The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 23.27

Saturday, July 8, 2023

7 Buying Signals Every Coach Needs To Know

There are two big holes in my formal education: finance and sales. Early in my career I didn’t really care about them, because I was having way too much fun playing with technology and nerding out about systems stuff. But as my career progressed, I had to learn these skills or drown. I learnt finance from books, online courses and ever-patient mentors and CFO’s.

The most important lesson I ever learnt about sales, specifically selling coaching, was from my friend Keith. He took me for a walk one day and asked me: “what is selling?” Keith has been in the executive coaching business for well over 20 years, and this walk and talk was part of mentoring me in the arcane skills of coaching.

The most important lesson I ever learnt about selling coaching

I stumbled for an answer and gave some rote replies. Keith eventually took pity on me and taught me this:

Selling is the coaching I do before I get paid for it.

It took a minute for this to sink in. “So you don’t ‘sell’? You just ‘coach’, and if there’s a connection, and you can give them insights that make them stand still and think, they can only come to one conclusion - they have to engage you?” He smiled and said “yes”.

This was the most important thing I ever learnt about coaching, and selling coaching. There’s no warm-up. Just straight into coaching mode, asking probing questions and letting your expertise find the things you need to press on.

This was the fundamental lesson I had to learn about selling coaching. The next lessons came over time, and answered the next question: “so how do I know they’re ready to engage us?”

There are 7 signs, or signals, they’re ready to buy. Here they are.

7 Buying Signals Every Coach Needs To Know

During the selling part of your coaching (however you sell), there are 7 buying signals you need to look for. These signals will tell you that your potential client is ready to buy.

Not all of them have to be present before you decide to put an offer on the table. The more the better, but usually four or more are a good indication. A lack of most of them means they’re just not ready (or they’re not a good fit), and you should move on to your next lead.

1. They’re available

Most coaching includes one or more free sessions before you formally engage. If your potential client shows up on time for these sessions, and follows through on commitments, it indicates their readiness to engage in your coaching program.

If they’re always late or rescheduling at the last minute, coaching is not yet the priority it should be. And if they just don’t show up at all, don’t pursue them any further.

2. They engage positively

Coaching is a two-way street. When a potential client actively participates in the conversation, shows enthusiasm, and engages in brainstorming or problem-solving discussions with you, it suggests they are invested in the process.

If they aren’t focused on the conversation, you should put them on your “follow up some day” list.

3. They recognize their own challenges

You can’t help anyone who doesn’t recognize they have challenges to overcome. When a potential client acknowledges the challenges or obstacles they are facing, it suggests they are actively seeking help and are open to support.

They may not yet believe that coaching is the way to go, so look for other signals as well.

4. They express specific goals

Recognizing challenges is the flip side of the coin that says “I want to get better at stuff”. If a potential client clearly articulates their goals and aspirations, it shows they have given serious thought to their needs and are actively seeking a solution.

Sometimes, you will have to help them discover those goals.

5. They show personal commitment

Coaching is about improving yourself. If a potential client expresses a strong commitment to personal growth, self-improvement, or development, it signals their readiness to invest in themselves. They understand that coaching can facilitate their journey and are more likely to be receptive to your services.

6. They ask detailed questions

This is one of the strongest signals they’re ready to invest in your coaching program. When they ask specific questions about your program, methodology, or previous client experiences, they’re demonstrating a genuine interest and intent to gather information for making a purchasing decision.

7. They ask about financials

Finally, the strongest signal. When a client initiates discussions about pricing, payment plans, or the financial investment required for your coaching program, it indicates they are seriously considering committing to your services.

But don’t let the lack of this signal get you down. If they’re not budget constrained, or regard coaching as a high-value investment, they may not ask, or only briefly.

What you can do with this

The best way to understand, recognize and use these signals at the right time is to keep track of them. Don’t rely on your memory - make notes in your sessions and keep a scorecard.

My favourite scorecard is a simple list of the 7 signals, and a score of 0 to 3 to show my assessment of how strong the signal is. During the “selling” phase of my coaching, I will keep notes and update the scores based on the conversation. When the total score reaches a threshold, I make the offer. If it goes on too long, I move on.

In an ideal world, your potential clients will raise these signals themselves. Generally I don’t try to elicit them - that would give you a false positive. But remember that we’re human - we don’t act predictably.

A lack of most signals is a strong indication they may not be a good client. But I’ve also had leads just jump in and say “let’s get started”, and they turned out to be great clients. Let your experience guide you.