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Coaching intake session checklist - 6 essentials to be fully prepared

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Updated on:
December 12, 2022
December 12, 2022
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One of the most crucial phases of coaching is the intake process, which can also serve as the starting point for a long-lasting working relationship. This process not only serves to collect all the facts you need to analyze and help your client in a knowledgeable manner, you also need to make sure that your relationship will be enjoyable and productive.

While this first session can be challenging and hard to balance, there are several resources that can help you be fully prepared and guide you in determining how to go about it. We have prepared an excellent intake session checklist to walk you through these tools and give you actionable tips to put you on the right track.

Whether you are just getting started in your practice, or your business is already booming, you'll want to take a look and make sure you're not missing anything.

Note: Use Bonsai to enhance your onboarding process and get a head start before your first coaching session. We help you create professional and personalized intake forms that make a difference! Claim your 7-day free trial here.

6 Essentials to Ace Your Intake Coaching Session

An intake session is all about setting the stage; understanding your client's goals, history, and most importantly, managing expectations. At the same time you'll want to cover some administrative details and make sure there are no doubts left unresolved before your client agrees to work with you. Here are 6 essential elements you should incorporate to all of your intake coaching sessions to achieve this.

Implement Client Intake Forms

Client intake forms can be a powerful tool to understand your client's background and gain super useful insights for your first coaching session. A coaching client intake form is a set of strategic questions aimed to discover your client's challenges, concerns, motivations, interests and even learning style. You can use this information to plan out your first session so you can ensure it is productive and covers all the necessary topics.

This form usually covers from basic aspects such as name and contact information, to more deep and personal questions like asking your client to describe a painful situation they're dealing with. While some coaches opt for asking these questions in person (during the intake session), sending out a form ahead of time is far more effective and convenient as you will be prepared to ask follow-up questions to further understand your client's needs.

Note: Try Bonsai's intake form templates to easily create onboarding documents for new clients. You'll be able to customize and design professional looking forms, add your business logo, and manage all the documents in one place. Try a 7-day free trial today.

Have Your Paperwork Ready

Another huge advantage of sending out an intake form ahead of time is you can draft a coaching agreement or proposal to present to your client at the end of the first session. Your client might decide to sign up on-the-spot, or may ask for more time to think about it, but presenting your offer on the first session will give you many advantages; you can explain your packages in detail, answer any questions as they arise, and sell yourself better if you notice your client is not feeling it.

Keep in mind, if your intake form didn't gather enough information, or you didn't send one at all, it's best to wait until you're done with the intake session and send out a written coaching proposal within 1-3 days after. This way you will be sure you have all the information you need and you don't offer something you can't deliver.

Depending on the type of coaching services you are offering, you may also want to prepare disclosure forms such as an informed consent, social media policy or release of information form. These should be acknowledged and signed before you start the session especially if you're dealing with sensitive company information (usually for business and executive coaching).

Prepare Important Questions

The "correct" questions to ask during the intake session will depend on the issues your client is facing. Nevertheless, there are some questions that are helpful in almost every intake session, and you should incorporate them every single time. You want to make sure to always inquire about what the client wants to achieve from the coaching program (in short, medium and long term), and try to learn how they would like to be coached.

Of course, your intake form should give you a solid base to prepare a short but powerful questionnaire, but here are some examples to give you a better idea.

  • What brings you here?
  • Have you ever been part of a business/life coaching program?
  • What qualities would the ideal coach possess?
  • Describe your usual day.
  • What beneficial adjustments would you make to your life if you had a magic wand?
  • What outcomes are you hoping to get from the coaching program? How will you know when you're prepared to end?
  • What methods have you already tried to address the issue?
  • How can I help you through the process the most? What advice do you have for me?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

Write down all of your coaching questions and ensure you take note of their answers (while still listening actively so you don't make your clients feel uncomfortable).

Discuss Your Coaching Philosophy

You want to make sure your client is a good fit for you, but you also must ensure that you are the right fit for them. A great way to do this is by discussing your coaching philosophy during your intake session. Give them a thorough insight into your ideals, values and standards as well as the why and how you serve your clients. You can effectively do so by clearly defining the following:

  • What drives your desire to coach?
  • What kind of coach are you hoping to become?
  • What do I hope to accomplish with your clients?
  • Why are you a good fit for coaching?
  • Do you praise your client's greatness and will settle for nothing less?
  • Are you participating fully in each and every coaching session?
  • What type of client do you wish to work with?
  • What is your personal perspective on the process of change?
  • What values will you personally convey to each client?

This is a great way to allow your clients to determine whether or not their values align with yours and if they will feel comfortable moving forward.

Note: Customize one of Bonsai's pre-made coaching intake forms and save yourself a ton of time today. Our documents are easy to design and allows you to add all your coaching questions to send to clients. Try a 7-day free trial here.

Define Expectations

During your first coaching session, you'll want to clearly lay out the expectations for the client-coach relationship and discuss other important parts of the coaching process that must be agreed upon. For starters, it's important to clarify what coaching is and isn't, making it clear that it should not be considered/used in place of therapy, and that the client will be held accountable for their own actions.

Next, explain what they can expect from each meeting with you including the session structure and format, challenges that may come up along the way, what will be needed for the sessions (pens, paper, journals, etc...) and who will be responsible for providing it, as well as ground rules in case of a late or missed appointment. You can also go over your preferred methods of communication and what availability you expect to have in-between sessions.

Finally, clarify what you expect from your client during the coaching program. They should commit to stay open-minded, focused, and always communicate with honesty. Make sure your client understands that change won't come on its own and while you will be there to encourage and support them as much as possible, they must be prepared to take action and face the consequences.

Clarify Next Steps

Towards the end of the intake session, you should have a pretty good idea of whether or not you can help this new client, and if you are a good fit. This is where you can either present your proposal (if you drafted an appropriate one), and define what comes next. If your client agrees to work with you after this conversation, then you can move on to explaining whether they should expect a formal contract (highly advisable), as well as how and when they should make a payment (your pricing and payment terms should be specified on your proposal).

If your prospective client is still uncertain, and asks for more time, let them know when and how you will be following up. If you already presented your offer, give them a deadline to ensure your offer and prices are still valid. If you did not present an offer, let them know when they should expect your proposal and how they can go about scheduling the next session if they are interested.

Revamp Your Coaching Process With Bonsai

Hopefully this comprehensive intake session checklist has been of great help, and you were able to identify key elements you must add to your coaching process. If you need help, Bonsai's all-in-one product suite has tons of excellent administrative tools to get you further. You can use our fully-customizable coaching proposal and contract templates, client intake forms, as well as our complete invoicing software so you can seamlessly and accurately bill your clients.

Furthermore, our software for coaches can help you improve other aspects of your business with efficient time and task tracking tools, income and profit reports, tax estimates, payment processing and even a dedicated business checking bank account. Start your 7-day free trial today and join thousands of independent professionals who are already reaping these amazing benefits!

Try our pre-made and customizable coaching intake form here for free.
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