A Coaching Approach to Business Development Conversations

(This post was originally published on the International Coaching Federation’s blog, October 23, 2015)

While we have talked about a Coaching Approach to doing Business Development (or relationship building without attachment, as I choose to think about it), we haven’t gotten to the specifics of what to say in these daunting conversations.

How do you talk to your potential clients? How do you tell people what you do? What do you say to them when your mouth goes dry and sweaty palms lead into a feeling of incredibly vulnerability and suddenly being tongue-tied?

It can be as simple as “I’m a Coach and I can help you with that.”

And there are some things that are helpful to say to lead up to this point.

This post is about how to talk to potential clients, and provides some questions you can reflect on to feel confident as you successfully dive in to the first step in enrolling your clients.

The questions begin with getting the Right Mindset for business development conversations; second is to set up the Business Rigor and Discipline that is required to ensure everything you convey in your conversations is aligned to your personal brand; Somatic Support is third (i.e. how will you align your body with your mind and heart in order to ensure alignment of your conversations with your personal brand); and the final bucket is Learnings and Celebration as you learn and evolve.

Right Mindset (Clarity for your Conversation)

At Authentic Leadership Global™ we begin all of our business building (and personal development) with Awareness:

  • How do you think about conversations with potential clients currently?
  • Are you comfortable talking to them and building rapport? Is this something that is new and intimidating?
  • How can you reframe how you think about conversations with clients to open up new possibilities for ease and effectiveness for yourself and your clients?
    The reframe that has been successful for me is to let go of the language of business development, marketing and networking – they feel like old paradigm words and don’t quite reflect my values. What feels more aligned is to think about it as relationship building… without attachment. You never know – they might be my new best friend (colleague, boss, etc.) who I just haven’t met yet.
  • How do you feel if there isn’t a fit and the client doesn’t enroll with you?
  • How can you reframe this feeling in order to open up possibilities, lower your stress and create more ease?
    A reframe that works for me is to think about relationship building like planting a large garden. Some of the seeds will germinate overnight, some in a week or so, and some never will. And so it is. The garden needs constant attention and nurturing – watering, weeding and regular tending to – in order for it to blossom to it’s fullest potential.
    And so it is with relationship building – not every client will resonate with your style and that is OK (it took years to be OK with this so you are not alone if it still is a pinch to the ego). There are LOTS of potential clients out there – so much work for all of us.
    Thus, relationship building without attachment means that you can let go of the pressure of trying to “sell” something, and know that if there is a fit, the client will know before you do. And if there is not, you are not meant to work with them. Wish them well as they head off to find a Coach who is right for them.

Business Discipline and Rigor

Building a successful pipeline of potential clients means planting a very large garden. By planting many seeds, and building many relationships, you will have a higher likelihood to enroll the number of clients you ideally want to work with.

What will you include in the client conversation? The steps you might want to consider are:

  1. How will you set an intention to manifest the win-win in this conversation?
  2. How will you follow the Stephen Covey Principle “Seek to understand and then be understood” and begin with questions to understand the person you are talking to?
  3. What are the questions you could ask to understand their current reality and any challenges they are facing?
  4. If they are in an organization, what questions will you ask to understand the work context and what they are facing in their leadership? Their life?
  5. How will you share what your coaching methodology is?
  6. How will you talk about confidentiality (with a sponsor or no sponsor)?
  7. How will you talk about the importance of relationship and mutual fit?
  8. How will you talk about your program options and connect the dots to their needs?
  9. How will you find out if they would like you to provide a coaching proposal?
  10. What else will you talk about?

Who (what other great ICF credentialed Coaches) could you set up a reciprocated referral arrangement with so your potential clients have choice?

Somatic Support (Right Body Language)

Do you have an ongoing practice of paying attention to when you are aligned with your authentic self and values? If not, reflect on the following:

  • What occurs for you in the body when you engage in business development conversations with potential clients? Are they aligned with your authentic self and your personal brand?
  • What occurs for you in the body when your business development conversations are out of alignment with your personal brand? What do you notice in the body and where?
  • How will you adjust your conversations with potential clients to bring them into alignment?

How could you shift your body language, in the moment, to support you to stay present through the discomfort of communicating with potential clients in a way that feels aligned with your personal brand?

As a reminder, have you learned about the ABCs of self-managing? How often are you practicing this each day?

Learnings and Celebration

  • What are you learning about your clients as you evolve and improve your business development conversations with them? What feedback have you been given?
  • What are you learning about your self as you evolve these conversations?
  • How will you apply what you are learning?
  • What is going well in terms of your conversations with potential clients? How will you celebrate your success?

Email me at tana@leadauthentic.com if you would like a PDF copy of this blog post.

Want to discuss this topic some more? Join me for a FREE group “Virtual Tea” and conversation on the following date and time. This is a live interaction with Tana and other coaches – questions are encouraged! 

Simply RSVP and I’ll see you soon!

Date: Tuesday, November 3rd

Times: 4 pm PT/7 pm ET: Register here