Firing a client is counterintuitive. Clients provide revenue for your business. Revenue keeps your company alive. Acquiring clients is often costly, and it takes time. So once you have a client, you should do everything you can to keep them. Right?
Yes and no. It’s true that keeping current clients is more cost-effective than bringing in new clients. In our BusinessAccelerator® coaching program, we devote an entire workshop to customer experience for that reason. Your business exists to add value. Consistently delivering or overdelivering on your promises is part of leading with integrity, and it’s good for your bottom line.
But sometimes clients aren’t a good fit for your business. Sometimes they take more than they give. If you notice these four signs, it’s probably time to let a client go.
Sign 1: They don’t respect your boundaries.
Constraints are valuable. The ability to set boundaries is one of the most important personal and professional skills a leader can possess. Setting boundaries around your workday makes you more productive. And taking unplugged weekends and vacation time is essential to reset and increase your capacity for high-level vision work.
If a client consistently reaches out to you, expecting a response after hours or while you’re away, start by asking two questions. First, have I clearly communicated my boundaries? Your clients can’t read your mind. If you don’t communicate your boundaries, others will violate them. Second, have I provided an alternate avenue? Your clients have legitimate needs. Especially if you plan to be out of town for a week or more, it’s essential to provide a clear route for clients to get help. Usually, this is as simple as directing them to a point person in your absence.
But if one of your clients expects constant access to your time, your calendar, and your phone and ignores the boundaries you create, you have a problem. You can’t share a healthy business relationship with someone who refuses to respect your boundaries.
Sign 2: They haggle your prices.
Sometimes, your pricing might be off. Your clients’ assessment of the value of your product might not align with your own. Maybe they feel you’ve underdelivered on a promise. Or, your messaging might fail to point out why the product is worth it. In these cases, you’ll likely receive pushback from multiple clients. And it’s probably time to reassess.
But there’s another scenario. Some clients want to be the exception to every rule. If you release a new product, they demand a significant discount. If you increase your prices, they want to be “grandfathered in” at their current price indefinitely. If one or two of your clients is unwilling to exchange money for goods and services, don’t waste time persuading them to do business with you. If they won’t, others will.
Sign 3: They refuse to be pleased.
We love creating Wow! experiences for our clients. We know our clients by name. We recognize key life events like birthdays and anniversaries. We pride ourselves on producing high-quality events and products. We believe in providing an exceptional customer experience.
We also believe in correcting our mistakes. One of our core values is Unyielding Integrity, and it calls us to do the right thing even when it’s embarrassing, expensive, and inconvenient. If we’ve fallen short of our promise to a client, it’s our responsibility to make it right. I believe the best leaders share both these values and therefore have the happiest clients.
But there are people who love to complain. There are people who refuse to be pleased. The customer isn’t always right. Sometimes, the customer is unreasonable. Unreasonable customers take time, money, and attention from reasonable customers. And the cost isn’t worth it.
Sign 4: They demoralize your team.
Your team is your company’s most important resource. Your job as a leader is to take care of your team and empower them to take care of your clients.
If your team frequently has problems with the same clients, believe them. Under no circumstances should you allow your clients to verbally abuse or attack the dignity of your team members. If you have to choose between keeping a client and protecting your team, choose your team every time.
These days, I very rarely have to fire clients. I’m grateful to coach some of the most driven, creative, and capable leaders I’ve ever met in our BusinessAccelerator program. They keep me excited about my work and hopeful for our future together. And they have repeatedly found that the key to growing their business is cutting away what isn’t working.
I’ve had clients fire their biggest clients and watch their revenue climb. I’ve had clients discover that letting go of one problem client was the key to work-free weekends or vacations. And on the rare occasion when I’ve had to let go of one of our clients, their peers have thanked me for improving their experience in the program.
Firing clients is never comfortable. But it might be the breakthrough your business needs.
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