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Why Your Client Drops Out of the Coaching Process—and How to Prevent It

Last updated on September 15, 2023

One of the most difficult challenges for any coach is how to deal with a client who drops out midway through the coaching process. Your client may be upfront and tell you they are dropping out, but more commonly, they suddenly ghost you, fail to book, or show up for their next session. 

There are many reasons why a client might want to stop their coaching programme: it might be about you, the programme, or something else entirely unrelated to you. 

Here are some of the most common reasons clients drop out and how you can prevent it from happening.

Poor admin and systems

Having a seamless, simple process to onboard and manage the communication and logistics of your coaching is essential. If it’s complex, clunky, or has errors that cause confusion, your client might just file it in their “too hard” tray. 

Remember coaching itself often brings up emotional issues, which means that your clients are often in a stressed or unresourceful state. So your admin needs to be as simple, streamlined, and straightforward as possible.

Make processes like booking, accessing materials, and communications as simple and straightforward as possible. 

If this isn’t your area of expertise, get a VA for a few hours a week to set up and manage this. 

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Your onboarding process should make it clear where clients need to go to get their questions answered. Have a system for ensuring their questions get answered quickly.  

Automate what you can, and delegate the rest so you and your client can focus on the coaching and getting the results they came for. 

Not getting results as expected

We’ve all had the client who wants to set the goal of being a billionaire by the end of the week, or similarly unrealistic expectations. 

In the early stages of the programme where goals and outcomes are stated, you need to be clear about what is and isn’t realistic. Of course, what’s possible varies from client to client, so there needs to be a discussion about this. If at any point you have doubts that they can achieve what they want or that you can coach them to achieve that, then it’s probably better for everyone if you don’t take them on as a client, or you refer them to another coach.

If you continue to work with a client who sets outcomes that are unrealistic, when they fail to achieve them, they will drop out.

Assuming the goals are realistic and you have confidence and a track record of assisting others to achieve similar outcomes, you need to be clear with your client that progress is not linear.

Managing expectations upfront during the onboarding process is key to preventing future disappointment. It’s also your best defence should the client raise the issue during your work together. 

Never in the history of anyone achieving anything big or new, did the person decide to achieve a goal, take action, and then get it. There is always struggle, and it’s important you frame this at the beginning. Let clients know that struggle and frustration is part of the process, not the process of failing. 

Managing expectations upfront during the onboarding process is key.

As your client moves through the programme, continue to educate them about the realistic timeline and potential challenges they may encounter. Be sure to celebrate all wins and progress along the way to keep clients motivated and engaged.

Solid contracts

It’s not always easy balancing the needs and boundaries of your business with the needs of your client. When coupled with your compassion and desire to help your clients, this means a good coaching business needs solid terms and conditions. Coaching is a contract and one that needs to be legally binding. Having this in place can help keep a client engaged.

Obviously, no terms can force someone to continue with the coaching process, but terms that clearly state that clients have to pay even if they don’t participate can be the incentive needed to keep them in the programme. If you’re good at your job, you’ll be able to coach them through whatever came up that triggered the desire to drop out. A solid contract will also protect you if they unjustifiably request a refund. 

Change of circumstances

A client’s circumstances can change in a myriad of ways: losing or changing their job; getting a promotion; changes in a family, relationship, or living situation; or moving house. These things all take a lot of the time and attention away from the coaching process and the goals you’ve previously set together. It may be that those goals are no longer relevant to them, at least in the short term, whilst they navigate their life changes. 

A way to prevent trouble in this area is to discuss it during intake. Alert clients that it’s not uncommon for circumstances and situations to change, and when this happens, this is an opportunity to use their coaching time to support them through the changes. 

With some clients, it might be appropriate to offer options such as a pause in the program, or a redirection of the program. Offer them the option to change the schedule and timing of calls to accommodate the new circumstances. 

It’s a common belief that when a lot is going on, it’s time to back away from coaching, but in fact, it’s a time when clients need you as their coach the most. Let your client know you’re here for them during this difficult time, and reassure them that they are in the right place to get the support they need. 

Wrong approach or poor coaching

It would be remiss of me not to mention the elephant that lurks in many coaching rooms, but if there’s a pattern and clients dropping out is common, then maybe it’s time to review your approach or skills. Coaching styles and methodologies vary widely, and not all clients resonate with every approach. 

If clients feel the approach is wrong for them or something is out of alignment, they are likely to drop out. 

You can avoid this by being flexible in your approaches. The more methodologies and skill sets you have in your coaching toolbox, the more flexible, adaptable, and unstoppable you will be at getting your clients the results they need. 

Client resistance 

That resistance will show up at some point is a given. In a sense, the purpose of coaching is to support and guide your client through resistance to their goals. Resistance is the reason your client hasn’t achieved their desires yet. 

This is why they need you and your coaching programme. 

Resistance can show up in many forms that might mask what’s really going on. This can look like boredom, a sudden desire to change direction, frustration, or looping around the same story or issue. 

There are many causes for resistance; having a fixed rather than growth mindset, lack of self-belief and confidence, low self-esteem, and even past trauma will block a client’s progress. These usually show up as emotions they will feel and express. 

Having a solid methodology for removing resistance and blocks to success so you can guide your clients to their outcomes is essential for your success as a coach. If you don’t have a means to handle this, you’re left with the blunt instrument of willpower and accountability, and this will limit your own success.

There are many methodologies that are not usually considered part of traditional coaching but that can powerfully move your client beyond their limitations to become unstoppable and powerful.  

Don’t take it personally

Coaches usually become coaches because they are passionate about helping others. It’s not uncommon for a coach to be more invested in their client’s success than their client is. It’s okay if this is you; it just means you care, and that’s likely what makes you so damn good at your job. 

Just take a moment to protect your own self-esteem by not internalising any rejection of your coaching as a rejection of you. 

Choosing to be a coach is a high and worthy calling. It’s not always easy, so be kind to yourself. If your client drops out, take some time to work out what you might incorporate in your practice going forward, dust yourself off, and go get more clients. 

By proactively addressing these potential challenges, coaches can foster a supportive and empowering coaching environment that reduces the likelihood of clients dropping out and enhances their overall coaching experience.

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Lisa Turner - CETFreedom - Guest Author
Lisa Turner

Dr. Lisa Turner is the creator of Conscious Emotional Transformation (CET) coaching. Her CETfreedom approach combines neuroscience, mindfulness, and coaching to develop conscious leaders who use their emotions as a power source. Dr. Turner invites you to learn how to harness your unique Celestial Power to calm your mind, regulate your emotions and meet life’s challenges with strength and confidence. Take the test here.

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