Most new coaches start by coaching their friends. After all, your friends are ‘soft’ targets. They are willing to let you ‘try’ coaching on them, respond kindly when you’re awkward and have probably complained about something that you’re sure you can ‘fix’.
But a lot of people feel awkward talking to their friends about coaching much less trying to sign them as clients. They’re afraid they’ll come off as pushy or salesy and of course their afraid of alienating their friends and looking bad.
Then again I know a TON of coaches that built their businesses by serving their friends and colleagues first. In fact having a solid pre existing network is one of the KEY reasons many coaches achieve success quickly.
So should you try to sell your friends on coaching?
While it’s ultimately up to you here’s a few simple things to consider:
1) How long has it been since you talked to them?
A coach in my mastermind group recently asked for some tips on offering coaching to a friend after being turned down by a guy he knew from college. The first question I asked was: When was the last time you talked to this person? Five years was their lovingly innocent reply.
If I call out of the blue after five years and then offer to sell you coaching I immediately put myself in the category of someone selling an MLM product. I get that you’re excited about coaching but please don’t do this.
If you want to connect with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while go ahead, but do it lovingly. Do it to connect. If then after you’re reestablished a connection you want to share about coaching with them go ahead. But don’t call people out of the blue to ‘connect’ when you really are only connecting to ‘sell’ coaching to them.
Connection first, coaching later. Always.
2) Is your desire to coach them genuine?
Sometimes you might feel desperate to get a client. Like if you could just get one person to say yes your life would be easier and if you get one more no you’re sure you’re going to fall apart. When this happens anyone around you can start to seem like the ‘fix’ for your coaching insecurity.
If this is where you’re coming from enrolling your friends is probably a bad idea. In fact, trying to enroll anyone from desperation and scarcity is a bad idea.
I remember early on in my journey as a coach I sat down with a good friend to ‘sign them as a client.’ I was more awkward and pushy than a used car salesman with a quota to meet. They were polite but clearly turned off. And the more turned off they were the more pushy I got. They continued to be polite, but eventually ended the conversation. I still cringe thinking about it.
On the other hand, I’ve also coached friends in a really powerful way. I went slow, I was curious, I made sure they really wanted to move forward. When I did this the conversations went well even if they decided not to hire me in the end.
The big difference between these two situations was in who I was being and in how genuine my desire to coach them was. If my desire was genuine and I was able to be loving and curious things went well. If my desire was to make the sale things did not go well.
So before you enroll your friends first pause and see if you can find a genuine desire to coach them. If you do then go slow, if not then take a beat and really consider why you’re doing what you’re doing.
3) Is the friendship more important than the sale?
I have a close friend whom I’ve collaborated with on a few projects. Some of the projects were a success others a failure. The friendship has survived largely because we knew what was most important.
If your friendship is a priority make sure you’re clear on this. Ideally, it’s something you should talk about before you dive into exploring a coaching and client relationship.
If you’re willing to risk the friendship in service of the coaching relationship, be clear about it. If you’re willing to jettison the coaching to maintain the friendship, know that before you get started.
4) Can you be clean and unattached?
It’s awkward if someone has a crush on you and you don’t like them back. Most of us don’t enjoy feeling like we’re the cause of someone else’s heartbreak and confusion. So we tend to avoid situations where other people are too attached to how we feel about them.
The same is true for coaching.
– If you’re attached to signing your friend as a client because you’re ‘desperate’ to make some money or prove your worth…
– If you’re attached to signing your friend as a client because you KNOW you can help them with the terrible problem that plagues their life…
– OR if you’re attached to signing your friend as a client because you’re longing for more intimacy in your life…
STOP. Do not pass go and do not collect $200.
Hire a coach and do some work on yourself then go back to enrolling clients.
5) Have you enrolled them?
If you’re like most coaches you’re out there trying to ‘convince’ people to try coaching with you. Convincing is hard. Convincing means to cause someone to believe firmly in something. But coaching isn’t really about getting people to believe something.
Coaching is about enrolling. Enrolling is different. Enrolling is about getting people present to a new possibility. If I enroll you in a coaching conversation you’re present to what’s possible in that conversation. You’re OPEN to there being something you might get.
Convincing on the other hand is closed. You’ve CLOSED your analysis and have concluded that coaching is or isn’t valuable. When you try to convince people to work with you, they very often become convinced you’re a pushy salesperson.
So no more convincing.
Instead enroll them. Get them present to what’s possible. Open them up. Don’t close them down.
Here’s the Bottom Line
As a general rule, you shouldn’t try to sign your closest friends as coaching clients. But friends who are a ring or two out from your inner circle can be totally valid prospects especially early on as a coach.
You might enjoy coaching some of these people for free as a way to get more experience, but if you’re going to sign them as a client you need to make sure you’re doing your best to be generous and unattached.
I still recommend new coaches be open to coaching and enrolling their friends and colleagues. It’s where I got most of my first clients and I learned a lot about the process of what it takes to coach and sell people on my services.
Whether it’s your friends or not, the key to growing your coaching business rests on your ability to be bold in your efforts while being generous with your heart.