Fire the Client

Every professional knows how valuable a client is.  Most of us are ready and eager to do whatever it takes to satisfy him/her.  How do you determine when a client will never be satisfied with you?

IntuitionTwo of my clients recently had experiences where they had an inkling (intuition?) initially that the potential client was going to be a problem.  Nevertheless they went after them with great  persistence.

My client Sally (not her real name) sets up computers for businesses.  Sally was hired by a business owner to set up his two computers.  Sally was a bit uncomfortable when the owner hovered over her while she began to get the computers working.

The business owner kept interrupting Sally with questions about the way she was doing the work so that Sally got the sense he just didn’t trust her.  At the end of the day Sally had not completed the work and made plans to return the next day to finish.  The owner paid her and told her not to return.  He said he thought she was much too slow.  Sally was embarrassed and devastated.

Two men playing golfAnother client, Jim (not his real name), an attorney, made a presentation to a businessman for his legal work.  The businessman had been referred to Jim by his accountant.  Instead of accepting his accountant’s recommendation, the businessman asked a golfing buddy who was not a client of Jim, what he thought about the law firm.  The buddy gave him some negative information that he said he had heard.  When the potential client called Jim back, he told Jim what his golfing buddy had said.  Needless to say Jim was disappointed and angry.

Not every client is a good fit for your business.  Sometimes people have unexpressed reservations about doing business with a particular business person.  Without knowing the objection a business owner cannot respond.  He or she wastes a lot of time trying to get the business.  It is important to know how and when to just let it go.

Most professionals are so busy trying to convince a potential client to do business with them that they do not consider whether they want to do business with this particular client.  In all sales calls it is important to ask yourself, “Is this someone who will value my services?”  If your answer is “No” then the client will be more trouble than he/she is worth.

Sally, the computer technician, had just started her business.  In order to satisfy her client she purposely worked slowly and methodically.  The owner’s dissatisfaction came because he expected her to be finished in one day and it took her two.  Talking about expectations before the work began might have saved both the client and Sally some angst.

By asking and believing what his golfing buddy said about the law firm, Jim’s potential client was looking for an out.  Jim struggled with knowing that this was not the right client for his firm and wanting to fight for the business.  Had this fellow become Jim’s client he would probably have been dissatisfied and antagonistic.

Sometimes there are signs during the initial or subsequent client interactions that indicate that the client is not appropriate for your business.  Often this comes as a gnawing doubt that I would label as intuition.  When this happens you need to ask yourself what the inkling is about.  Sometimes you can uncover and address the problem up front and sometimes you can’t.  Both Sally and Jim regretted the loss of these clients but also needed to learn to trust their own intuition and let go.  Letting go of a prospect is not easy for anyone!

Take action:

  1. Have you ever had a time when something told you a client would be a problem?  Were you right?  What did you learn from the experience?  Can you remember what you felt and where you felt it that told you the client would be a problem? It is helpful to be aware of the signals for the future.
  2. Make a list of attributes of clients you do not wish to serve.  How will you eliminate clients with these attributes from your practice?
  3. Working with a coach can help you to identify clients that are not good clients for you and then help you to eliminate them from your practice.

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