How to Become a Business Coach
How to Become a Business Coach

How to Get Referrals for Rock Star Associate Coaches from Your Existing Network

By on May 1, 2021

The best and most effective way to turn your business coaching practice into a legitimate enterprise that can run with or without you is to recruit associate coaches into your firm.

A business coaching firm is no different from a law or accounting firm, in that you’re creating an organization in which accomplished professionals provide important services to business owners, entrepreneurs, and executives.

But a firm is only as good as its talent.

And if you want to grow your firm to success, you have to recruit top-tier talent.

The challenge is that some of the best potential associate coaches out there aren’t already business coaches! They’re professionals and entrepreneurs engaged in other projects. They might not know enough about the business coaching industry to have considered it, even if they were born to do it.

So if you want to recruit and retain this kind of top-tier talent, you have to be creative in how you find them.

That’s where this process comes in.

When I built my business coaching firm, one of the most productive sources of leads for associate coaches leads was referrals from my personal network. In fact, six of my seven associate coaches came from my existing network of contacts.

Here’s a system you can use to generate leads from your existing network of relationships for promising associate coaches.

The challenge is that some of the best potential associate coaches out there aren't already business coaches! They're professionals and entrepreneurs engaged in other projects. They might not know enough about the business coaching industry to have considered it, even if they were born to do it.

Create a Profile for Your Ideal Coach

Your first step is to think about what kind of person you’d like to attract as an associate coach. Note that this is NOT the same as a “job description,” because the types of people you’re going to recruit may well not be looking for a new “job!”

Instead, this is about identifying the characteristics and experience of a person who will thrive as a business coach.

(Not sure what you should look for? Check out our FREE ebook, Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Business Coach? for the personality profile of top-performing coaches.)

Create a document on your firm’s letterhead outlining the top three to five characteristics you’re looking for in an associate coach.

Reach Out to Your Contacts

Then, make a list of up to twenty people who know, like, and trust you enough to answer “YES” to this question: “I am growing my business coaching firm by adding an associate coach and I need your help. Could you either meet me for lunch on Wednesday or give me a time when we can talk on the phone about how you can help me?”

Remember, people don’t like to refer but they do like to help. Therefore, ask for help!

Then, begin to reach out.

Once you have received an affirmative response, thank them and send them an email with your profile description. Ask them to review the document and begin thinking about it.

Brainstorm with Your Contact

When you meet, bring two copies of the profile description (don’t count on them to remember the one you sent) and a legal pad. Exchange pleasantries and thank them again for helping you. Then dive into the process immediately.

Since they know you’re asking for associate coach leads, they might have a couple of names for you—don’t take them! Your simple response is, “Thanks for that, but I wanted to simply brainstorm a bit. If you want to include those names when we are done, that’s great, but I want to explain the opportunity with you.”

You MUST emphasize that this is a brainstorming session—not simply a request for leads. Be sure they understand that you will not contact anyone from the brainstorming list unless they expressly give you permission. One particularly effective way to do this is to let them use first names only.

Begin by going through the profile description. Read each characteristic from the page, and ask, “Who do you know who…?”

Stop.  Hold your pen over the legal pad. Wait.

Jot down names as they recall people who fit that characteristic.

Move to the next question. Repeat this step for every point. Make a goal to get five names for each characteristic (remembering, of course, that some names will overlap). If they’re having trouble coming up with new people, it can help to provide gentle reminders, such as, “Can you think of anyone in the Rotary/Country Club/Chamber?”

Eliminate Names

If you do this effectively, you will now have a list of names—perhaps as many as 15-20!

Then, turn the list around to them. Tell them that you certainly don’t expect them to contact all of those people! Therefore, from a referral standpoint, ask them to list their top ten.

(What if there are fewer than ten names? Cut the list down by about half.  For example, if they have eight names, ask them for the top five.)

This process makes them comfortable because they are eliminating those that they would be uncomfortable to refer.

Now you have a referral list—but it doesn’t stop here. In fact, the fun now starts!

Starting with the last name on the list, ask “What’s wrong with John? Why is he #10 instead of #1?”

Whatever they say—for example, “I haven’t talked to him for a couple of years”—you say, “That’s OK, we’ll get rid of him.”  Make a bold slashing line through his name. GONE.

Do the same thing with #9… and so on…

…until they say, “STOP – the rest are good!”

This does two things: It literally makes them an advocate of the remainder names. Why? Because they have spent all that time brainstorming, and now you’re getting rid of their work!

And also, they came to help you; therefore, they want you to end up with some names!

Ask the Contact to Reach Out to Whoever Remains

Once you’ve narrowed the list down only to those they feel passionate about, ask them how they would like to introduce you to the referral. Give them three options: face to face, letter, or phone call.

They will pick the easiest (phone call), and that’s good—because that’s what you want!

Send them with the copy of your profile description so they can have some information for their call. Do a bit of coaching here. Tell them that the goal of their call is permission for you to reach out and subsequently meet with the referral. Get their agreement.

Follow Up with Your Warm Leads

Set a date to follow up with your contact in three or four days. Tell them you will simply be calling to gather the names of the referrals that gave you permission to call.  

Call them at the pre-arranged time and gather the details. For those that they have not yet contacted, encourage them and set another date to follow up.

At any point, they are free to not follow through. Tell them this. It eases the tension as well as challenges them (use the phrase, “It’s OK if you don’t follow through”—because everyone wants to be good at “follow through”).

Once you have the names of leads who have given you permission to call, reach out immediately with the referrer’s name on your lips, and take it from there!

This is a fantastic way to get introduced to potential rock star associate coaches that might not even know that coming to work for your firm is the next best step in their career!

For a done-for-you profile of the perfect associate coach, and more great tools and techniques like this, get a FREE 30-day trial of our entire business coaching system today.

Eric Dombach

About Eric Dombach

Eric Dombach is the Founder of Coaches’ Coach. In 2001, he founded a business coaching firm that, by 2005, was generating more than $1 million USD in revenue, 23% operating profit, and average annual growth rate of 140% per year. In 2005, he sold the firm to 4 of his employees for $1 million U.S. dollars, generating a return on capital of more than 800%. Since then he has trained more than 1,300 independent and franchise business coaches in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Australasian markets.