Preparing to meet with a potential coaching client can prompt a variety of responses …
… from excitement to anxiety and fear. Keep in mind that the person considering you as a potential coach may have a similar response. As the coach, you probably have more experience with these types of meetings than the potential client. Often, I refer to these meetings as chemistry meetings. They provide an opportunity for both coach and client to get acquainted and determine if they are willing and able to work together. Here are some suggestions to help you prepare for, conduct, and then reflect on your meeting.
Prior to the Meeting
- Review the potential client’s LinkedIn profile. Look for their professional history, education, endorsements, and shared connections. This will help you understand their frames of reference, knowledge, experiences, skills, and professional career experiences.
- Conduct a search for the person’s name. Look for personal and professional background and experiences. This will help you understand their history and frames of reference.
- Review the potential client’s company website and social media accounts. Look for your potential client, business strategies and priorities, company’s performance, products/services, geographic scope of the business, backgrounds of senior leaders, recent press releases, and values. These will help you understand the context in which your potential is operating in.
- Talk with anyone that may be familiar with the business. This may help you understand the business and industry in which your potential client functions.
- Review information provided by the person or coaching service providing firm that introduced you to the potential client. Look for the potential client’s background, potential coaching priorities, what others say about the person, the scope and duration of the potential coaching engagement. This will help you…
- Conduct a search for the potential client’s business industry. Look for trends (up or down), challenges facing the industry, industry leaders, if and how the potential client’s business appears in the industry. This will help you understand the business and business context as well as challenges and opportunities your potential client may be facing.
Provide the Potential Client With:
- Your coaching biography
- Questions to help them prepare for the meeting. These are questions for their consideration as they prepare to meet with you, such as:
- What are your goals for coaching?
- What makes those goals important to you at this time?
- What do you think the coach needs to know about you and your situation in order to help?
- What will make this experience ideal for you?
- What are your expectations of the coach?
- What questions do you have for the coach?
- Questions they may want to ask you during the interview, including:
- Tell me about yourself
- What, if any, experience do you have coaching others in my company? Industry? Level?
- Tell me about your coaching approach?
- What is your coaching style?
- How do you define a successful coaching engagement?
- What should I expect from you as my coach?
- How do you deal with confidentiality in a coaching engagement?
- Review your notes from your information gathering task.
- Identify your assumptions about potential client, their industry, their business, etc. These will help you remain aware of your filters and allow you to develop hypotheses which can be explored.
- Develop questions you will want to ask the prospective client, such as:
- Tell about yourself—career, personal?
- What feedback have you recently received and how are you addressing it?
- What are your goals—for this coaching engagement and longer-term?
- What are your interests outside of work?
- What are you looking for in a coaching partner?
- How do you learn?
- Is there something you are facing or dealing with that I might be able to help you with during this conversation? (This might provide an opportunity to demonstrate your coaching skills and approach.)
- Be prepared to introduce yourself, describe your client work and your approach to coaching. The potential client will probably be curious about your experience working with people at their firm, in their industry, and with coaching clients similar to them (backgrounds, goals, etc.). Keep in mind that the potential client may be considering several coaches, so you may not have a clear sense of their interest in working with you. However, if you are interested and willing to work with them, let it be known.
- Be prepared to guide the conversation or to follow the lead of the potential coaching client. This might include establishing the purpose of the conversation (e.g., get acquainted, learn about their coaching needs, describe my approach with clients, determine if we might be a good fit to work together), address their questions to you, ask your questions to them, and (possibly) coach them to provide immediate help and demonstrate your approach.
- Be prepared to take notes during the conversation. I suggest doing so on paper vs. typing them. Typing during a conversation can be distracting to both you and the person you are speaking with. In addition, keep your note-taking to a minimum. You want to build rapport and trust with the person. So, use a conversational vs. interrogation or formal interview approach.
- Dress appropriately. This means equal-to or one-step-up-from the potential client. If they are likely to be in a suit or dress, wear a suit or dress. If they are likely to be wearing a sport coat with an open collar, then wear the same or a sport coat with a tie. Or, if they are likely to be wearing a pair of slacks and sweater, then do the same (or slightly dressier).
- Have an extra writing instrument—i.e., pen—with you in case you run out of ink.
- If you are meeting in-person, be sure to have at least three business cards with you—one for a receptionist who may be announcing your arrival, one for the potential client, and a backup in case you meet with a third person.
- Arrive online or in-person early. For a virtual meeting, this means at least five minutes prior to the appointment. For an in-person meeting, this means at least 15 minutes prior the appointment—unless you are aware that you will need to go through an extensive security clearance prior to meeting the client. In that case, allow time to do so and still have 15 minutes remaining.
- Hydrate before the meeting. And, if you think you may need to use the restroom during the meeting, do so before hand. You don’t want to have to leave the meeting to use the restroom. This will interrupt the flow of the conversation and could be interpreted as a lack of preparation or nervousness on your part.
- For virtual meetings, be sure your environment has a professional appearance and free of distractions and interruptions. Check the lighting to ensure you have sufficient light in front of you and minimal lighting behind you. Remove as much clutter behind as you possible. Put a “do not disturb” sign on your door, if you are likely to get interruptions. And, silence your phone and other devices.
During the Meeting
- This is a two-sided conversation. Remember, you and the potential client are interviewing each other as you get acquainted. Just as they are asking themselves about the possibility of working with you, you should be doing the same.
- Demonstrate warmth, interest, appropriate energy, confidence, compassion, empathy, and professionalism.
- Refer to your list of questions, as necessary.
- Take notes.
- Suggest a flow for the conversation if the potential client doesn’t offer one for the meeting. This might be: introductions, their questions, your questions, and the opportunity to coach them.
After the Meeting
- Review the notes you’ve taken, and make sure they are clear and comprehensive. Adjust them as needed.
- Reflect on the meeting and consider if you would be willing to work with this person as their coach. If so, what will be important for you to keep in mind. Add this to your notes.
- If a coaching service provider arranged for you to meet with the potential client, provide your contact with a brief update via email or phone. This will allow them to know your impressions of the potential client, and your interest in working with the client. In addition, thank them for considering you for the assignment.
- Send a brief note (email or mail) to the person with whom you met. Indicate your appreciation for meeting with them, something you learned from the meeting (without getting too personal), and share your interest to the possibility of working with them as their professional coach.
Determining whether you and a potential coaching client “fix” involves more than showing up. Take time to prepare. Help your potential client prepare—they will see that you care and want to support this mutual decision. Make sure you provide the best possible first impressions.
I’m interested in your thoughts and ideas, so please leave your comments, feedback, and suggestions below.
Photo by RODNAE Productions
© 2022, John L. Bennett. All Rights Reserved.