Whether you’re in sales or own your own business, making the decision to fire a client may be one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make in your career. After all, you’ve worked so hard to get the business, so why throw it away?
Well, in some cases, you may actually be losing revenue by continuing to service certain clients. Whether it is the actual time or the energy that you invest into an account, it all adds up. Your time and effort are worth money. If you find yourself calculating how much time you’ve invested in an account and don’t see a proportional financial return on your investment in that client, it may time to cut them loose!
The best clients are those who bring in the most revenue with minimal effort and not vice versa. Sure there are always circumstances where you initially have to invest a lot of time and effort to get a client on board , however you have to make the call as to whether or not it is worthwhile for you to continuing to focus on that client or move on to a potentially more lucrative opportunity.
So how do you decide when to put your foot down and decide when enough is enough?
You may opt to fire your client if they:
- Don’t Pay their Bills
Ever heard the notorious “The cheque is in the mail”? It’s almost laughable. Once a client’s account gets seriously behind, you have to cut them off. If they really need your product or service, they will come up with the money.
Solution: The best thing to do in this scenario is to put their account on hold and try to arrange a payment schedule. If you have to call on them in person to collect, do it. When their account is paid in full, begin to service them again but require that pay upfront or at the time of their order. In very rare circumstances, clients may completely avoid you and in that case you have no choice but to send them to collections.
- Ask or Expect You to Cross any Professional or Ethical Boundaries
This could take on a variety of shapes and forms. For example, any client who asks you to do something illegal, break your company policy, lie, cheat, steal, provide sexual favours or anything else unethical in exchange for a sale.
Solution: DON’T DO IT! WALK AWAY IMMEDIATELY! Then report their behavior to your direct supervisor and explain why you will no longer have anything to do with that account. If you are a business owner, simply inform them that you do not conduct business in that manner and they will have to do business elsewhere. If you give into these requests it may seriously harm your business, your reputation and your company’s reputation.
- Complain Incessantly
Every one of you reading this has encountered this sort. No matter how perfect your product or service is, they will find something wrong with it and repeatedly so. Sure everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but when there are no mistakes made and clients routinely fuss about every little thing time and time again, it may just not be worth the aggravation in dealing with these people. They will never be happy.
Solution: If you’re totally fed up with them, you can try referring them to your competition however in my experience that doesn’t usually work. In spite of how apparently disappointed they are with your product or service, they’d prefer to stick around and annoy you. If that’s the case, just ignore their fussing. Don’t feed the monster.
- Use You
These type of clients will drain you of all of your knowledge and resources and push you to your limit because they know you want to make the sale. It is difficult to identify these types of clients in the early stages because quite often a client will “test you” before they decide to do business with you. This is perfectly normal and acceptable. If someone is serious about engaging in a long term business relationship with you and your company, they should do their due diligence and see what you and your company are all about and what kind of service you can provide. What is not acceptable is if this “testing” behavior persists over many sales calls and they don’t give you the business.
Solution: I call them on it and say outright “Every time I see you, I provide you with a wealth of product and industry knowledge but I know you still buy mostly from my competitor.”. They usually agree and then wonder why they do so. At that point I give them an ultimatum, “If you want the knowledge and you want me to keep coming back, you have to give me the business. Otherwise, I’m never calling on you again because I will be focusing on other clients who will actually do business with me (who happen to be your competitors). Going forward you can ask my competitor to help you with your questions.” That usually solidifies the business 99% of the time. If it doesn’t, walk away.
- Take Advantage of Loopholes and Con You
Ever had a client buy a promo only to return part of it so that they can get a lower volume of product at the promo price and your company didn’t figure out how to deal with that loophole? Or buy enough product to get free shipping only to return what they didn’t actually need but rather tacked on to their order so they don’t pay freight? Or try to get credit for the same item repeatedly? There are a million examples!
Solution: Since these types usually think they are quite clever, you have to call them on it and not allow them to get away with it again. You’ll typically be greeted with a smirk and an “I’m better than you“ attitude. Whatever it is they conned you out of, make sure you find a way to put it on their next invoice. If they refuse to pay, refuse to offer them product or service. Some people you just have to play hardball with.
- Are in Bed With the Competition
Unbeknownst to you, you may end up meeting with a client who has very close ties with your competition. By close ties I mean a business associate, investor, family member or perhaps someone who literally does share a bed with them, not simply someone who is loyal to a company.
Solution: Once you discover this STAY AWAY! They will funnel all of your information directly to your competitor and give them an edge on you. They won’t buy from you and if they do, it’s only to give your product to the competition.
- Waste Your Time
Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between someone who has a very extensive decision making process and who is legitimately interested in purchasing compared to someone who has nothing better to do and just wants to play games with you. Some people will even fake a deadline for when they have to purchase when they don’t have any intention of purchasing period.
Solution: Give them a deadline to purchase. Let them know that after that date, you will be moving on and changing your focus to another product, service or clientele. This will usually force the client to be upfront about their true intentions.
- Disrespect You
You may encounter a client who never listens to you because they know better. They may think they are superior to you in every way and do not respect you or your time. These types of clients are likely to be a no-show for your meetings, repeatedly.
Solution: If this type of client behaves this way consistently and does not give you any business, move on. I usually give it 5 attempts then move on to other prospects. Why so many? You have to give people the benefit of the doubt. They may be legitimately busy or preoccupied and you might not be calling on them at the best of times. I will usually try again after 1 year. Sometimes if you wait a while and call on a business at a later time, you might get lucky and they have a new decision maker who might be easier to work with or they may have had a bad experience with your competitor and are more open to change.
I am fortunate that in my business, 99.9% of my customers are awesome to deal with! I sincerely hope that you don’t face any of these scenarios in your professional career but if you do, make sure to stand your ground because, the customer is NOT always right.
Happy sales my friends and don’t ever do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.