Kim got a new client in her small but growing coaching practice and was thrilled to finally have more business. She stated her rates and terms to which the new client agreed and then Kim set up a time for the initial phone session with the client the following week.
Within a couple days, Kim got an email in which the client attempted to renegotiate the terms of their agreement…it really wasn’t a request, it was more like a matter-of-fact demand. In essence, it was: “I thought about it and here is what I need instead”. After reading this, Kim senses that there wasn’t a misunderstanding, that this may be her prospect’s personality.
Nonetheless, Kim was surprised…it had all started off on a good note. Now Kim is torn between “I need the business” and “I really don’t want to work with someone like her.”
My advice on how to handle this difficult moment:
1. If your relationship starts this way even before the first call, it will most likely not get better than this. People usually go through a honeymoon phase with a helping or healing solo-professional…the client thinks that the solo-professional is the answer to her problem, she is grateful and all is right with the world. Very few if any demands are placed on the professional.
In time, a more realistic picture is formed and the client sees that the relationship between the professional and the client is a reciprocal one in which change happens as a result of both their efforts. Then, the client may begin to give feedback, suggest modifications or ask for changes.
If this is how your prospective client is starting off, I don’t see this translating into a cooperative coaching experience.
2. Do you have a policies and procedures agreement and did you give it to your client before she decided to work with you? This can also include a fact sheet on what to expect from coaching. If you don’t have an agreement written up or a fact sheet, please create them. The client may not have known what to expect or that she couldn’t change the terms of the agreement.
You also have to understand that people can ask for whatever they want; you just have to be certain of your boundaries and limits and enforce them in response to the requests.
3. Give your prospective client the benefit of the doubt. Email the client and let her know in a firm but supportive way that her new terms are not in accordance with your policies and procedures. She will either understand and comply whereupon you can start to work together or she will not budge and you will have to write her a diplomatic “goodbye and good luck” email.
A Word of Caution:
If you are thinking about giving in to her demand because you need the money and are still thinking about taking her on as a client, ask yourself “Do I really want a practice full of these kinds of clients?” Lowering your standards once usually leads to doing it again.
Here’s some things to do for the long-term:
If you don’t have one already, get a policies and procedures agreement in place as well as a fact sheet
Get a crystal-clear clear picture of who your ideal client is
Make sure you are tracking where your prospects are coming from. Maybe the referral source from where you found your prospective client is not where you should be looking for prospects. Determine where your ideal client most likely would be found.