I’ve had many conversations with prospective and new clients about the process of choosing a coach. Lots of my clients have spoken to coaches who don’t have credentials, and who charge a ton of money without giving prospective clients an understanding of how they will benefit.
Some coaches don’t provide testimonials, which makes the decision even harder on the client side. If you don’t have a sense of what you will get out of the experience, how can you justify spending your time and money on it?
Coaches vary in their approaches and experience levels. As a prospective client, it’s essential that you ask smart questions and do your research. Even if a coach does have lots of glowing testimonials, you still have to determine whether the relationship is a good fit.
During consultations with my prospective clients, there’s a certain vibe that indicates a good fit. As a coach, I’m not for everyone. If a potential client is extremely shy, I may be too outgoing for them. If someone is only calling me because their parent told them to, we can both tell that it’s not something they really want to do. As a client, you have to be willing to put the time, energy, and money into the work. A coach can’t force you into that; you have to be open to it on your own.
That said, while a good vibe is great, potential clients shouldn’t base their decision on it alone. It’s key to ask questions and do research that gets to the heart of the coaching experience. Here are three questions you should always ask before hiring a coach:
1. What should I expect from our time together?
Before you dive in, it’s important to understand what kind of commitment you are making to the coach and to yourself, and what kind of commitment they are making to you. Get specific about logistics. How many sessions are included in a package? What types of different packages are offered? Are you expected to complete assignments between each session? Knowing the scheduling details upfront can help you understand how you’ll need to manage your time.
This question also addresses the bigger picture. What can you expect the coaching experience to be like, and what can you expect to get out of the work you put in? Every coach will have a different way of answering this question, but you can learn a lot from how they respond. Most importantly: does their answer resonate with you? Does it speak to your current goals? If you aren’t clear on your goals (and many people aren’t when they start coaching), do you think this coach can help you determine what you/your business needs? Do you feel aligned in that way?
2. What kind of success have your clients had due to your work together?
Lots of coaches share success stories on their website, and you should read these thoroughly before deciding to hire a coach. If you don’t recognize your own goals in any of the stories, ask the coach why. Do you fall outside their niche? Do your goals need to be reframed to make the coaching experience the most successful? Don’t feel silly asking these questions. It’s important for both the coach and the client to understand where you’re coming from and act accordingly.
If a coach doesn’t provide testimonials on their website, don’t write them off immediately. Some professionals aren’t able to devote as much time to business development, or the nature of their business is more confidential and clients prefer to stay fully anonymous. If success stories aren’t showcased, you should ask the coach about the range of success stories clients have had. You can also check LinkedIn, which has testimonials integrated into the platform. Or, ask the coach if they have a current or past client who would be willing to speak to them about their experience.
Sometimes, you might be referred to a coach by a friend who had success working with them. This is great for both the coach and the potential client. As a client, you’ll still want to ensure that the relationship with the coach is a good fit, but your friend can give you a detailed look into their first-hand experience. As a coach, it’s great when people find you randomly through an Internet search, but referrals are even better. It’s a testament to what your clients think of your work, and it’s a great start for the new client relationship.
3. What is your style or coaching technique?
Style and technique are big. If someone approaches coaching with a philosophy or system that doesn’t resonate, you won’t be able to reap the benefits of the experience. For example, I’ve encountered coaches who bring elements of religion and spirituality into their sessions. When I was hiring a coach, I knew that this approach wouldn’t work for me — I just don’t relate to it.
This is an instance where it’s really good to follow your gut. If you see any red flags or feel any discomfort during the conversation, it’s probably not a great fit. But if the coach’s approach makes sense to you and you’re excited to get started, it’s likely to be a strong partnership.
For this reason, I think it’s important for clients to talk to several coaches before finalizing their decision. You don’t know many different approaches vary until you talk to a few different people, and you can quickly get a sense of which style or techniques feel most right for you.
After asking these questions, you can do even more additional research:
It’s always smart to do some additional research before you hire a coach. Most coaches have active social media platforms, and some publish content on other independent sites, too. By reading the content they put out into the world, you can get a better grasp on their personality and philosophy and how it aligns with yours. Do they seem genuine? Or are they constantly trying to sell themselves and their services? See what kind of overall vibe you get.
By doing additional research, you can also discover things you have in common with a coach. I’ve had clients hire me because they have a chronic illness and, from reading my published articles, they learned I do too. They know I can relate to the challenge of managing a chronic illness while managing and running a small business. Other potential clients learn that I had many different jobs in multiple fields before starting my business, and that resonates with them. Whether they’ve had similar experiences or know that my knowledge from different industries could help them build their business, its a positive point of reference for a lot of people.
Ultimately, clients want to work with a coach who is genuine and relatable and who understands them and where they’re coming from. It’s the kind of thing you know when you feel it. And it’s a great note to strike as you begin a journey with a new coach.