You got a credential. Now clients are no excuse. You spent a few dollars on a nice website and even followed CAM’s advice on making your client the hero. Your organization or denomination got your email announcement that you are now certified and ready for clients. You’ve been writing a small post about coaching and putting it on your Facebook wall. Now all there is to do is wait. And wait. And wait.
There must be something wrong with the website. You look it over, and it doesn’t look as shiny and new as last week. That may be the problem. You hire a different web designer and fork out a bit more money this time. You’re thinking about starting a podcast. You’re wondering if you need to figure out SEO.
Clients aren’t knocking on your door, and they aren’t going to. Coaches have to knock on the client’s door. Why is that? Because coaching is a benefit not a requirement. Everybody will benefit from coaching, but nobody requires coaching. Just like everybody would benefit from a dietician, but very few people require one.
After eight years of coaching, I decided to look at my coaching hours log to see where my clients came from. I’ve had 90 unique clients. Here are some observations.
- Not one client came from my website, reading my blog, or social media. Not one. Ever.
- My first twenty clients came from wherever I could find them.
- Eight of my first twenty clients were the key to all the rest of my clients.
- Working these networks produced multiple clients all at once.
The way to get a “yes” from a potential client is to ask them if they would be interested in hiring you as a coach. If you don’t hear a “yes” or a “no,” then you didn’t ask clearly enough. We fear we’ll hear “no” more than “yes.” We’re not good with rejection. Here’s the really good news. My experience is that I’ve gotten “yes” way more than “no.” Way more. And so will you. Even as I think back about who said “no,” I can’t think of anybody. Surely someone did.
Let’s break down my 90 clients. They come from four unique social networks – People I know well, people I know, people other people know, and people I don’t know. The level of social connection goes from close friends to no relationship at all. When we try to get clients with our website or flyers, we’re trying to get clients from people we don’t know well. We’re starting on the wrong end of the client spectrum. We need to start with people we know well.
First, let’s name these social categories. Jesus can help us. He says to his disciples in Acts 1:8, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He names four geographic descriptions that start right where the disciples are and then extends to where none of the disciples have ever been. Jerusalem is home base. Judea is the wider Jewish territory. Samaria crosses in to a territory with fewer connections. And the Ends of the Earth are places they have never been, full of people they have never known. Most of my learning can be understood by looking at how I tapped into each of these networks.
Jerusalem – This is where you should start. Coach your spouse, your best friend, and your pastor. Coach your closest colleague. This isn’t a big group. Out of my 90 clients, 8 of them are from Jerusalem. A couple things happen in Jerusalem. One, you’ll get a “yes” or a “no” from someone who loves you. Most likely you will get a “yes” because these people are close to you on purpose. They see potential in you. They want to support you. It’s said that people will hire you because they know, like, and trust you. If you’re closest friends don’t know, like, and trust you, you have a problem that will be difficult to overcome.
Something else happens in Jerusalem. Your family and friends begin to see the benefits of coaching. They become informed fans. They start talking to people they know about your coaching, and then you may be ready to enter into Judea.
Judea – Judea is your wider network. These are people you work with. People who attend a class you teach. People you’ve done business with. People who work at your kid’s school or on a non-profit board. These connections can come with a direct contact from you. You could make the offer a little easier by offering a coach training session where you teach people how to listen better and ask better questions. You could do a coaching demonstration to show people how it works.
For me, this led to some coaching opportunities in my church denomination. I had already proved myself by coaching a few pastor friends, who gave me a testimony I could use. Two clients came from a class I taught locally on how to coach. A leadership development group I had participated in hired me to coach the new group of leaders going through the class.
28 of my 90 clients came from Judea, and most of them, especially the most fruitful, came from the connections I made in Jerusalem. This was all the clients I needed while I coached part-time.
Samaria – Samaria can’t be entered unless you have a connection. You need to know someone who knows someone. My Samarian clients started coming as soon as I left the pastorate and started coaching full-time.
Over half of my clients have come from Samaria. All of these networks came from my connections in Jerusalem and Judea. All of them. You can’t start here. You don’t know anybody. And you have to know people well enough that they like and trust you. This takes time to develop. Remember, you’re asking these people to add an addition to their house. They’d like an addition, but they don’t have to have an addition. They are taking a risk in hiring you. They need to not only know you but know someone else who knows, likes, and trust you.
A beautiful part of Samaria is that I often get more than one client at a time. I coached all the members of a non-profit board. I coached all the staff at a Christian organization. And even when it is one client at a time, there are usually several similar clients. It is at this point, you can start to niche. In Samaria, people want to know if you can solve their problem, and by this time, you’ve worked with enough clients that you have a good idea of what their problem is.
Ends of the Earth – To go to the Ends of the Earth requires a boldness that is rare. Of all the disciples, it was the Apostle Paul who ventured out unafraid and entered into conversations with people who had no idea who Jesus was. Other disciples are believed to have gone beyond their borders but it took the boldness of Paul to first enter that arena.
So far, I’ve had exactly two clients from the Ends of the Earth. You can waste a lot of time trying to get these clients. My guess is that if my name ever becomes known for working in a particular niche that I might start to get clients from here, but otherwise, I should stay in Samaria. You can make a living in Samaria.
Conclusion – The most successful coaches I know have the simplest websites. Their clients have come from the continual participation in conversations about coaching with everyone they come to know. They create opportunities to talk with people about coaching through writing, webinars, speaking, and more. But they do more than that. They track down the people they would love to be coaching and straight out ask them if they’d like to enter into a coaching relationship. Then they ask them again a month or two later. And the clients begin to pile up.