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“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

~ Anne Frank

In this post I want to talk to you about discovery calls. For many of my clients, who tend to be service-based business owners such as coaches, healers and teachers, discovery calls are a common practice for enrolling people into 1:1 or group programs. I, however, don’t use them nor do I recommend using them to my clients and in this post I’m going to share with you why.

If you’re not familiar with what a Discovery Call involves or how they are generally structured, I recommend taking five minutes now to watch this video. The idea behind them is to discover whether or not the person enquiring might be a fit for the service being offered, but in general what happens is a different story. If you’ve ever been on a discovery call, (I’ve been on several) you’ll know what I’m talking about. More often than not, the call is less about ascertaining whether what’s on offer might genuinely serve the prospective clients needs and more about trying to get the sale.

Without fail, a discovery session will include details of the program or service on offer and because discovery sessions also tend to be short, typically 30  or 40 minutes, that really does leave very little time to have a meaningful conversation about fit and suitability. Would you agree to embark on a committed relationship (platonic or romantic) after just 30 minutes in that person’s company? I know I wouldn’t nor would I want to commit to spending thousands of dollars or several hours and months of my time with someone who I’d only spoken with for 30 minutes.

Because such a short time-frame puts unnecessary pressure, not only on the service provider (to get the sale) but also the prospect to make a quick decision, the conversation often ends up feeling uncomfortable and awkward for everyone involved.

What I do instead? 

On my services page or when someone asks about working together, the first thing I do is to offer them a full, pitch-free, complimentary coaching session. I do this for several reasons.

When I show up as my best coaching self and work to truly serve the person in front of me, I find that I don’t need to sell anything. Giving someone an actual experience of what it would be like to work with me means I don’t need to find clever or gimmicky ways to describe what I do, I can simply have them experience it.

This works in reverse too. Having a real coaching session, in which we dive deep into what the person is struggling with, gives me a very real sense of whether or not this person is the type of person I would like to work with (or am able to truly serve). If what they need is not something I offer or they spend the session making excuses or trying to wriggle out of taking responsibility for their part, then it’s clear to me that letting them spend thousands on coaching would be a bad course of action for both of us.

Now you might be wondering how I sign clients if I don’t ever pitch or talk about my services. 

Let me explain what usually happens. There are two types of people I usually have complimentary sessions with. The first group is people who are actively looking for a business coach, who have approached me (sometimes via my coaching page) and have booked a complimentary session with that in mind. Then there is a second group of people, who I have reached out to and offered or gifted a complimentary session to. There is a subtle difference in how I handle the two.

With the people who have already expressed an interest in working with me, at the start of the complimentary session, I tell them that we won’t be talking about working together today, we will just be having a coaching session. I then tell them that should they still want to discuss working together after the session, then we’ll set up a separate call for that.

If you are wondering why I would delay having a conversation about working together with someone who is already obviously interested, I have several reasons. First of all trying to transition from coaching someone powerfully to enrolling them into a program feels icky and awkward. Secondly, I like to set the client homework to do between the complimentary session and the call we’ll have to discuss ongoing coaching. This gives them an even deeper experience of what it looks like to work with me and whether or not and how they complete the homework, gives me a really great indication of how committed they are to the work required of them.

Finally, but most importantly, I like to go deep when I’m having a conversation with someone about working with me. I want to know why they want coaching, how they think it will help them, why they want to work specifically with me and what their vision is for the work we’ll potentially do together. For me, it’s a conversation that takes time and I like to give adequate space for it.

With the second group of people, I do the same except I don’t mention working together at all on the first call. If it’s a great session and I feel excited to do more with the person, I will also give them homework and offer them a second complimentary session to see how they got on with the homework. At the end of that second session if they haven’t mentioned working together, I simply ask them if there is anything else I can do to support them.

Sometimes this means they’ll ask about my offerings, sometimes they say nothing more is required. Either way, I’ve likely made a wonderful new contact. Over the years I have had some beautiful things come as a result of calls like these, including and not limited to, amazing testimonials, referrals, collaborations, friendships and several times I’ve had a person say no to more support in the moment, only to sign up as a client months or even years later.

I’m such a huge fan of giving complimentary, pitch-free coaching sessions not just for the reasons I’ve shared above but also because of the following:

  • They allow me to keep my coaching skills sharp. 
  • They allow me to be of service and to give back to my community. 
  • They give me a deeper understanding of what my audience/community is struggling with. 
  • They are a wonderful way to start a new a meaningful relationship with another human being.

When you can start to see complimentary sessions as a win-win for both you and your potential clients, they become much more fun and rewarding for everyone involved and when you let go of trying to “get the sale”, you’ll find that, ironically, people will be more inclined to work with you than if they feel pressured to buy. 

Introducing The Business of Coaching

If you want to learn more about how I have used complimentary coaching sessions to build and grow my coaching business you can always go deeper with the online training I co-created with fellow coach Helen McLaughlin called The Business of Coaching, it’s jam-packed with our best advice on growing your coaching business in authentic and conscious ways.