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Win the Feast or Famine Battle in Your Coaching Practice with Mike McMahon

by | In the Magazine, Mike McMahon | 0 comments

If you’ve been a coach for any length of time at all I’m sure you’ve gone from being completely full to almost out of clients. Sometimes it seems like it happens in a matter of days.

Some coaches I work with tell me they have struggled with this “up and down cycle” over and over during their entire coaching career. In many cases, this is a problem that has spanned decades. Maybe you can relate.

Other people I’ve talked to have told me that is exactly why they got out of coaching. The huge swings in income and the uncertainty of their situation was more stress than they wanted in their life.

A coach I worked with in the past recently sent me an urgent email asking if we could jump on a call. I got the impression from the email that he was frustrated. I reached out and set a time to talk.

For the purposes of this article, I’ve changed his name to Bob out of respect for him and his privacy. You may know him since he’s prominent in the business coaching world.

The other reason I changed his name is that I have a strict confidentiality agreement with all my clients. What we work on together stays between us. I am sure you do the same with your clients.

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, I have his permission to share this. We both know many coaches have similar struggles and we agreed this could be helpful.

When the call started I could hear the pain and frustration in his voice. He sounded discouraged and quite frankly – beaten.

“I’m so frustrated I’m ready to give up and just get a job!” said Bob. (The very creative name I came up with. 😉)

“What are you talking about? I thought your coaching practice was going great!” I said.

There was a pause. I could feel the tension in Bob’s voice as he said, “It was going great, but now I can barely cover my overhead. It never fails. No sooner do I fill my practice I start to lose clients.”

I knew that was hard for him to admit “Tell me what happened and don’t leave anything out,” I said.

Bob took a moment to collect his thoughts and then proceeded to explain to me that he had filled up his practice with higher paying clients just like I had shown him and things were great. In fact, he said “I was helping people and actually making more than twice what I had ever made before. It was so good I didn’t think it could get any better.

But then I started losing clients. One stopped working with me mostly because we had achieved all their goals and they just wanted to take a break for a while and enjoy what we had accomplished. Another one stopped because his partner bought him out of the business and the partner that kept the business felt like he could do it on his own. I lost another client because they got divorced and closed their business. In no time at all, I was down to only having a couple of clients left.”

I said “Bob, we talked about how some clients will stay with you and some won’t which is why you always need to be prospecting. What happened to your prospect list?”

“Well, once I was full and things were going so great I didn’t see the need to keep prospecting. When I lost the first client I was disappointed in one way but in another, I was relieved because I had so many clients I was a little overwhelmed. So I didn’t do anything to get a new client,” said Bob.

“What did you do when you got a notice from the next client?” I asked.

Bob said “Nothing right away. I had been thinking about taking a vacation so I figured I would work on prospecting once I got back. I guess the real problem started when I didn’t go on vacation for more than a month after that. By then I had another client cancel.”

“So, after you got back from vacation is that when you started prospecting for new clients again?” I asked.

“Well, I went to a chamber meeting and visited a BNI group in my area. I did manage to set up two strategy sessions but I didn’t sign up either one of them as clients” said Bob.

I asked, “Were they your ideal client and could you have helped them?”

Bob’s frustration was obvious as he said “Yes, they both were my ideal clients. In the past, I would have enrolled them both. Instead, each one of them told me they wanted to think about it. I just did another strategy session and I got the exact same response. I’m back down to three clients and if I don’t start getting new clients soon I’m afraid I will have to get a job.”

“I know it’s frustrating but I want you to think about the training we did. Do you remember what we talked about in the training about why you get the “I want to think about it” objection?” I asked.

“Yes, it’s almost always because we don’t uncover their real pain or cost of inaction,” Bob said.

“Is that what happened?” I asked.

Bob thought for a moment and then said “Now that I think about it, I didn’t find out what their real issues were. I spent most of the time telling them about how great my program was and what we would do during each session.”

Rather than give you a word for word recount of the rest of our conversation let me just sum it up by explaining that all objections come from your presentation. Now let me tell you what to do about it.

Bob did what most coaches and consultants do, he shut off his prospecting and before he knew it he was in dire straits. Perhaps you can relate.

Maybe you just hate to prospect so you only do it when you absolutely have to. The problem with turning your prospecting process on and off is that you get rusty just like Bob did and you miss enrolling clients you would normally enroll.

The thing to understand here is while you may miss out on getting a client the prospect loses the chance to get a coach that can help them. Even worse, it may be the only time they were willing to seek help so when you don’t help them see their real need and they don’t enroll they may end up failing at business or whatever it is you could have helped them with. I truly believe you owe it to them to stay at the top of your game.

Let’s break down Bob’s situation and see what he could have been doing differently.

Bob had three problems we’re going to take a look at.

  • He had stopped prospecting
  • He didn’t uncover what the prospect’s real needs are
  • His strategy session was all about him

Having a steady income in coaching and consulting is a direct result of your prospecting machine. I call it a machine because it should run with predictable results. If you have your machine set up properly you always have people at various stages of the buying cycle. That way, when you do get a notice from a client, you have a prospect that’s ready to take the next step.

While you can turn the machine off any time you want, it’s better to keep it running.

Even if your practice is full I recommend you continue to do a few strategy sessions every week. This keeps you at the top of your game and if you really get swamped with new clients, you can always hand off those clients to another coach and take a share of the fee. Now you’re building up a passive income stream that you can scale up as you like.

You can always put qualified 1-on-1 prospects on your waiting list and while they’re on that list put them in your group program.

One of the great benefits to having a group coaching program is your ability to scale the group without having to invest a whole lot of additional time on your part. Plus you build up a nice residual income. You will find over time that your best 1-on-1 clients come from your group. When you’re always prospecting you will never run out of clients and your group will continue to grow.

By having a waiting list you’re creating a sense of scarcity for your time which is exactly what you want. Ask yourself this, “Who would a prospect want to do business with more? A successful coach that’s so busy they have a waiting list or a coach that has so much availability they will take on anyone as a client?”

Of course, it’s the coach with the waiting list. So do yourself a favor and put a waiting list in place right now.

One of the coaches I know only works with 3 clients at a time. He charges $125,000 per year and they agree in advance to a 3-year coaching agreement. He is always full and he has a 2 – 3 year waiting list. So the sky is the limit. You can charge whatever you want as long as the transformation you deliver is worth it to your clients.

While we’re talking about a waiting list I want to talk about how you structure your programs so your prospects see you as the expert.

Think of your practice as levels of access. Each level a client goes up on your program ladder they have greater access to you. For example, in addition to the coaching or consulting you give, your highest level clients might have your cell phone number and be able to call you with a question (during normal business hours of course.)

Group members would only have access to you on a group call… in the chat area of your membership site… or a group you set up on Facebook. In other words, they have the lowest amount of direct access to you.

If you choose to do high-end coaching and consulting which I recommend, you probably don’t want more than 10 clients at a time. Priced right that allows you to give them outstanding service while bringing in $25,000 to $50,000 per month. Plus whatever you bring in from your group program.

The next two issues Bob faced are both related. He didn’t really uncover the prospect’s real needs and all he did was talk about his coaching process.

If you find yourself struggling with objections centered around what your program or product costs – it’s because of how you do discovery and the way you present your program.

Another sign of failing to uncover a prospect’s real problem is if you’re getting a lot of technical questions about how you do things or what’s included?

When you do a strategy session and fail to enroll clients it’s probably NOT from a lack of value; it’s probably because you’re not effectively communicating the value that you deliver (this is why telling your prospect about all the ways you help is rarely the solution!).

If your session focuses on YOU and/or the details of the program you have to offer, then the discussion will always end up being about “what does it cost” and whether or not they can afford it. Or “how do you do what you say you can do?” Which leads to “I want to think about it” or “I want to do it but just not right now”.

This is due to the fact that they’re focused on the cost of moving forward.

Instead, focus the conversation on THEM and what the transformation you can help them will look like.

When the focus is about them and what it’s costing them to stay in their current situation you will often find your prospect starts thinking about whether or not they can really afford NOT to get your program.

This is a powerful shift that puts them in control of the decision.

No selling required. You’re just helping them see their options.

Spend most of your time asking quality questions and listening to your prospect rather than talking. They will tell you what they need to buy your solution.

When you help them uncover their problem and then you monetize the problem they can see that it’s costing them money in the form of lost opportunity.

For most of them, it will literally be thousands and thousands of dollars every month.

When you empower your prospects with the right information they will make the best decision for themselves. When your solution and their problem are a good match the sale will take care of itself.

This approach helps you get more clients with less stress, pressure or struggle and stop the crazy up and down cycle that drives most coaches out of practice.

Mike McMahon is a Master Sales Coach who specializes in helping coaches and consultants master the art of enrolling high paying clients without being pushy, salesy or slimy. You can learn more at

 About Mike McMahon

Mike McMahon is a Master Sales Coach who specializes in helping coaches and consultants master the art of enrolling high paying clients without being pushy, salesy or slimy. You can learn more at

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