10 Proven Ways to Retain Your Coaching Clients (Longer) with Pam Lippitt
Coaches have a love-hate relationship with the topic of retention.
My financial advisor coach shared with me from the beginning that it is our job to retain clients for years, not months. While we all work with our clients on retention strategies in their business, we don’t consciously acknowledge our own need to work on strategies to improve our own retention efforts.
Therefore, I’m sharing with you the 10 Proven Ways to Retain Your Coaching Clients (Longer).
1. Find your fees
While some may suggest that “finding your fees” is more related to landing the client than retaining the client, I suggest that it is important in both stages of the coaching process. As you coach the client to build their business via the strategies and tactics you’ve helped them identify be sure to “check-in” regularly on finances. Relating their activity to supporting the improvement of their financial situation helps them to justify your ongoing fees and to keep “you” a trusted advisor looking out for their best interest.
When a program you are working on achieves the desired monetary result, do not be shy about pointing that out to the client. Don’t assume that they make the connection between working with you and realizing the financial rewards. Often that financial result is one that “pays” for months of your coaching fees. There is nothing wrong with pointing that out to a client, so they feel great about the amount of money they are paying you… and wish to continue to do so.
2. Schedule “working on” their business into their schedule
One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen throughout my coaching career is the client’s lack of scheduling their time. They’ll do their “to-do list”, they jump in to help/resolve the crisis du jour, but they don’t properly plan time to work “on” the business. The time you help them find in their schedule to work “on” the business needs to be chosen by them. The day(s), time(s) of day, length of time will only work if it’s their commitment.
Building a regular day/time into their schedule will help ensure they stick to the commitment. I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the importance of identifying (with them) what it is they’ll be working on during the scheduled time. The task they need to start, work on or complete should also be written into their schedule. Otherwise, this time turns into whatever item is easiest for them to scratch off their to-do list. And we all know the easiest item tends to be the items that aren’t going to have the biggest impact on their business.
3. Do Quarterly Action Plans by setting expectations for the longevity of the agreement
90-day action plans keep the experience of hiring a coach fresh, new and necessary for the client. As you grow closer to the end of the 90 days you commit a session or a good part of a session to planning out the next 90 days…as my coach has shared with me in the past, don’t ask for permission…just do your job. Include any projects that need further work to accomplish as well as adding new goals, new strategies, and new action steps. By continuing to give birth to new plans, the client is continuously invigorated and excited to continue to work with you.
4. Connect with the client’s on a personal level…identify their “why” and keep reminding them of it
I can’t stress it enough, when they can relate their “why” to working “on” versus “in” their business, a true transformation begins to occur. They find the strength to commit and execute the effort it will take to reach their goals.
Why is it important that they grow their business, that they make a certain amount of profit or save a certain amount of money? One thing for sure… their “why” is not a dollar amount… at least not in the absolute. It is about what that amount of money will allow them to do. Keeping their “why” in regular discussions helps to ensure they connect the coaching to moving them closer to achieving their “why” and their need to retain you as their coach.
5. Don’t over-rely on communicating via emails and texts…connect in-person, or on the phone
While unlimited access is unrealistic (after all, we’re their coach, not an employee), a balance needs to be identified. There are times our clients need a bit more than an email or text response. I suggest having them jump on your Time Trade or similar scheduling tool and grabbing a 15-minute slot.
A discussion during the onboarding process as to your availability and how you are willing to work outside the normal coaching session set the appropriate expectations and boundaries. Sharing examples of emergencies for on-demand meetings or calls helps the client to understand the difference between issues that need to be shared now versus those that can wait. Access builds trust and need which helps maintain longer engagements.
6. Share articles and news with a client throughout your engagement.
The quickest way to create a “wow” for your clients is to share relevant material about their business, their competitors and best practices. This shows that you are thinking about them and their business outside of the scheduled coaching sessions.
As coaches, we are regularly reading materials that help us grow and in turn, can often help our clients. Providing them with educational material often helps them to achieve a goal they rarely have to time to accomplish… and that is learning how to improve their skill set as a business owner. Also, understand whether some materials may be better shared in audio form.
Helping client’s utilize their commute and exercise time with business building audiobooks and podcasts shows them how multi-tasking time can be useful in growing their business. These resources are often shared with their employees and you as the coach begin to see improvement from multiple levels of the organization. Once again, helping to justify your client’s need for your services.
7. Celebrate small successes
Ok, let’s agree, we probably point out these accomplishments but we don’t necessarily celebrate them with our clients. Most clients are quick to dismiss smaller successes. That doesn’t mean that you should. As we think back to childhood, small accomplishments were acknowledged with stickers, a trip to the toy store and as we got older, money. Whatever that celebration was, we saw there was a positive acknowledgment of our hard work and our stick-to-itiveness.
Why does that have to stop? It shouldn’t! At a minimum, you should acknowledge their success. Helping your client to identify ahead of time what the celebration looks like once they accomplish the goal, will help to ensure they reward themselves with something as small as a message to a dinner out with their spouse. Small successes help to keep your client moving forward towards their bigger goals and it provides another opportunity for them to see the value in your service.
8. Don’t rely on contracts to retain clients
Consider a six-month “handshake agreement” and then go month-to-month it keeps you hungry and from taking your clients for granted. Having clients sign a contract/agreement is a touchy subject among coaches. Do you really want them to have to engage an attorney to review your agreement prior to working with you? Also, unless you engage legal counsel yourself, how likely are you to enforce the contract/agreement. The answer is… you’re not! Instead, I ask my clients for a six-month commitment, and then I go month-to-month. Prospects really like it when I tell them that after six months, I am only as good as my last month of coaching with them.
I also set the correct expectations from the get-go. I tell prospects that the first 30 days will focus on the further development of a plan, months 2-3 will focus on implementation and that they will begin to see significant improvements in month 4. Therefore, setting realistic expectations upfront will help ensure a client stays with you longer. In most cases, no real results are realized until approximately 4 months into an engagement.
I often see short-term success on the low hanging fruit before then, but it’s the larger goals that require multiple steps to accomplish and therefore take longer for results to be realized. Identifying this timetable and sticking closely to the agreed upon goals will also identify a continued need for your services.
9.Recurring billing vs monthly invoicing
This may sound frivolous and many of you are asking yourself why would she even bring this up? Well, we need to demonstrate good business practices and run our business as a “business” so our client’s see success in real time. How often have you worked with client’s that are behind on billing? If we are not timely in our billing, we end up hurting both our client’s cash flow as well as our own.
Getting behind in billing also gives the client’s an opportunity to question whether they believe our services are still necessary. With recurring billing, the client works our fees into their budget and an automatic withdraw occurs. Out of sight-out of mind. You are once again coaching for another month.
10. Keep the coaching about your client’s goals/agenda, not yours
Over time, our years of experience can sometimes get in our way. We subconsciously see the potential in a client and/or their business and we often push them beyond their own goals. When a client begins to recognize the coach’s agenda versus their own, we are likely working our way to losing a client.
It’s extremely important that we constantly read the client, their aspirations, their capabilities and acknowledge their “why”. In turn, this will help ensure they are committed to their goals and you are understood to be the catalyst that will help them achieve that success.
About Pam Lippitt
Pam Lippitt is a business breakthrough strategist and rainmaker specialist with The Next Level Business Coaching in Greenwood Village, CO. She graduated from Ithaca College and had a successful career at NYC and Baltimore advertising agencies. Pam also did a stint as the Director of Business Development for a start-up and has spent the last 9 years as a successful business coach. Pam can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 720-384-4564.