How to break up with your clients gracefully
The time may come when you have to utter those five little words, “It’s not you, it’s me”. Here’s how to break up with clients gracefully.
My clients do as I do
It’s really interesting being a coach. Many times my clients reflect me and where I’m at on my journey. When I first started out in business I was unsure of myself, and that showed up in my journeys with clients. It wasn’t that they were unsure of me and my ability, just that they treated the process with unsureness. They may have moved appointments a few times or turned up late.
Another example is that of self- worth or belief. As I scaled the heights of self- belief, my clients tended to believe in their abilities more too. I tended to attract those who were genuinely as fearless or courageous as I was feeling at the time.
But what happens if you change mid process with someone? What happens if you ascend and they haven’t, just yet?
In these instances there is usually quite a mismatch in expectations. Your clients feel the shift and so do you, but who is going to be forthright enough to say, “This isn’t working out anymore”.
"This may not be someone you would like to work with in the future, but your integrity depends on their comfortable exit from the process."
Like intimate relationships, client relationships will not survive if you do not move or grow together. So what happens if we realise the dead horse can no longer be flogged?
I’m breaking up with you
Terminating a contract is never easy. These conversations are awkward at best, especially in the case of coach and coachee, where coaches are in a position of responsibility.
In all cases though, we need to ensure we let clients down gently.
If the client no longer aligns with you, it is important to own your feelings around this. Use ‘I’, always. Own your feelings. “I’m headed in a different direction and that means making some changes in my business”, as opposed to “you’re no longer a suitable client for me and you need to find someone else”.
And apologise – plainly and simply. Apologise that this inconveniences them, because it will.
Want more articles like this? Check out the business relationships section.
Do what’s right
If this is occurring at a time when the official contract isn’t up – do what’s right. If there is money to be refunded, refund it. If there’s still time to be given, give it. This may not be someone you would like to work with in the future, but your integrity depends on their comfortable exit from the process.
Don’t leave them hanging either. Ensure that you can suggest an alternative option. Is there another professional that may indeed suit them better? Direct your client and make it easy for them to find their feet again.
Be grateful… for something, anything.
Always find something positive that can be taken from the experience and thank the client for bringing that to you. Thank them for their custom, their time, or the learnings. This will not only help uncouple themselves from you but it will also help you understand that it wasn’t all bad.
What suggestions do you have for letting your clients down gracefully?