Blog Post: Limiting Beliefs that Plague Coaches 



As professional coaches, we are familiar with limiting beliefs – those assumptions, perceptions, thoughts, and attitudes that hold people back.  We see the impact of such beliefs with our clients on a regular basis and in a variety of forms: 

  • A business owner believes her worth is found in her professional success.   
  • A salesman nearing retirement questions his identity as a non-working person. 
  • A mother believes she’s a failure in life because of her child’s poor choices.  
  • A timid soul who refuses to risk because he believes failure would be catastrophic. 
  • A proud person who believes life is a competition and that others’ victories detract from his success. 

Yes, we are familiar with limiting beliefs when they afflict our clients.  But what about our own limiting beliefs?  What happens when the coach is held back not by reality, but by our beliefs about reality?  Here are five limiting beliefs related to getting clients I witness far too often in coaches. 

  1. Losing a client means I am a loser.  It’s so tempting to get our sense of worth and value from the successes we experience.  The downside is that when life throws us a setback, we can take it far too personally.  Gaining and losing clients is a part of business and a part of life.  People move on.  Clients transition into a season when they need something different, or someone different.  And some clients are simply better served by a coach who brings something different.  We know these things, logically.  But in a deeper way, we are tempted to interpret the loss of a client as an indicator that the coach is a loser.   

Even coaches can have a harsh inner voice, and there is perhaps no harsher self-talk than to think of oneself as a “loser.”  This one stings.  And it definitely limits us, because equating the loss of a client with being a loser puts a lot of pressure on us.  We walk a thin line of being of value to our clients while avoiding anything that might lead to losing them as a client.  And yet, holding back has a high likelihood of contributing to the very thing we want to avoid.  After all, what client wants a coach who holds back out of fear of losing the client?  We get needy, and this increases the odds of losing clients.  Ugh! 

2. Not getting a client is not my fault.  Sometimes a potential client seems likely to become an actual client, but then it doesn’t happen.  We are left wondering, “What DID happen?”  When we refuse to look in the mirror and consider the possibility that we missed out on getting the client because of something we did (or didn’t do), we are experiencing a limiting belief.   

 When we miss out on getting a client, it’s tempting to chalk it up to circumstances outside of our control.  But while it might be comforting to take no fault in the matter, our pain relief comes by reducing our agency.  And failure to consider how we contributed to the situation causes us to miss the opportunity to change, grow, and improve.  When things don’t go our way, it’s wise to consider what you could have done differently to create a more desirable outcome.   

Remember, coaches are not just coaches – we are also salespeople.  Otherwise, you have no clients to coach.  Improving your sales game requires looking in the mirror. 

3. Not getting a client is all my fault.  Looking in the mirror is a necessary place to start, but a terrible place to remain.  When your efforts to get new clients produce far too little fruit, it’s your fault, but it’s not ALL your fault. 

Believing things are all your fault is a limiting belief because it puts undue and unrealistic pressure on you to perform.  If the only way for you to get clients is for you to be the perfect salesperson, then you’re in deep trouble.  Fortunately, that’s not the case.   

Freed from this limiting belief, we can consider other factors that might contribute to less-than-desired results.  We can also, and more importantly, not get stuck in an endless investigation of “What could I have done differently?”  Such thinking can too easily devolve into a black hole of regret from which nothing positive can emerge. 

4. I’m not worth $X.  News flash: coaches charge money for our coaching services.  But in 25+ years of training coaches, I have met scores, if not hundreds, of coaches who struggle with assigning a dollar cost to their coaching services.  The limiting belief too closely identifies the cost of the coaching with the coach’s worth.   

The truth is that your coaching fee has very little to do with your personal worth.  Your value as a human being is infinite.  However, the value of your coaching services is very finite! 

Coaches get screwy beliefs about their fees in lots of ways.  Some coaches struggle to charge anything at all because they have low self-esteem.  Others don’t value their time and competence enough to put a dollar amount to it.  Many are uneasy about anything that comes remotely close to maximizing their fees.   

Just because your coaching is not worth $500 or $200 or even $100 per hour does not mean you are somehow less valuable than anyone else.  On the other hand, if you keep your coaching fees unnecessarily low because you don’t feel worthy of charging more, you are cheating yourself and your clients.  Pricing communicates value.  When you underprice your coaching services, you provide less value to those you coach.   

5. I can’t ask for business until…  I once knew an extremely gifted and competent coach who would not ask for business until he earned his coaching credential.  In his mind, it took a credential from the ICF to be a legitimate coach.  Coaches place all sorts of barriers between themselves and asking for business.  I can’t until I have a website.  I can’t until I have more experience.  I can’t until I get seventeen references.  I can’t until I take three more coaching classes or read five more coaching books.  I can’t until I more tightly identify my coaching niche.  I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.  It’s maddening!   

This limiting belief is like a devilish dam that holds back the flow of so much coaching goodness.  It’s almost maddening.  Asking for coaching business is a necessary step in a chain of events that leads to people experiencing the growth, forward movement, goal achievement, and life change that comes from coaching.  When we say we can’t ask for business until X, Y, or Z, we are refusing to let God work through us as a coach until our conditions are met. 

My advice?  Get over yourself!  Ask for the business en route to whatever your condition is.  Ask for business and then read the books, take the courses, or get the website.  And if you’re thinking, “Yeah, but the website will make it more likely that I get the client,” then fine, create a website this weekend and then ask for the business on Monday.  Or don’t create the website and still ask for the business on Monday.   

Think about it, what set of conditions gives you the best odds of getting the client?  Asking and having a website.  Next?  Asking and not having a website.  Last?  Not asking, whether you have a website or not.  The same goes for a credential or a reference or anything else.  These conditions are not necessary.  Meeting such conditions does very little to increase the likelihood of getting a client. 

I think the real limitation is a lack of confidence.  And nothing builds confidence more than asking for business and getting it.  Sure, classes and credentials and such can contribute to confidence, but not that much.  In my experience, even asking for business and not getting is a confidence builder, especially if you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get back in the game to ask someone else for business.  The more reps you get, the better you’ll become and the more your confidence will grow.   


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