Organizing the Client's First Experience
Create consistent coaching packages and procedures to ensure business success.
Organize. That one active word strikes fear in many business owners. But it is also the word that separates the amateurs from the masters of their craft. Now that you have identified your coaching clientele and created a coaching plan in the previous two articles of this column, it’s time to begin work on the “how” of coaching. The first step in how to begin the coaching process with an individual is to organize the process of talking with coaching prospects and the steps of starting a new client. (We’ll cover the second step in “how”—materials and tools of coaching—in the next article.)
To start the organization process, let’s look at coaching packages, a prospect’s first inquiry of your services and the step-by-step process of starting a new client. We will make your job easy from the start and provide your new client with a great first impression.
Before you can have an educated discussion with anyone about your coaching services, you must determine, in advance, how you want to package and sell your coaching services.
Packages and Pricing. If you are already an established personal trainer, you can consider packages that combine personal training and coaching as well as coaching-only packages. I sell both types of packages, and they fit the needs of a variety of clients. You must also decide on price. If you plan to continue personal training and possibly selling coaching to some of your existing clientele, set your coaching fees a bit higher than your personal fitness training sessions. In general, the coaching profession charges and commands higher fees. For example, if you are charging $60 for a 45-minute training session (an $80 per hour rate), you might consider setting your coaching fees at about $100 per hour ($45–$50 per 1⁄2-hour session). See “How to Price Coaching Packages,” on page 5, for more information.
Selling Packages. When selling anything, always make sure the client’s needs come first, regardless of your financial situation. During the initial conversation with coaching prospects, you can often deduce how much coaching they will need. If business coaching clients call me wanting to grow, alter or create a personal training or coaching business, I generally steer them toward my smallest package—3 months—knowing that if they have more work to do after the completion of the 3 months, they can purchase another package. Be honest about how many months of coaching, whether long- or short-term, prospects will need to reach their goals.
Pro Bono Sessions. Most coaches I know (myself included) practiced their new coaching skills with a handful of clients, free of charge, in the early days of their business. These “pro bono” sessions give new coaches confidence and trial-and-error practice before they take on their first paying clients. The trick to getting the most out of pro bono sessions is to choose people who
- will be good coaching clients;
- will have important goals they want to achieve;
- would consider paying for more services at the end of the complimentary sessions; and
- will be a good referral source for other coaching clients.
Limit the number of sessions you will give away, letting people know up-front that you are offering them “x” number of complimentary sessions with the option of hiring you after their sessions are complete. I offered 3 months of coaching, a total of nine, 1⁄2-hour sessions.
Your first impression with new prospects is critical. Make them feel comfortable immediately and return all calls or e-mails within 24 hours. Not every person will be a good match for you, but make every effort to be congenial and helpful.
Elevator Speech. Many coaches find themselves speechless when someone asks what they do for a living. As you prepare for your new coaching business, write out a 30-second description of what you do, practice it out loud numerous times and commit it to memory. Make your description match your coaching niche. For example, I focus on coaching women interested in serious improvement in one of three areas: physical fitness, work/life balance or managing their own business. I describe myself as a business and wellness coach. My 30-second spiel might go like this: “I’m a business and wellness coach, helping women make serious improvement in their physical wellness, work-and-life balance and career.” Create a description that will open the doors to other questions and get the prospect interested in a longer discussion.
First Conversation. When returning calls or e-mails about your services, you want to answer the people’s questions, discover what goals they intend to achieve with a coach and refer to your coaching packages and prices. You want to quickly discern whether they are serious prospects or not. If they know right then that they are interested in hiring you as a coach (and can afford your services), immediately schedule them for a 30-minute complimentary coaching/consulting session. If they need time to think, tell them you will contact them again in a couple days. Do not waste your time doing complimentary sessions with people who are not genuinely interested in hiring you.
Complimentary Consultation. Before starting with a new client, I always offer a complimentary 30-minute coaching/ consulting session. We spend this time discussing the coaching process (how often, which package they might need, session openings, expectations, etc.), their needs and their goals in working with a coach. We can also do a 5- to 10-minute mini version of a coaching session so that they understand how the coaching process works. In this one-time coaching/consulting session, you are educating prospects about the coaching process.
Getting new clients acclimated to your business practices and systems is easy if you have a logical process in place. To make the transition into coaching stress-free, I take the following actions in orienting a new client to my coaching services:
Action #1: Review Policies. Discuss your scheduling and cancellation policies before clients purchase a package. If someone has the tendency to be flaky, I want to weed her out immediately. Also discuss your expectations of her as a client and of you as her coach.
Action #2: Collect Deposit. As soon as a prospect decides to hire you as his coach, collect a deposit equal to the first month of coaching before you schedule his sessions. If he prefers to pay for the entire package before he starts, that is ideal.
Action #3: Schedule Appointments. After I have received the client’s deposit or full payment, we solidify her first month’s appointments. I do not guarantee any slots before they have been paid for. Make sure each month is paid before sessions continue.
Action #4: Send Client Packet or Notebook. Again, after receiving payment, I send new clients a notebook that includes policies, the coaching agreement and forms we will be using during the coaching process. We will discuss these forms in detail in the next article.
After years of trial and error, I learned that organizing the process of client orientation made my life, and the client’s life, so much easier and hassle-free. To that end, I outline my expectations in the beginning and ask what the client hopes to accomplish. I don’t offer services until I have a clear grasp of how I want to offer them, what I want to charge and how best to meet a client’s needs. The transition into coaching should be clear and organized and should give a positive glimpse of the promise and results that tailored coaching provides.
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Use the following questions as a guide in creating and pricing your coaching packages:
1. Do I want to combine coaching and personal training and/or offer coaching-only packages?
2. How do I want to package the sessions—1-month, 2-month, 3-month, 6-month, etc.?
3. How many sessions will be conducted per month? (For example, I plan three sessions per month in my 3- and 6-month coaching packages, or one coaching session per month in my Personal Trainer + Coaching packages.)
4. What fees are other comparable coaches charging in my geographical area or field of expertise?
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