The initial conversations between coach and prospective client are often called “chemistry meetings”. They are often free of charge and take maybe half an hour to an hour. In these meetings, the prospective client and the coach get to know each other to get a feel about if they would be a good fit. This is true for both sides — the client wants to know if the coach seems right for the client, the coach wants to know if they can most probably be of service or if someone else might serve the client better. So how can these meetings go well? Here are a few considerations:
Does the client know what coaching is?
I would try to find out whether the client is aware of what coaching is and is not ahead of the initial conversation. If it is a corporate client, I would ask the sponsor (HR or the manager) what the client already knows about coaching. If it is a private client, I would ask why the client is interested in the format “coaching” in the first conversation (usually over the phone to make an appointment — but I would also ask in my email reply). If the client has not experienced coaching before or if they have misconceptions (“I am looking for coaching to get some tipps on …”), I’d send a little text on what my offer is, maybe with a few testimonials from other clients (anonymous or with names if permitted) to make sure the client is aware of what we are talking about. The ICF website “experience coaching” offers great material that can serve as a basis for your own “brochure”. If you don’t have time to do your own brochure, just sending clients over to that website might already help to clarify what’s on offer. Otherwise, the first thing you might have to do in a chemistry meeting might be to tell the client that they are wrong: not a great start.
What benefits is the client looking for?
There is an age old sales acronym that I learned from my good friend and sales trainer delux, Stephan Rox: FAB. Feature, Advantage, Benefit. So before you can find out if you are the right coach for your client, you need to know what kind of benefits the client is looking for. “Benefit” in sales language is different from “result”. A benefit is the “goal behind the goal” — the difference the client wants for their lives. So starting the conversation with something like: “Hi, I’m Kirsten. Thanks for meeting me. Great office — love the flowers. What’s that picture in the background? Oh, yeah it has been raining quite a lot […]. Before we start introducing each other, I am really curious — what difference are you hoping coaching will make for you?” makes a lot of sense. If the client says: “Well, can you tell me who you are first?”, you might counter with: “Why don’t you tell me a bit about your goals first, that way I can target my introduction more closely to what you might want to know”.
Which features and advantages are you bringing to the table?
Once you know about what they are looking for and if you think that you would be a good fit for the client, you can tell those parts of your story that make you confident that you would be a good fit. You mention the “Features” and your “Advantages” related to what the client wants. If you don’t think you are a good fit, you could say that and recommend someone else with the same kind of story about their features and advantages.
Here are some examples of features:
- a brief approach (if the client wants fast results)
- a philosophically sound or evidence based approach (if the client is interested in consistency and quality)
- your experience in similar cases (if the client would like confidence that this can work — we know there are no guarantees, but we can be more or less confident)
- your experience in the industry (if the client is interested in not having to explain)
Advantages are in the form of comparisons. And don’t forget to spell out the benefits.
- I work in a Solution Focused way (feature), this approach usually helps clients get to results quickly. You’ll probably achieve what you want faster (advantage) than if we took the scenic route with a lot of personality testing or other theory based approaches. With this approach, you will probably achieve results fast (benefit).
- Thank you for sharing your interest in improving your executive presence in front of tech audiences. That sure sounds familiar. I have coached a lot of people in this situation over the last year and I have a tech background myself (feature). I mean, expertise is not really needed in coaching and you’ll find your own solutions in coaching, but I find my knowledge of the field helps me to grasp what my clients want faster (advantage) than if I hadn’t experienced it myself. It seems that we could get to work right away without you having to explain a lot (benefit).
What does the client want to know about you?
After a short reaction to what the client wants (don’t oversell!), ask the client what they would like to know about you. This is much better than telling your life story! And then tell the client what they want to know. Also ask what you would like to know if the client did not tell you before.
If there is immediate trust offer to give them a short demo
If you feel that the client already trusts you after the first 10-15 minutes, you could offer to coach them on something in the form of a little demo coaching of 20-30 minutes. I find that this is the best way to find out if there is a fit. Doing coaching is MUCH better than explaining coaching and a benefit that has been experienced is MUCH better than a benefit explained.
End on a positive and appreciative note
I always (when true) tell the client that I would love helping them with the challenges they are facing and that I would be really happy to collaborate. I also tell them that the best predictor for coaching success (true) is if coach and client like each other and can share their perceptions and feedback openly. So I indicate that I completely understand if they choose a different coach: no hard feelings.
What are your best tips for chemistry meetings? Do come and share them in one of our free coaching meetups and exchanges: