After one of my recent workshops, a woman shared how she struggled with procrastination. In an attempt to help her, I offered her a complimentary 30-minute phone session, during which she shared that she procrastinated in every area of her life and was desperately seeking tips to change this.
At first, as we discussed her predicament, she thought that her delayed actions could be a type of defiance, that maybe she was fighting against something in a subconscious kind of way. Then after we began talking, we thought that perhaps she was just hard-wired to do things at a slower, more leisurely pace.
At one point in the conversation, I suggested that she get an accountability buddy, someone who would monitor her actions, holding her responsible for breaking her procrastination habit. Her response was something along the lines of, “I’ll get around that too.”
In turn, I offered a couple more alternatives, things she could do to procrastinate less and, each time, I was met with a reason as to why that option, that solution, wouldn’t work. That’s when I realized that this woman didn’t really want a coach…and I wasn’t going to be able to help her.
In addition to knowing who I am, the services I offer my clients, I also know who I am not. In this case, I was not a therapist.
This woman’s needs were much more deeply rooted than I would be able to help her resolve, therefore I wasn’t in a position to help. The best thing I could do for her then was to suggest that she find someone to talk to about her procrastination on a professional, therapeutic level.
Some people will say that I was foolish to turn away a potential client, but I know I couldn’t give her what she needs. It’s very important to me to not fail my clients, which sometimes means sending them to someone more equipped to handle their issues or concerns in a way that promises better results.
In business, it’s easy to get caught up in wanting to turn every prospect into a paying client, but in the end, that way of thinking doesn’t serve anyone. When it doesn’t work, you both become frustrated by the results you’re not getting. You begin to lose faith in each other, likely blaming the other person for the lack of progress, even though the real problem is that you could have never helped anyway because you weren’t the right person for the job.
Of course, experimenting with new service areas or challenging yourself with clients you’ve never served before is great, but know your limits. Taking the time to recognize when you’re not the right person for the client, not able to help the client as much as someone else possibly could, sometimes requires stepping back and referring that person to another professional in the field.
Yes, you may be giving away whatever income you could have made from that client, but you’re also giving away frustration and possibly a damaged reputation too, AND not serving your client…all of which would only hurt you and your client in the long run.