Five Client Referral Tips from a Six-Figure Coach
I'll be honest. I didn't realize how powerful my referral network was until a spend a lot of money on Search Engine Optimization specialists and a lot more money on Google and Facebook ads. I was determined that my best clients would come from the world wide web. Because it's WIDE. And it targets the WORLD. Why limit myself to who I know when I could target the world?
Was I in for a surprise. As I spent my marketing budget on SEO and advertising, I put together a little spreadsheet to figure out where my clients came from. NONE came from advertising (but I did give away lots of complimentary hours on folks who weren't serious about coaching). The only people coming my way via SEO were other vendors looking to sell me. 90% of my clients were direct referrals.
I repeat: 90% of my clients in my 6-figure coaching business were direct referrals.
And no one was more surprised about that than I was.
1. Think globally, act locally
As a coach with a computer and a phone, you know as well as I do, you can coach from anywhere. That's part of the fun of coaching! And while that's true, part of the fun of being coached is the ability to walk into a cozy space, your coaching space, an oasis from the outside world. Create a coaching haven for clients, whether that's a comfortable physical space with a whiteboard wall to capture big thoughts, or for geographically distributed clients, send them a mug, a pen, a special notebook so that you are together while you are far away.
My strongest referrals come from a local listserve, Montclair Watercooler, that many folks my big small town are on. When someone is looking for a dentist, a plumber, a coach—they look for referrals here. I've never responded to inquiries, but my past clients have. And as a result, these trusted referrals are where my clients come from. And for every person who asks the question, there are three coach-curious folks not responding online, but quietly emailing me directly. This is the most powerful lead generator I have.
2. Who loves you more than mom?
We both know it—nobody loves you like momma does. But there are another 10, 20, 50 people who adore you. Friends, teachers, your barista. People you just groove with. They're your advocates. People who support you and admire you on your wild and wacky journey.
I'm in the midst of the Noomii U Coaching program, and one of the first tasks we were encouraged to do was build a spreadsheet of one hundred people and offer free coaching. Please note, this was to be a list of friends and family, not prospective clients. And why? Because these are the people that love you anyway, that want to see you succeed. These are the people that will promote you better than you promote yourself. So let them sample you—in a coaching session.
Now I'm not saying you should coach your mom or your sister-in-law, but you can give them a sample so that they can speak intelligently about what you do. And while you're doing that, you're helping all of us in the coaching energy to get the word out: it's still a hidden gem of a field.
3. Nurture clients for when they are ready
Some of the most successful coaches I know try to talk prospective clients out of coaching. One colleague actually said no to a CEO client for seven weeks until he finally acquiesced and took on the client. She was obviously rearing to go and now they're having an incredibly successful engagement. I know another coach who tells clients, "You realize this is going to be hard. A lot of work. And I'm going to stay on you." Sure, you might feel pumped after a session, but that's just a little ray of sunshine—you still need to plant the seeds for the flowers to bloom! And we all know that takes sweat and effort.
I don't believe in hard-selling clients then discounting your services—that's not for me. Coaching isn't a bargain, it's a luxury. And when I commit to coaching you, I'm in it with you—so you best be in it as well.
You may know a client for months, even years, before something comes up and they want to be coached by you. During that time, you've shared articles, letters, notes, maybe even a sample session. And when they're ready to be coached they'll approach you like a bat out of hell, ready to work.
Remember, coaching is a long-lead sale. Though clients may come to Noomii ready for a coach, your referral network will take its time until they're ready for coaching. Respect the pace and you'll have a client that's ready to move mountains.
4. Chose to give
A couple months ago, I stopped giving free intro sessions to all prospective clients. My intro sessions are $100, and complimentary if you chose to move forward with a coaching package. I changed my policy because I found that I was drowning in complimentary intro sessions for people who weren't serious about coaching.
But that doesn't mean I've stopped giving complimentary intro sessions.
I refund that fee for all new clients who choose to move forward with a package. As I mentioned in #2, I'm currently running a summer promotion (because summer is slow and I have the time), and giving away 25 sessions to friends and family who haven't experienced coaching. I know that these individuals will be my key source of leads for the fall. I don't give sessions away to just anybody, but I do give them away to everybody I want to.
5. Happy clients are your sales team. Reward them
It's not unusual that a satisfied client becomes an evangelist for coaching, and wants to share the benefits of coaching with their friends. But culturally, it's akin to saying: I used this diet to lose 25 pounds, you should try it! to an overweight friend. We just don't know how to suggest helpful tools to people. I always recommend that people share their positive experiences. I also give clients the ability to "refer" clients to me, and I'll speak with their referrals for free. If those referrals become clients, the referring clients receive a complimentary coaching session in the future.
After people have a great vacation, a good haircut or a transformative coaching experience, they want to share the good news! Support them by giving them the tools to promote you.
So there you have it. As I said, no one was more surprised than me to learn that 90% of my clients were coming from within my existing network. The above tips will help you educate, expand and reward your network so that they will continue to do what they do best: sing your praises!
About Allison Task
Allison Task is a career, life and relationship coach based in Montclair, NJ. She works with high achieving people who want to squeeze even more out of life. Her clients are always surprised by how much they laugh during sessions. Connect with Allison through Noomii, her website or Facebook.