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Should I Try To Sell Coaching To My Friends?

Most new coaches start by coaching their friends. After all, your friends are ‘soft’ targets. They are willing to let you ‘try’ coaching on them, respond kindly when you’re awkward and have probably complained about something that you’re sure you can ‘fix’. 

But a lot of people feel awkward talking to their friends about coaching much less trying to sign them as clients. They’re afraid they’ll come off as pushy or salesy and of course their afraid of alienating their friends and looking bad. 

Then again I know a TON of coaches that built their businesses by serving their friends and colleagues first. In fact having a solid pre existing network is one of the KEY reasons many coaches achieve success quickly. 

So should you try to sell your friends on coaching? 

While it’s ultimately up to you here’s a few simple things to consider:

 

1) How long has it been since you talked to them? 

A coach in my mastermind group recently asked for some tips on offering coaching to a friend after being turned down by a guy he knew from college. The first question I asked was: When was the last time you talked to this person? Five years was their lovingly innocent reply. 

If I call out of the blue after five years and then offer to sell you coaching I immediately put myself in the category of someone selling an MLM product. I get that you’re excited about coaching but please don’t do this. 

If you want to connect with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while go ahead, but do it lovingly. Do it to connect. If then after you’re reestablished a connection you want to share about coaching with them go ahead. But don’t call people out of the blue to ‘connect’ when you really are only connecting to ‘sell’ coaching to them. 

Connection first, coaching later. Always. 

 

2) Is your desire to coach them genuine? 

Sometimes you might feel desperate to get a client. Like if you could just get one person to say yes your life would be easier and if you get one more no you’re sure you’re going to fall apart. When this happens anyone around you can start to seem like the ‘fix’ for your coaching insecurity. 

If this is where you’re coming from enrolling your friends is probably a bad idea. In fact, trying to enroll anyone from desperation and scarcity is a bad idea. 

I remember early on in my journey as a coach I sat down with a good friend to ‘sign them as a client.’ I was more awkward and pushy than a used car salesman with a quota to meet. They were polite but clearly turned off. And the more turned off they were the more pushy I got. They continued to be polite, but eventually ended the conversation. I still cringe thinking about it. 

On the other hand, I’ve also coached friends in a really powerful way. I went slow, I was curious, I made sure they really wanted to move forward. When I did this the conversations went well even if they decided not to hire me in the end. 

The big difference between these two situations was in who I was being and in how genuine my desire to coach them was. If my desire was genuine and I was able to be loving and curious things went well. If my desire was to make the sale things did not go well.

So before you enroll your friends first pause and see if you can find a genuine desire to coach them. If you do then go slow, if not then take a beat and really consider why you’re doing what you’re doing. 

 

3) Is the friendship more important than the sale? 

I have a close friend whom I’ve collaborated with on a few projects. Some of the projects were a success others a failure. The friendship has survived largely because we knew what was most important. 

If your friendship is a priority make sure you’re clear on this. Ideally, it’s something you should talk about before you dive into exploring a coaching and client relationship. 

If you’re willing to risk the friendship in service of the coaching relationship, be clear about it. If you’re willing to jettison the coaching to maintain the friendship, know that before you get started. 

 

4) Can you be clean and unattached? 

It’s awkward if someone has a crush on you and you don’t like them back. Most of us don’t enjoy feeling like we’re the cause of someone else’s heartbreak and confusion. So we tend to avoid situations where other people are too attached to how we feel about them. 

The same is true for coaching. 

 – If you’re attached to signing your friend as a client because you’re ‘desperate’ to make some money or prove your worth… 

 – If you’re attached to signing your friend as a client because you KNOW you can help them with the terrible problem that plagues their life… 

 – OR if you’re attached to signing your friend as a client because you’re longing for more intimacy in your life… 

STOP. Do not pass go and do not collect $200. 

Hire a coach and do some work on yourself then go back to enrolling clients. 

 

5) Have you enrolled them?

If you’re like most coaches you’re out there trying to ‘convince’ people to try coaching with you. Convincing is hard. Convincing means to cause someone to believe firmly in something. But coaching isn’t really about getting people to believe something. 

Coaching is about enrolling. Enrolling is different. Enrolling is about getting people present to a new possibility. If I enroll you in a coaching conversation you’re present to what’s possible in that conversation. You’re OPEN to there being something you might get. 

Convincing on the other hand is closed. You’ve CLOSED your analysis and have concluded that coaching is or isn’t valuable. When you try to convince people to work with you, they very often become convinced you’re a pushy salesperson. 

So no more convincing. 

Instead enroll them. Get them present to what’s possible. Open them up. Don’t close them down. 

Here’s the Bottom Line

As a general rule, you shouldn’t try to sign your closest friends as coaching clients. But friends who are a ring or two out from your inner circle can be totally valid prospects especially early on as a coach. 

You might enjoy coaching some of these people for free as a way to get more experience, but if you’re going to sign them as a client you need to make sure you’re doing your best to be generous and unattached. 

I still recommend new coaches be open to coaching and enrolling their friends and colleagues. It’s where I got most of my first clients and I learned a lot about the process of what it takes to coach and sell people on my services. 

Whether it’s your friends or not, the key to growing your coaching business rests on your ability to be bold in your efforts while being generous with your heart. 

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What To Do When You’re in the Middle of a ‘Bad’ Coaching Session

Not all coaching sessions are going to go well. Some will feel full of life and inspiration like you’re sitting in the midst of endless possibilities and inspiration. Some coaching sessions will feel boring and challenging like you’re fighting through quicksand with every step.

I wouldn’t recommend you try to make every coaching session great, you won’t succeed and you won’t really be serving your clients. Still finding yourself in the middle of a bad session can be tough so here’s what I do when I feel like I’m in a session that feels like I’m dying a slow and painful death.

1) Admit the session isn’t going very well –

If you’re brave share this with your client. Say hey I notice this session isn’t going the way I thought it might. How is it feeling for you?

They might agree or disagree with you. But by bringing it out into the open you will offer some relief if you’re both struggling a bit.

If that feels too edgy for you then simply admit it to yourself.

2) Remind yourself that everyone has ‘bad’ sessions –

Every performer, artist, master, teacher, and coach has bad days and bad sessions. It’s ok, you’ll survive. So long as you’re not being a total asshole, verbally abusing your client, or sexually harassing them, you’ll survive this session.

If you are doing one of those things please stop immediately and get some support so you won’t do that stuff again. But if you’re reading this article you probably aren’t doing that stuff so don’t worry too much.

3) Take a breath –

When I watch coaching sessions go bad 90% of what’s happening is momentum. The coach gets on the wrong foot, but they just keep going. They keep asking awkward questions. They keep interrupting their client.

So pause. Take a breath. Tell your client you need a minute to review some notes. This small break can give both of you a chance to reset and recenter.

4) Figure out (or remember) what the client wants –

The #1 piece of feedback I give coaches is that your session would have gone better if you had taken the time to find out what your client wanted.

It seems so simple. So basic. But most coaches miss this. They get to coaching and they don’t really discover and confirm what the client really wants. And even then sometimes they lose track of that in the middle of the client’s session.

So if you realize you don’t know what your client wants, pause and ask them. If you think you know, pause and confirm it again.

Just connecting with this simple anchor of desire can make all the difference in the world.

5) Let go of your agenda (or whatever else you’re holding onto) –

I once had a client that I felt was totally uncoachable. Every reflection I offered was met with a correction. Every question I asked was answered in the most disconcerting way. It felt so hard to figure out what to do next.

Then one session I simply let go of how I thought our sessions were supposed to go. I relaxed. I made each of their answers brilliant. I expressed gratitude for each of their corrections.

It was the best session we’d ever had.

Challenging your client as a coach is important. And sometimes you’re going to feel in conflict with them and the sessions may feel crunchy as a result. But it’s incredibly easy for your commitment to your client’s growth to become a grasping attachment to them being different.

If your session is going to crap start looking for what you’re holding onto. It might be an idea about how the session is supposed to be or it might be that you’re trying to hide how lost you feel. Find it and let it go.

6) Don’t decide the session is a failure –

I have literally had sessions I thought were total dumpster fires and my client said to me “Wow that session was so powerful!”

The truth is we don’t know the impact of our work. We’re not even in that much control of it. Our clients do a LOT of the work of coaching. So even if you think the session sucked don’t be too attached to that opinion.

YOUR JOB AS A COACH

Your job as a coach is to stand up for your client’s dreams, to be there with them as they make those dreams a reality, not to grade every session you have with them.

YES you should try your best to be a good coach and learn from your mistakes but in the moment the most important thing to do is stay with your client.

In some ways being willing to show up when the work is hard, your client is resistant, and the conversation is challenging is what being a coach is all about.

So be brave, take a breath, and do your best to land the plane anyway you can.

Niches: Simplified

There are a lot of experts in the coaching industry that will tell you the KEY to success is choosing the correct niche.

But even though this advice seems simple and straightforward it can be incredibly difficult to choose a niche. Should you choose a niche that’s the most profitable? the most authentic? the most interesting?

All of this wondering what to choose and which niche is right for you can lead to feelings of doubt and uncertainty.

Can you relate?

The thing about coaching niches, and company names, and logos, and business branding is that they all sit on top of a deeper question. A question that’s incredibly hard for most coaches (and people to answer)

Who am I? As a coach, as a human, as a practitioner?

Who am I?

Every coach who’s trying to discover their niche runs into this question like a brick wall. But this question doesn’t have to stop you. Instead it can inspire you.

Here’s how I work with this question as a coach and how I advise new coaches just starting out.

 

1. Understand you are not one thing –

And you never will be. You are so many things all at once. Brave and terrified, beautiful and flawed, clever and kind of a dolt.

Your desire for simplicity and clarity make sense when you’re trying to choose a niche. That’s the point of a niche. It’s a simple handle people can grab a hold of. But that’s all it is. It’s a handle attached to a mug filled with the infinite nature of the universe.

If you try to make the handle infinite no one can grab onto it. So don’t try. Just figure out what part of you is easiest to grab a hold of.

I became an executive coach because when I was a personal trainer my favorite clients were startup founders and executives. That’s why I chose it. Because those kinds of people seemed to like that kind of handle.

 

2. Realize you are always discovering who you are –

Before I was an executive coach I was a mindfulness based personal trainer, then I was a dharma trainer, then I was a mindfulness and happiness coach. I’ve been all kinds of things.

I’ve built and taken down half a dozen websites. I’ve changed my company name three or four times.

In the beginning you don’t really know who you are and what’s going to work. Most coaches feel this and refuse to take action. They want to wait until ‘they’re more confident’. But that’s incredibly hard to do. Because the more you think about who you are the less you know.

The best way to find out who you are (as a coach) is to go out and be something. Just say you’re a divinity coach, or a process coach, or a transformational coach and see what happens. If people respond, if you find you can feel more and more comfortable with it as you tell people, then keep going. If it doesn’t resonate with people or it feels like sand in your mouth. Say something else.

You will change a lot in your first few years as a coach so don’t worry about getting it right on the first try. Let yourself take some time to practice and learn.

 

3. Get that there’s no magic bullet –

No niche will make you immediately successful. No coach you hire will do that either. Nothing is a magic bullet. Sure having a pre existing network really helps. So does having some innate or learned sales or enrolling skills. But beyond that, building a coaching practice is about being in the business of connecting to and serving people.

It’s primarily a relationship business and relationships take time and skill to build.

You may think that if you can just get the right niche you’ll have it made in the shade. But this bigger question “Who am I?”, takes time to figure out.

The right niche can make a big difference. But knowing who you are deep down in your bones makes an even bigger one.

So don’t rush it. Let yourself stumble a bit and figure things out as you go along.

 

4. Accept that most people will simplify who you are and what you do into what they can understand –

A coach once told me that there were only really 3 kinds of coaches – Executive, business, and life coaches.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve explained to people what I do and they say back to me “oh so you’re like a life coach.”

Niches are great because they help people understand who you work with. They make it easier for clients to refer other people to you. But in the end they are only ever a vast simplification of what you do and who you are.

You do this with people all the time. Your friend Brian is the new dad, your colleague Susan is the former indoor cycling coach, and your neighbor Veda is a dance teacher.

Yes Brian became a new dad after years of trying and a few miscarriages. Fatherhood has changed him in powerful ways. Yes Susan left cycling after a challenging period and has been inspired to help others who struggle with their emotions. Yes Veda teaches a form of modern dance influenced by kundalini yoga and tantra. But those details are hard to explain and remember. So you simplify them.

Other people will ALWAYS relate to your work from a simplified version of what it truly is. And they will relate to you as a simplified version of all that you are.

That’s what we do. We simplify. That’s what a niche is, it’s a simplification that makes communication easier.

You are not simple, but your niche can be.

If you understand that it isn’t everything, it isn’t all of you, it’s just a sliver of the infinite that you are.

The good news is that “A sliver of the infinite is still infinite.”*

So don’t spend so much time worrying about your niche or caught trying to answer the question of who you are as a coach.

Work on answering the question, “Who am I?” everyday but never finalize your answer. Instead keep discovering and creating. Once you get enough of a hit to simplify then do it. But don’t ever stop searching and learning.

Because that’s what will make you a great coach and an interesting human being.

 

Niche Resources –

My friend Greg Faxon wrote this dope post on life coaching niches – I think it’s really good.

I also really love this infographic my friend Adam Quiney made –

* I think this line comes from Michelle Masters of NLP Marin

Exchanging Self For Other

Our discursive mind tells us that we don’t know what it’s like to be them. They have fancy cars, they live in fancy houses, they have fancy jobs.

But deep down we’re all the same, we want love, our bodies slowly fall apart, we feel good when our lives have purpose and we feel lost when they don’t. We tend to find ways to numb the pain of living instead of taking the risk to be alive. The only thing that’s different is the language we use to describe these things and the models we use to think about them. For some the models are spiritual for others they are monetary, but deep down we’re all the same.

Which is why we’re able to exchange ourselves for others. We simply slip beneath the waves of the discursive mind and pop our heads up inside the worlds of someone else. We feel into what it looks like inside their heads. We imagine going to an office every day and coming home and feeling empty the whole time. We imagine working to keep elderly people alive and wonder if we’re really helping or just prolonging the inevitable. We imagine sitting at home watching TV wishing you could be working but making excuses because you’re afraid.

If we want to get more intimate we can talk to the people we want to talk to. We can uncover their language, their desires, the way they see the world. Or we can simply go out into the world and put ourselves in their bodies. Feel the ache of a bad knee, feel the fullness of a round belly, look through eyes so tired.

It can help us in business for sure. This is in some ways the very foundation of leadership, marketing, and sales, but before all that, it starts with compassion, with empathy, with the ancient spiritual practice of exchanging self for other.

The 3 Stages of Energetic Leadership: Become A Great Leader

If you can learn to master and move on to the following stage you can lead more people and live a life of deep purpose. Stopping at any stage will slow your growth and limit your impact on the world. 

The first stage is not knowing what you’re doing. 

You feel awkward and unsure. Everywhere you step is like quicksand and your mind is wrapped in doubt and confusion. Many people get lost in fear. They believe the whispers of doubt like they were the truth.  The whispers aren’t true at all. But the only way to find that out is to keep going. 

The second stage is false certainty. 

You know what to do. You are a great leader. You are decisive, clear, powerful, determined, and aligned. Sometimes you dip back into the first stage but again and again, you return to this solid foundation of knowing what to do. People respect you for your confidence and power. You achieve and excel until you begin to notice that there’s something missing, something that still feels unsolid. 

The third stage is not knowing what you’re doing. 

You realize you’ve been making everything up all along. You don’t really know what the future holds. You make vows and plans but they are art and practice. Nothing is certain. What’s next comes to you in small insights and hints about which direction to go. You listen to your intuition and begin to distinguish when you’re coming from fear vs. love. You stop needing to know all the answers. Your achievements don’t matter, but you still keep working to create incredible work in the world. Purpose and joy become your guides. You relax more and more. 

You must experience each stage in its time. If you’re unsure, stay with it. Be unsure. Practice, improve, learn to find and create certainty. Discover how to trust yourself. 

When you’re certain, be certain and decisive, make plans and execute on them. This stage has incredible power and rewards don’t skip it. Immerse yourself in it fully. 

Then when it comes time to let go again, let go. Realize that you never knew in the first place. It was all an illusion even if it was a pleasant one.

Keep going. That’s what matters. Even when you’re stuck. Especially when you’re scared. Just keep going. There is more leadership out there for you. The world is begging for you to grow. Just. Keep. Going. 

Deserving vs. Declaring: The Guilt You Feel

It’s easier to play the game of deserving. We don’t have to deal with the guilt of getting what we want when we are given something because we ‘deserve’ it. We don’t have to actively look at what we agree to allowing, we just complain about how others get more than they deserve. 

The alternative is boundaries, what we will and won’t do, what we will and won’t upset. These are harder because they bring us face to face with others’ disappointment and feelings. They bring us face to face with feeling the guilt of getting what we want. But they are much more empowered, instead of playing the game of deserving we play the game of declaration. 

We declare what we’re going to create and then we live into that declaration. We declare what’s workable and not workable for us and then we have to be with our feelings and the feelings of others in the midst of that. 

So while it’s easier or rather I should say more ‘comfortable’ to play the game of deserving it rarely creates us or our lives as a center of power and possibility.

Managing Upset

The difference between breakdowns and problems

A problem is something wrong with the world. A problem happens to us, they land on us, and we have no choice but to complain about them and how unfair they are.

A breakdown is something we can declare. It’s something that has interrupted our commitment to something. For example I may be committed to waking up at 9am. A party might happen outside my house the night before, I wake up late and complain about this problem. Or I might notice that I had an unrealistic expectation (“nothing will get in the way of me going to bed”) and so I declare a breakdown in my commitment by acknowledging that something is occurring to me isn’t the way that it should be.

Once I declare my breakdown I can acknowledge my upset, I can record the facts about what happened, and I can get into action around my commitment.

Very often the breakthrough is on the other side of the breakdown I’m avoiding. For example I might want a breakthrough in intimacy with my partner, but I’m afraid to talk to them about it because they might get upset or defensive. This would be a breakdown. One that I’m avoiding. So I survive the problem. Once I’m willing to be with the breakdown (the difficult conversation, my partners feelings, etc) then I can get access to the breakthrough created by having a conversation around intimacy.

Breakthroughs are a creation of something beyond the context of what I currently see is possible. They are something that get created when I expand or deepen my context through declaration, commitment, being with breakdowns, and revealing blindspots.

Part of why breakthroughs follow breakdowns is because it’s in the breakdowns that our blindspots get revealed.

Definition: Playing To Win vs Playing Not To Lose

Little kid’s play to win. They might be a little sad when they lose, but usually, they just want to play again. Winning is EXCITING!!! Playing the game is fun.

Then at some point, we learn shame and guilt around winning and losing. We either learn that we risk being criticized when we lose the game or we risk it when we win, maybe we learn we get criticized no matter what, so we seek to find a way to not play.

No matter the case, before long we stop playing to play, we stop playing to win, we play not to lose, not to lose love, trust, the warm feeling of pleasing those around us. We start to play a different game called manipulating the feelings of others. We learn it without ever knowing we’re learning it.

And what we really lose is the joy of playing the game, of being ok with winning and losing, because it’s just a game after all.

We can play to win the game again, we can heal ourselves, we can learn to let others care for themselves, we can learn that losing ourselves in a game worth playing can help us find who we really are beyond winning and losing.

We might as well play to win, especially when winning means the world is more healed, more loved, and more transformed.

The Most Common Types of Black and White Thinking for Coaches

It’s never ok to give your clients advice.
You should never ask the questions why?
You should never deal with matters a therapist might.
You shouldn’t promise results you’re not sure you can deliver.
You should never work with a client that’s hard to coach.
You should never talk more than your client.
Your worth and your fees are related.
You should always be good when you coach your clients.
It’s a bad thing if a client wants to quit.
It’s a bad thing if you hurt your client’s feelings and you should avoid it at all costs.
The best coaches make the most money.
Coaches that charge a lot don’t care about their clients.
Making money and being of service don’t mix.
If you have a motive to sign clients it ruins your attempts to serve.
If you raise your fees you’re limiting who you can serve.
Coaches that market themselves are only out for money.
Coaching and consulting are totally different and consulting should never happen in a coaching session.
Coaching and teaching are totally different and good coaches don’t teach their clients.
Every coaching session should end with a homework assignment.
Every coaching session has to start with a clear desire and end with a clear outcome.
Accountability is key in coaching.
Accountability has no place in coaching.
The coaches with the most training are the best coaches.
The longer you coach the better you get.
I should be smooth when I sell to my clients.
It’s bad to be awkward when I coach or sell to my clients.
Being a beginner coach is bad and means most people won’t trust you.
Certifications are crap/essential.
If there’s something in it for you it can’t help your client.
You should never bring your personal life into your coaching.
Good coaches never upset their clients.
Making six/seven/eight figures means something about who you are as a coach.

(share your favorite one below)

None of these things are absolutely true about coaching. Some point to places to start, but in the end, all of them limit you as a coach. A master learns the rules so they can break them. A beginner treats rules like religion and never learns to let them go. Please insist on becoming a master coach.

Love,
Toku

Black and White Thinking — A Common Problem With New Coaches

Often when I talk to new coaches they get caught in black and white thinking about what good coaches should and shouldn’t do. 

– You should never ask a client why? 
– You should only ever ask questions. 
– You should never teach a client.
– You should never give advice. 

These guidelines are helpful when you’re starting as a coach.

– It’s easier to talk at a client than explore with them. 
– It’s easier to give advice than be curious. 
– It’s easy to ask why when you can’t think of something better to say. 

But these guidelines are simply guidelines and too often they become a religion for new coaches. Soon enough they are zealots preaching the gospel of pure coaching and the ICF standards. 

The best coaches I know push the boundaries of coaching while acting with a high level of integrity. Sometimes from habit but more often with conscious choice. Generally, they abide by the principles of what makes coaching work, but they aren’t bound to them. 

They see all the gray in between the lines. So if you’re new to coaching YES listen to the guidelines, try them on, if they feel hard to implement GOOD! That means you’re getting better as a coach. 

But don’t fall into black and white thinking. There are no rules to coaching and that’s the best and worst part about it. Your clients need you to be flexible enough to help them while maintaining enough integrity not to get lost. And learning how to make your way through the gray is essential is you’re going to truly become a masterful coach.