We’ve all been given the same advice regarding client acquisition and that is this: Deliver great discovery sessions, make them awesome and build your client base that way.

Discovery sessions – also called strategy sessions, or chemistry sessions – are free coaching sessions designed to demonstrate the value of coaching. The way this thinking goes is that if we can demonstrate the value of coaching, then we will be able to find all the clients we need, because who wouldn’t want to be coached once they understand what it is?

Breaking Down The Thinking Behind The Discovery Call

If we consider the thought process behind the idea of delivering free coaching sessions, we can see that it’s about marketing.

Coaching is notoriously difficult to market for two reasons. 1) no one understands what coaching is and 2) they think they do and they’re wrong. These two things cause big problems for coaches with no understanding of how marketing works. When I talk about coaches who have no understanding of how marketing works, I include trainers at coach training organisations. I know that some coach training organisations offer some valuable marketing advice, but on the whole it’s not very common.

The reason we’re taught to offer discovery calls is to try to get round the two problems of marketing coaching – I repeat them here for absolute clarity; 1) no one understands what coaching is and 2) they think they do and they’re wrong.

If we deliver a discovery call – the thinking goes – then we don’t have to describe the coaching process at all, we can demonstrate it. It’s like offering a free sample of a product isn’t it? It’s a ‘try before you buy’ offer and it has seemed like the obvious solution to finding clients for so many coaches.

But… (you knew this was coming, didn’t you?)

There are a few problems with offering discovery calls as your main (or only) way of finding clients and they are as follows:


Coaches who offer discovery calls are rarely transparent with their pricing. They wait until they’ve had the opportunity to demonstrate the value of coaching and then ambush their potential client with a price. Yes, I know the word ambush is provocative, but what else is it when the price is withheld from the potential client until the last moment? We wouldn’t accept this from any other professional service, why are we doing ourselves? I’ve heard hundreds of stories from coaches who have had the horrible experience of their discovery call client gasping and saying ‘how much!?!’ in horror at the stated price. This response from a potential client usually leads to sleepless nights for the coach.

Free coaching.

We can always pick up the odd client via discovery calls. However, we have to deliver quite a lot of them to pick up enough to create a financially viable coaching business. There comes a point when a coach realises that they’re delivering a lot of coaching for free – far more than they’re being paid for – and it’s simply unsustainable. Good marketing isn’t about giving your service away for free.

No more volunteers.

There is a moment at which coaches realise that they don’t know who else they can deliver free sessions to. They realise that discovery sessions are all very well, providing you have a steady flow of people who want one. I often speak to coaches at the point at which they realise that they have no process in place for creating that steady flow.

We WANT this to work.

Here’s the thing; coaches want discovery calls to be the answer to their client acquisition problems. Discovery calls as the only marketing tool we need, fits our belief that coaching is a such a powerful tool, that it should be able to speak for itself. We want our coaching skills to be the sum total of the skills we need, to be able to build a coaching business, but they’re not. Our profession’s determination to stick with this belief isn’t helped when really famous coaches write books about client acquisition in which they say that ‘powerfully serving’ clients by having deep conversations with them is all we need to do to prosper. Sadly, it’s not true.

What Do We Do Instead?

As a profession, the first thing that we need to do, is accept the reality that our coaching skills are only the delivery half of our business. All businesses have a delivery side. Some of them delivery products and others – like coaches – deliver a service.

The delivery side of a coaching business is the fun stuff, it’s the bit where we sit down in front of a client and coach them and it’s the bit that everyone loves. But it is only half of our business. It’s the half that we do when we’re sitting down in front of a client.

The other half of the skills we need, are the skills that we use to create the opportunities to do that delivery. These are marketing and sales skills. It makes no difference how angry we feel about the fact that we need to know how to create the opportunities to coach, we still have to learn them if we want to be able to earn our living from this coaching we love so much.

Marketing Is Fun!

The thing is, is that once you know how to do it, marketing is fun. I realise that’s unexpected, but it’s true.

Marketing is a process and just like the coaching process, it’s one that can be trusted. Marketing for coaches is different from marketing for other professional services and that’s why finding the right people to learn from is important.

Anyone who tells you that you can achieve 6-figures in 90 days is being disingenuous – yes it’s possible, but it’s highly unlikely unless you already have a little black book of top-notch contacts. However, if you did have such a book, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article.

If you want to learn everything you need to know to generate a steady flow of enquiries from people who understand what you do, know what it costs and definitely want to work with you, you need to learn how to market. If you need a step-by-step marketing process, that’s been created specifically for professional coaches, one that’s clearly laid out and has all the support you need surrounding it, you can’t find anyone better than The Coaching Revolution to deliver that to you.

Should we talk?