everywhere – The other night I met someone at a bar who was a potential client and I invited them to have a conversation. I’ve met clients on airplanes. Always be ready and curious to meet people and connect with them. Everyone is someone worth connecting with even if they aren’t potential clients and if you make it a policy to connect and look for space for invitations you’ll be more likely to create more conversations everywhere you go.
6. Be with people – If you want more conversations you need to find a way to be with people. This means – responding to posts on Facebook (esp questions or requests for support) going to networking events, connecting with friends, going to random events. Just KEEP BEING WITH PEOPLE. If you are tinkering on your website or reading articles you’re not likely to meet people and thus not likely to have conversations. Not that you shouldn’t do any of this but 60 – 70% of your time needs to be focused towards serving and being with people.
7. Do Interviews – Figure out people you want to talk to and then do interviews with them for an article or book you’re writing (if you’re not writing a book START), during the interview ask them questions about what their biggest challenges are. Then play with inviting them either during the interview or afterward as a way to say thank you.
8. Be a GREAT FUCKING COACH – Steve Chandler talks about how if I asked you to give away 10 $100 bills you’d have no problem finding 10 people. If you’re coaching is great, it’s easier to invite people to check it out. So make sure you spend some time practicing your coaching and don’t stop even when you start getting clients.
9. Experiment like a mother fucker – Literally try anything anyone suggests about how to meet clients. Don’t try them forever and don’t get stuck on one thing. But if a friend says they meet clients on LinkedIn try it, if they said they meet clients at start up events try it. Of course, you need to balance this with focusing on a few key communities you want to serve BUT you never know what might work, which is why you need to make space for experimentation.
One former Dojo Samurai sells coaching programs to insurance companies (his former career) another uses content syndication to attract clients. Keep trying different stuff no matter what.
10. Ask friends and clients for referrals – But be clear and powerful with them. Tell them who you’re looking for, ask them for easy things like who’s one friend who inspires you and then see if they’d be open to offering them a session on your behalf. Make sure to tell them that you won’t sell to their friends unless they ask you to, that makes referrals easier to make.
11. Get in front of people – Do speaking, guest posting, be a guest on podcasts, anything where you can get in front of people where they can get a sense of who you are. It’s better to focus on one for a while. I focused on blogging and guest posting at first, which really helped a lot. But I’ve tried many of these others and many have helped.
12. Stop looking for shortcuts – The reason I grew so quickly as a coach was that I didn’t try to make huge massive gains in my business. I just tried to master the foundational skills in real life practice. You can spend a lot of time looking for a secret formula for success or you can go out and try shit. Not in a totally chaotic way but with openness and willingness. THIS is the secret sauce to the success I found for myself and for many other coaches.
There are so many other things I could say, but I want to close by saying that most coaches can’t get into conversations because they either:
– Feel guilty or uncomfortable which stops them from asking and practicing.
– Spend time working on something other than conversations.
If you can become willing to feel uncomfortable and spend time focusing on that solely and taking action towards that goal you’ll either start having more conversations or get REALLY clear about what’s standing in the way.
Here’s also a list of places I found clients:
- My Buddhist temple
- The woman who checked me in at the gym
- A Start-up pitching event
- A mentor I met at the World Domination Summit at a random dinner he hosted that almost no one else showed up to
- A Speaking mastermind
- Through a free mindfulness course, I offered
- Through my blog
- Various client referrals
- Through guest posting on others blogs
- Referrals from a friend in Portland who ran an online business education site
- Being part of the leadership team at a coaching intensive
- Former college friends I reconnected with on facebook
- One heard me on a podcast
- An adult summer camp
- Through Coaching FB groups
- Through a Pay What you want Annual Retreat
- A woman I sat next to on an airplane
- On the bulletin board of an online community, I was a part of
- Via someone my romantic partner knew
- Via a networking event, I attended regularly
- The sister of a client via referral
- From a medium post
And many more I can’t even remember and I’ve only been a full-time coach for over 2 years. Imagine all the places they’ll have come from after 10 years!