As coaches, we must inspire confidence and trust. One of the ways to achieve this is to come prepared for sessions. Especially the first session.
Even if we don’t know much about our new client or what route to take, we should still have a plan on day one. In fact, this first session will determine much of what follows in our coaching program, so the meeting should be productive. Make the most of it with our guidelines and the free first coaching session template provided below.
What’s the goal of a first coaching session?
The first coaching session should help you understand clients’ needs and what they hope to achieve. This is an opportunity to learn more about the individual and why they sought your services in the first place. It’s a great way to make a great first impression in your coach-client relationship.
Set clear expectations. If you’re wondering what to tell your coaching client in the first session, at minimum, tell them about your process. Don’t only manage expectations regarding their goals; let your clients know what to expect from you as a coach and your planned program.
And before your first session, you might want to have an introductory call with your new client to ensure you are both on the same page. Taking time to touch base before meeting makes clients feel valued. After calling your client, you can prepare for your first session with them.
5 questions for your first coaching session
The best way to get to know clients is by asking questions — encouraging them to open up and tell you more about who they are. So, what questions should you ask in a coaching first session? Start with the following:
- Who are you? Get to know your client on a personal level. Ask them to share what they do for work, their hobbies, and anything else they want to contribute about their lives. As you gather these details and share some of your own, you establish a more “human” connection. The client will know they’re working with someone just like them. Plus, this helps your client realize they’re a priority and you value their individuality.
- What are your main goals for this process? This first coaching session question will help you set a baseline for the client’s work, create a plan for the journey forward, and start managing expectations. If the client needs a push to establish their desired outcomes, help them brainstorm.
- Have you gone through a process like this before? If so, what did you like/didn’t like about the previous process? Feedback on external experiences your clients have had is just as helpful as feedback on your own coaching style. Perhaps a client has already tried one of the coaching techniques you plan to use in another program and didn’t find it useful. So take the time to establish what has and hasn’t worked for a client. If they’re new to coaching, this question also allows you to explain what to expect from the relationship.
- How do you prefer to communicate? Whether in a session or outside of one, respecting your clients’ communication preferences is an important aspect of fostering a good experience. So, ask them whether they prefer to be contacted in writing or by phone, or if they like using agile client relationship management tools (like Practice) to have all their communication and booking information in one central place.
- Do you have any questions for me? You’ll provide a lot of information in the first session — it’s possible your client has some questions of their own. Give your client the opportunity to ask for clarification or for you to address a question that’s on their mind.
What to tell my coaching client in the first session
Start your first meeting with confidence. Steve Schlafman is an executive coach who says there are three things you must tell new clients in the first session:
1. This is confidential
Ensure your client knows they’re in a safe space where they can speak freely without fear of judgment or their deepest secrets shared publicly. What happens in a session stays in a session (at least on our end). One of our biggest responsibilities as coaches is being our clients’ greatest confidants.
2. I’m here for you
As a coach, you’ve heard the good, the bad, and everything in between. Remind your clients you’re there for them with an open heart, ready to listen to whatever they need to get off their chests and help them work through it. Even if you’ve heard it all before and nothing comes as a surprise, it’s crucial to have an open mind and let your clients know they can tell you anything.
3. Coaching isn’t about sales
Coaching relationships are relationships. You and your clients are working toward achieving their goals and overcoming obstacles. Good coaches recognize their clients are the top priority, not sales.
After establishing these three crucial elements, you can continue with the rest of your session. Here’s a checklist for everything else you should cover in your first meeting:
- Explain the length of the program and sessions
- Explain the terms of your coaching agreement (if you have one)
- Explain what the client should expect to achieve by the end of the coaching process
- Discuss frequency and availability; set times for you and your client to meet going forward
- Present the assessment or coaching tools you’ll use and explain how they work
- Explain your coaching and action plan and how they’ll change according to your client’s needs and progress
- Remind the client it’s normal to make mistakes and all progress is good progress
- Let them know what to expect for the next session and how to prepare
Let your clients ask questions throughout your first session — and all the following sessions. Ensure they understand everything you discussed and be prepared to explain any details further if necessary.
How you say everything is just as important as what you say in your first session. Start building rapport from the get-go by being friendly and showing genuine interest in what your client says. You can do this by using approachable body language, maintaining good posture and a pleasant tone of voice, attentively listening (with occasional eye contact), and remembering details about the client’s goals and personal life.
Even if you’re an experienced coach, you may forget to cover an important point in a first session once in a while. Perhaps time gets away from you, or the conversation takes an unexpected turn.
Going into your first session with a plan helps you stay organized and guide the client toward sharing the right information. Include the questions you want to ask and the key points you wish to deliver. Remember to take notes. These notes will help you later on when you’re making your coaching plan, and it will show the client you’re engaged. Just be sure to not bury your head in paperwork the whole time. Remain focused and present in the conversation.
We know how important first impressions are. Let us help you so you can focus on your first session with a new client. Sign up for Practice today.