Many industries offer free sessions or consultations as a “get to know you” stage of the customer acquisition process. It’s a way to build trust between the buyer and the seller. Think about it.

→Personal trainers offer 1-3 free sessions.
→Doctors often offer free consultations from 15-60 minutes.
→Therapists provide 1-3 free 60-minute therapy sessions.
→Consultants give free 30-60 minute consultations.

So, why is it so awkward?


It’s kind of like a job interview process. If you’re an employer or familiar with the employee hiring process, applicants go through various stages to prove they have the skills for the job.

Consultants and online coaches often reassure prospects by telling them things like…

“If I cannot help you, I’ll find someone who can.”

“Let’s schedule a consultation session to make sure I’m the right fit for you.”

This is an important step in the process. I’ve done and have zero problems with it as I am confident in my abilities and how my solutions can help the right person. Similar to a job interview, the applicant and interviewer may not get along or the applicant isn’t the right fit for that company for whatever reason. This doesn’t seem so weird, right? In business, not everyone is your ideal client. Or YOU may not be the right fit for your client. That’s the whole goal of the consultation process.


What to do when you know you’re not the right fit.


I see this a lot in the online consulting and coaching industry. For those business owners who desperately need clients, they will take anyone with a pulse. (I know, you marketers just cringed!) This is a huge mistake.  Accepting any client who can pay is a huge disservice to you and them. It might fill your cash flow need now but will seriously come back to bite you later.

I’ve done it and it sucks. Caught between trying to make payroll and knowing I could help this person, I agreed to a short-term contract. It didn’t end well because we really were not the right fit for one another both personally and professionally. Real lessons were learned that I now offer up to you so that perhaps you can avoid the same mishap.

Marketers and sales teams have qualifying questions to make sure the prospective client is a good fit and well, honestly, can afford whatever you’re selling. But what do you do when you know in the back of your mind you cannot serve them well or YOU are not a good fit for THEM?

Do Your Homework
Is your client benefiting from your product/service?
Is he/she/them growing from the advice you’re giving?
Is your client obviously struggling to execute?

Don’t give me this “I can give them a great ______ but if they don’t execute it, that’s on them. It’s not my program” I call bullsh!t on that. Ask yourself why your client/customer isn’t seeing any results. Is it YOU?

Step Up.
Whether it’s the first day, 30 days out, 3 months or whatever, first you should step up and admit it. Reach out to this person and see what the issue is. Is this something you can help them through? Perhaps they are going through something personal that has nothing to do with you. Sitting and stewing about it won’t help either of you.

Remember, you pre-qualified them so money, bad product/service or access to resources shouldn’t be the problem here.

Should you discover that you and your client do not mesh, what is your cancellation policy?

Keeping your client on contract because you’re afraid to let the money go, will hurt you both in the long run. Your business will suffer because your client will not renew their contract and will not refer their friend and family to you.

The client’s business will suffer because there is now an irreparable block between the two of you preventing them from moving forward. If it’s your fault, try to fix it or own it and release them from their contract. [If you’re the customer, don’t use this to weasel out of paying your bill. That crap comes back to you as well. It’s bad karma.]

Make Amends.
Find someone better suited for your client and perhaps give a couple of referrals.
Consider crediting them money back or helping with the transition.

It’s going to suck either way but if you handle it professionally, that will be the lasting impression you’ll leave on them as they go on to build an incredible business. Isn’t that what you want for them anyway?


If something here has resonated with you or you would like to learn more about how to attract and keep your ideal client, let’s chat. Use this secure form to request a complimentary consultation kellyo.com/calendar.




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Kelly O'Neill
Kelly O’Neill is a digital marketing and IT consultant with over 25 years of experience working on remote projects. She is well-grounded in SEO, media buying, project management, and network security. Kelly shares her knowledge through consulting and blogging.

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