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What they REALLY mean when they say they can’t afford you

7408506410_715acb5f6fHave you ever had a dream session with a potential client and they say they’d love to work with you… but they can’t afford you? Or they’d love to begin coaching… and then you never hear from them again?

Following on from my last post about the three types of decisions potential clients have to make I recently referred a coach I know to a high-performer at one of the top fifty Fortune 500 Companies. He wanted coaching on starting a new career running a non-profit and they set up an initial conversation. The coach rang me later to thank me for the referral. He’s an ideal client, she told me. She explained they’d had a good conversation and yet she had received no response to his emails or text messages since then.

So I called the guy and discussed things with him and I discovered why he wasn’t ready to move forward. Counterintuitively it was because he was afraid that the coach will help him to get everything he wants!

I spent some time in conversation with him and dug down deep to discover that he has a range of commitments that compete with his professed desire to seek a new career. He doesn’t want to leave his company and miss out on making a ton of money that can support his family. He doesn’t want to quit his job and discover he can’t succeed in the non-profit world. He doesn’t want to leave the lifestyle he has. He doesn’t want to leave a job where most of the time he has complete freedom to do whatever he wants. He doesn’t want to start a new job with such high demands that he can’t spend time with his kids. And the list went on…

In fact he felt relieved when he listed all these competing commitments to me. Because he’s been judging himself as lazy and unmotivated for the past few years. And he said, if I hired a coach I am afraid I would leave and these things might come true.

The status quo is powerful and too many coaches, just like this one, jump straight to third decision behaviors before really exploring every aspect of the competing commitments and biggest fears of their potential client. And that’s a tragedy because it undermines the impact of coaching and it leaves people without the support to make the changes they truly desire—or to understand why they are not making them.

* * *

In a world that is so fast-moving we invented speed-dating, speed-dialing and speed-reading, when you are willing to really slow down your client intake sessions you will stand out from the crowd. When you slow down long enough to discover whether or not the person you are with really wants to change, you can serve them powerfully. And when you serve the person in front of you with that kind of impact, you will become one of those rare coaches who helps their clients be more powerful than the status quo. And that is life-changing. For them and for you.


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