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Not All Clients are Good for Business

saying no

Not only do I coach individuals looking to get ahead in their careers, but I also coach other coaches and consultants (formally and informally) looking to expand their businesses. The number one question I get is, “What is the secret to building a booming client base?”

The secret lies in a simple two-letter word…”NO!”

If you’re considering career coaching or consulting as a profession, then you probably view everyone as a prospective client, right?  Wrong!  The sooner you realize that not all clients are good for your business, the faster your business can grow, and the more successful you can be. You want the “right” client, not just “any” client.

The vast majority of people that choose a profession in the “service” industry truly want to help others, and career coaches are no exception. There is an intense desire to be “the knight in shining armor” and rescue the “damsel in distress”.  We are deeply empathetic, compassionate, caring people that intuitively want to ease someone else’s pain, solve their problems, and help them live successful professional lives.

The problem is that the intense desire to help other people is often in direct conflict with operating a successful coaching business. Not all people that ask for help are ready to receive the help they need.  As a business professional, if your goal is to achieve a high level of success, then trying to help every potential client is killing your business.

If you hear endless excuses from a prospective client, you may want to think twice about signing the contract.  For example, “I don’t know anyone, how can I network”,  “That strategy may work for other people, but I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work for me”, “I can’t so anything towards my job search this week because my dog is sick”, or “I was a vice-president before, and I won’t even consider anything else!”

After more than 20 years in the career industry, and with nearly a 100% success rate, I had to learn how to say “no” to some people in dire need of career guidance, and how to say “yes” to those motivated individuals who were a much better fit for my coaching style and structure.

Here are the Top 10 Qualifying Questions to ask prospective clients in any industry to determine if they are a good match for your coaching or consulting process, prepared to step outside of their comfort zone, and motivated to achieve their goals.

  1. What are your goals?
  2. How long have you been trying to achieve those goals?
  3. What strategies or techniques have been the most successful?
  4. How far have you gotten in the process? Where have you gotten stuck?
  5. What have been the greatest challenges, obstacles, or roadblocks in your process?
  6. How have you achieved other goals in your life? On your own, with support, coaching?
  7. How do you handle rejection? Disappointment?  Failure?
  8. How well do you take direction, accept advice, and listen to constructive criticism?
  9. Do you complete tasks on time and operate with integrity?
  10. Are you open to change? 

The answers to these questions will tell you if a potential client is “coachable”, or is stuck in victim-mode, will monopolize all of your billable hours, and drain every ounce of energy.

Believe me; the old adage of “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” has never been more true than in the coaching process.

The first step to a successful career coaching practice is selecting and aligning with the right clients.

By saying “no” to a few prospective clients, you can say “yes” to a thriving, rewarding, and successful career coaching business.

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