San Francisco Coach Exposes the Truth about Getting Referrals

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A referral-based business is the dream of every professional coach and consultant, yet it is often a long and daunting process to create a steady stream of referred clients. Discover the 4 major problems with relying on referrals and other marketing strategies you can use to build your consulting, coaching, training or speaking business.

Every entrepreneur and small business owner knows referrals are the holy grail of building your business, but most owners do not know where to find them or how to leverage them. According to Michelle Schubnel, a San Francisco personal coach and partner in the Business Building Center, there are four major problems with trying to build a referral-based business.

1. Referrals take a long time to cultivate. Over the last four years, Schubnel has dedicated her business to helping other professional coaches and consultants build thriving practices. “With the rapid growth of new coaches entering the field, many of them are not making it financially because they are relying too much on referrals,” says Schubnel, co-founder of the Business Building Center, a resource site centered on practice development for professional coaches. “Referrals often take months or years to cultivate which doesn't help new businesses just starting out.”

2. Referral sources generally only refer prospects to you if they know you can reciprocate. When approaching a potential referral partner, ask yourself the question, “What's in it for them?” Develop a compelling reason why they should refer their clients to you. Will you give them a referral fee or are you in a position to refer back to them? Be clear about your expectations and theirs.

3. Referral-based businesses require a large network of former clients and strategic alliances for it to work. “We have found less than 10% of all sources who promise to send prospects to you generally follow through and that’s why we emphasize other ways for professional coaches to build their business in the Business Building Center,” says co-founder Stephen Fairley. Most new coaches do not have an extensive client list they can draw from and depending on the type of coaching or consulting one does, Fairley reports there are 30 to 40 different possible strategic referral partners you can focus on.

4. Referrals are only one of several ways you should rely on to build your business. For his best-selling book, Getting Started in Personal and Executive Coaching (Wiley, 2003), Fairley surveyed over 300 professional coaches and found “the second best way to find new clients is through speaking.” He recommends targeting chambers of commerce, local networking groups, and trade associations. “Professional coaches and consultants are amazed when I tell them there are more than 100,000 trade associations in America and most of them have several meetings a year where they invite speakers to present. This is a prime opportunity make coaches are completely missing.”

In 2004, Schubnel and Fairley joined forces to create and launch the Business Building Center. Their goal is to make the Center the number one resource professional coaches turn to for information and action about how to start and build a thriving coaching practice. “The difference between information and action is the difference between failure and success,” Schubnel believes. “The purpose of the Business Building Center is to not only provide coaches with the tools to increase revenues, but also to help them take action.”

For more information on the Business Building Center, call 1-800-557-6173 or visit:

About the Business Building Center:

The Business Building Center is a joint partnership between Michelle Schubnel, the founder of Coach & Grow R.I.C.H., the largest practice building program for coaches in the US, and Stephen Fairley, president of Today's Leadership Coaching, and author of 9 books including, Getting Started in Personal and Executive Coaching (Wiley, 2003; ISBN: 0471426245), the number one best-selling book in the field of coaching in America, Canada, the UK, and Australia. In 2004, Stephen was named "America's Top Marketing Coach" by CoachVille, the world’s largest professional coaching association.

Contact Information:

Michelle Schubnel

Business Building Center



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