Breakups are hard. No one likes being broken up with and few people like breaking up with someone. It’s uncomfortable and raw and usually leads to more questions than it does answers.

If you are fortunate to be in business for a long time, chances are you’ll need to end a relationship with one of your clients at some point. And this is going to be a tough conversation. Here are a few ways to help you have the right words but also evaluate if it really is time to end it all.

Before You End It

Before you start rehearsing your break up speech, take a step back. Ask yourself: do you actually need to end this client relationship right now? First, try to remove yourself from the situation and strip away all emotion. Ask yourself what is stopping the client from making progress or seeing results. Can you coach them through that block?

Sometimes clients are not a good fit, and other times we are maybe too quick to assume someone is not coachable. It’s possible you could be projecting your own issues onto them making you see them as uncoachable when really they are capable of being coached through this stumbling block.

Blame Yourself

If after stepping back, you determine your client isn’t coachable or isn’t the right fit for your business, it’s time to have a tough conversation.

In this conversation, you need to make the problem you. This is not the time to rehash their failures and blame them for not following through. You need to be compassionate and own up to the reality of the situation. And that’s most likely that you’ve done what you could, but you can’t do anymore. You can say things like:

“I don’t think my skills are a good match for your current needs.”

“I feel like your time might be better spent with a different coach who is better able to assist you.”

“I don’t want to waste your time pushing you to do something that is not working for you.”

Don’t Blindside Them With This Breakup

Before you sit down to have this conversation, ideally you’d want to provide some warning or acknowledgment that things are not going well or according to plan. The best way is by communicating clear expectations and setting concrete goals or benchmarks. For example, you can say:

“I’m concerned I may not be the best coach for you. Between now and your next session, I’d like to see x,y, and z happen. If not, we’ll need to reevaluate how we can get you the results you want.”

Be very specific in what you need to see, and then allow your client to show up or not. If they don’t, they likely won’t be blindsided by the break-up conversation. At that point, they may even be feeling the same way you are, because you clearly laid out expectations they could not meet.  

If you’re phrasing things this way, it will hopefully help to soften the conversation, so even if things go poorly you know you handled this tough situation the best you could.

Continue to Offer Assistance

If you know this client isn’t a good fit for you but may be a good fit for someone else, don’t hesitate to make that referral. You will still be doing them a service by sending your client to someone who is better suited to help them. That’s providing really great service even if you don’t ultimately end up being the coach to help them achieve their goals.

If you have ever struggled with having tough client conversations, head over to the Financial Coaches Unite Facebook page and ask questions, seek advice and see what other financial coaches around the world are struggling with. This community of coaches is a great source of inspiration and knowledge for novice and expereinced financial coaches alike.