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Need To Turn Down A Potential Client? Nine Ways To Do It Tactfully

Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Forbes Source:

Getting a new lead for a coaching client is always exciting. Unfortunately, that excitement doesn’t always last; you may find after an initial conversation that the dynamic between you and this person simply won’t work, and to pursue a coaching relationship would be a waste of time for both of you.

If you’ve never turned a potential client down before, you may be concerned about how to handle this delicate situation. It’s wise to be honest about why it won’t work, but you don’t want to upset the person and risk damaging your reputation. We asked nine members of Forbes Coaches Council for their advice on tactfully steering a potential client in another direction.

1. Frame Your Initial Consultation With An 'If' Statement

Not everyone is a fit for our coaching, and we shouldn't expect that to be the case. The easiest way to tactfully deny someone your services is by framing your discovery call at the very beginning. Use verbiage like, "Once we uncover your issues, I will assess if I am able to help, or if I can steer you in the right direction." If you determine they are not a match, live up to this promise. - Tyron Giuliani, Selling Made Social

2. Restate Their Needs To Show Your Understanding

Being ready to engage a coach creates a sense of urgency, especially when they think they have found the one. If they are not a fit for me, I restate back to them what I understood their needs to be, and once they confirm, I let them know it does not align with the sweet spot of work that fulfills me or that I am great at. Confirming their needs lets them know I understand what they are seeking. - Lesha Reese, Lesha Reese, LLC

3. Explain Why You Aren't A Fit For Them

If a client has come to you, it’s because they need or want help in reaching their goals. That is our core business as coaches: to help clients reach their goals. If I feel that I am not the best person to do that, I am very honest and tell them why I feel I’m not the best fit. I then refer them to other coaches in my network who would be better able to help them reach their goals. - Rose Cartolari, Rose Cartolari Consulting

4. Tell Them You Don't Have The Capacity

The blessing of successful consultants is that you are in high demand. That means you cannot help everyone. The indirect way to turn people away is through your price point. People might not be able to afford you, though they need your services. The direct way is to simply tell them the truth: You don't have the capacity to do so but can recommend someone who might be able to help. - Rubi Ho, The Rubi Ho Group

5. Show Them You Care About What's Best For Their Needs

Articulate that you care about the client and that you want them to get the most out of the coaching experience. Share what insights or intuition you have that is bringing forward the question of whether you are the best coach to help them achieve their goals. Being candid from a perspective of caring will leave you and the client with a positive experience, even if it means you part ways. - Amy Douglas, Spark Coaching, LLC

6. Lay Out Your Coaching Model And Show How It Doesn't Align

I put it out there from the start -- both the client and I are exploring whether we would be a good fit for each other in our first conversation. Sometimes, a coach's approach may not be aligned with how a client learns best. In my 10-plus years of practice, I have had to tell two clients that I thought my model would not serve them as well as a model more aligned with their learning style. - Karyn Gallant, Gallant Consulting Group

7. Offer Some Free Advice As You Part Ways

Trying to keep a client who is not a good fit never ends well. Time is your most valuable asset, so you must allocate it appropriately. When you realize a client is not a good fit, simply tell them so. Sometimes clients are really looking for advice and not coaching, in which case I offer them some helpful advice as we part ways. So, everyone wins. - Donald Hatter, Donald Hatter Inc.

8. Always Offer An Alternative Route

It can be a sensitive situation, and the last thing you want to do is make the person feel rejected. The first step is to explain why it's not a great fit, and the second step is to offer a solution. Whether that's referring to another coach or suggesting an alternative, like a masterclass, group coaching or mastermind scenario, always offer an alternative route for the person to research. - Niya Allen-Vatel, NCRW, CCTC, CCM, Career Global

9. Build A Referral Bank For Easy Introductions

To respect the client's needs and your own, it's helpful to make another coaching recommendation if you feel you aren't a good fit based on timing, field of interest, personal workload, client goals or background. I like to have a bank of other career coaches available, check with them on their willingness to accept a new client, then make an introduction to the client for a strong, relevant relationship. - Joanne Markow, GreenMason

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