3 Ways to Identify Clients From Hell Before it's Too Late

Feb 08, 2022

If you haven't ever had a client from hell before, you probably want to do everything in your power to keep it that way. And if you have worked with a client from hell before, you'd probably like to avoid that experience moving forward.

In this episode, I talk about three key ways to identify clients from hell before it's too late, including...

  • The different reasons that make someone a nightmare client
  • Whose responsibility it is to make sure a prospect is a good fit (spoiler alert: it's yours)
  • What happens when you work only with your ideal clients and dream clients
  • How to spot a nightmare client from a mile away

Today's topic is all about how to identify clients from hell before it's too late. This is such a real problem because you are excited to make a sale, you're really excited to bring on a new client, but once you end up actually starting to work with that client, you start to realize that they're not such a good fit after all, and you start to wish that you had caught on to that earlier, and you start beating yourself up for taking on someone who was honestly not a good client. 

Maybe they're not a good fit because they're just resistant to change in general, or maybe they're resistant to your coaching or feedback or really taking any advice in general. Maybe they're challenging everything you say and not really thinking about any of your advice or feedback. Maybe they're just, for whatever reason, not willing to do the work, which is something that's going to kill your client success rate right there. If you're bringing on clients who just aren't willing to do the work, well, you're not going to have a ton of success. 

Maybe they're not in a place where they have enough time to really do the work and dedicate to the coaching process. Because even if they have time to show up for your weekly sessions, we all know that the real magic of coaching is what happens between those sessions, and if they don't have the time to do that work in between sessions, again, they're not going to have great results, and it's just not going to be fun for anyone involved. 

Lastly, one of the big issues that comes up, in this case, is maybe they're dealing with an entirely different set of issues than you initially thought. For example, say that your specialty is in helping your clients solve Problem B, and once you start working with a new client, you start to realize that, really, the problem they have is Problem A, and Problem A needs to be solved before Problem B can be solved, so they're not in a place where they need what you have to offer, because they need something that's maybe a little bit more foundational. 

And the reverse can also be true. Perhaps they need something that's a little bit more advanced, and what you're offering is a little bit more foundational. But no matter what the reason is, no matter why it's not a good fit, it is your responsibility to do everything you can to make sure a prospect is a good fit before starting to work with them. Now, less-than-ideal clients will always slip through the cracks, but you still want to make sure that the people that you're bringing on as clients are actually really good fits. When you do that, your clients are going to get way better results overall, you avoid awkward and unnecessary contract terminations, you just have overall more satisfied clients, and everyone has a lot more fun. Everyone enjoys the coaching process a lot more—both the coach and the client—because it doesn't feel like this constant battle between the two of you. 

Today, I have three ways to identify these clients from hell before you even bring them on as clients, and these three things are really quite important. The first is to make sure you're asking the right questions, whether you're asking questions in a pre-qualification form or on the discovery call itself, you want to make sure that you're asking the right questions to get the most accurate and best information possible. For example, instead of asking, “Do you have enough time to commit to this process?” ask, “How much time each week do you have to commit to this process?” Those are two very different questions, because while the former asks for the prospect to make a judgment call on whether they have enough time, the latter actually asks for a concrete number of hours so that you, the coach, can make the call based on their answer. You really want to be asking questions that give you that full picture of a prospect’s situation and, honestly, coachability. 

The second is to identify your red flags. What I mean by this is that if you've already worked with clients who were not a good fit, first identify why they weren't a good fit. Is it because they were argumentative or resistant, or they didn't do the work, whatever those reasons might be. Then, think back to before you brought them on as a client. Were there any red flags that you might have missed during the strategy session, or in that pre-qualification form, or even just in emails and messages going back and forth? If so, know what those are, and then look out for those same red flags in the future. 

For example, for me, a prospect who talks about everything they've already tried to solve the issue at hand, but also offloads the problem and offloads the blame to a previous coach, a previous strategy, or whatever, they're blaming someone else, that's a red flag for me. It indicates that they're not really taking responsibility for their problem, whether or not it's their fault, so they're not taking responsibility for fixing it. Again, for me, that's a huge red flag. If I start to hear a prospect talking about that in a form, an email, a message, or on a call, that makes me a little bit concerned that they're not a good fit. 

The third tip I'll share with you today is to really figure out and get clear on your non-negotiables—what qualities are non-negotiable for you to have in a client, and which qualities are ideal but a little bit more negotiable, you have a little bit more flexibility on those. Figure out what you absolutely want and need in a client, figure out what you want but maybe don't need in a client, and get clear on those non-negotiables. And stick to them. 

At the end of the day, it's really important to remember that when you have a prospect who is willing and ready to give you their credit card number and to start working with you, that is not enough to qualify them or to make them a good client. Even if you have an inbound lead who comes up to you and says, “Hey, I want to work with you. Here's my credit card number. Let's get started,” it's always a good idea to backtrack a little bit and still make them go through your normal sales process, and have a regular discovery call like you will have with any other prospect, because that is such an important time for you to be gathering really, really useful information about your prospect, to see if they are, in fact, a good fit and to see if you even want their credit card number in the first place. 

With that, we will go ahead and wrap up today's episode with the lesson that you don't have to work with problem clients or with clients from hell. In fact, you shouldn't, and when you are really intentional about the clients that you do or do not bring on, you create a much more sustainable and healthy coaching practice that, honestly, you're going to enjoy more, and your clients are going to get better results.

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