Top 5 reasons coaches don’t keep clients for life, or at least a very long time

It frustrates me to get calls from coaches who complain, "My clients don't renew after that first engagement."

EVERY coach should have clients that hire them for a very long time. I don't buy the "clients for life" cliche, but a very long time is realistic. How long is a long time? Think at least 5 years, if not more. I just lost a long-term client because he retired — and he still hired me for six months after his retirement to plan out the next stage of his life!

Leaders and executives who are at the top of their game keep getting new challenges, and realize the need to keep improving. This means that there are always opportunities for coaches to add value by helping them get better and improve results.

Here are 5 reasons why coaches fail to get ongoing work:

1. You don't define value up front. I never take a client unless we agree that there is an opportunity for us to create 5-10 times my fees in value. Without doing that up front, there is no way to gauge success at the end of the engagement. Things are fuzzy, value is poorly defined, and so clients don't renew.

2. You don't achieve value at the end of the engagement. If you don't provide the value you promise, your client won't renew.

3. You don't spend time looking for, and suggesting, new opportunities to work together. Companies like IBM and Xerox carve out time to think about new issues their clients are facing, and how they can help. Don't get stuck focusing only on the client's current situation. Listen for initiatives and ongoing challenges where you can also help. Educate the client about your other solutions and services — preferably over a lunch and on your dime, not the client's. Suggest that you get involved as a separate engagement, or as something to work on after the current one. If you don't  ask, and you don't identify a new area to work on, don't expect your client to sign up again.

4. Follow up. Every engagement should have a "10,000 mile check up" baked into it. That way, you have a standing invitation to come back to talk to the client and check in. During this check up, you might find that the previous results have run into challenges, and get work that way. Better, you'll find that the client has new challenges and is ready to hire you again.

5. Nurture the relationship and your "share of mind." The saying "out of sight, out of mind" is very true in coaching. During and after the engagement, go out of your way to send your clients articles and news of interest. Call to ask how they are doing. You want to be the first person the client thinks of when they have a need. By staying in touch in ways that provide the client with value, you will be.

If you aren't getting enough renewal business, identify which of the above issues are in play, and correct them.

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