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When You Ignore Client Danger Signals

I knew better. My intuition was saying, “Don’t go there.”

But, I wanted so badly to help … to be of service … and I let my heart override my gut.

Just last month, I have this likeable prospective client come to me wanting to build his fairly new consulting business. He wants to do it via the strategy of speaking. That’s my specialty, so he seemed heaven sent.

I do a complimentary coaching session with him, as I always do with prospective clients. That’s the best way to get to know each other, see if you’re a good fit, and demonstrate to the client how you can help … if you truly think you can.

After our session together, it’s clear he’s unsure, struggling mightily with issues of belief and self confidence, and needs some time to think.  Holding true to the advice I give people around sales … as outlined in my two-part series, Tired of Not Knowing How to Sell I schedule a follow-up call.

Follow-up calls tend to run anywhere from 10 -15 minutes … sometimes 30.  But again, he’s really struggling with believing in himself and his business.  And you have to have a strong belief in yourself and your mission if you want to be successful.  So, I spend another full hour with him.

I want so much to help him.  I give him everything I can … emotional support, solid business advice, etc.  I even gift him with one of my CD Programs that deals specifically with believing in yourself.  He signs up for our upcoming Speaker’s Boot Camp, a group program at a lower level of investment.  We immediately send off the first module of the program, so he can be working on it before the start of the program.

Yea!  I’ve served the client and that feels good.  That’s what I like to do.  That’s what I was born to do.

Fast forward a few days.

What do you think happens next?

He backs out of the program and requests a refund!

Am I disappointed? Of course. Is it a surprise? Nope.

I’ve been coaching for 15 years, mainly business owners in the areas of sales, marketing, and speaking, and I know all the signs that I’m entering into a less than ideal relationship.

Let me tell you what those three main signals are, so you can learn from my experience:

  1. You’re working harder for his or her success than the prospective client is. You can actually feel this.
  2. You know the person in front of you isn’t your ideal client, but you convince yourself it’ll work out anyway.  For example, in my case, I work best with high achievers … high performers.  Even if they haven’t been successful in this new business venture they’re starting, they tend to be go-getters who’ve been successful in other areas of their life and they have a confident mindset that naturally breeds success. Where I can get into trouble is taking on clients who tend to be procrastinators or regularly lapse into a state of self-doubt.
  3. You really want to help.  It’s kind of ironic, but when your heart is crying out to help this client, because they so need what you have to offer, that’s a really clear sign that something isn’t right. You may be trying to rescue someone you like and want to help instead of doing what you normally do, which is help your clients help themselves.

There you have it … three unusual criteria you can use to separate clients who are a good match for you from those who aren’t.

Look, we all want to serve the people who come to us looking for help. And, sometimes the hard reality is you don’t serve them and you don’t serve yourself by offering to help.

We hate to say no. I get it. But you know what?  Every time I turn down a client because that person isn’t a match … the Universe rewards me with someone who is!

I’m betting it’ll reward you too.

Best Wishes,


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Meet Denise: Denise Hedges is a Business Development Coach and Speaker Coach for small business owners who want to be more comfortable, confident, and successful with their sales and marketing efforts. She specializes in helping them use speaking as a way to dramatically improve their results!