Fire These Customers Immediately!

Stop what you are doing right now. I need to let you know about a new book from Colleen Francis called Nonstop Sales Boom. Let me be frank — this book is jam packed with edgy strategies to take control of your business results — from attracting clients to ensuring repeat sales. How about them apples?
A word of warning: if you know Colleen, you know Nonstop Sales Boom will challenge you to look at your role in sales differently. You will be pushed out of your comfort zone! Don’t complain if things start looking downright awesome. The following is an excerpt:


Not all clients are created equal. Nor should you be compelled to treat them equally. There’s no law stating you must sell to everyone, or keep servicing clients that are the wrong fit for your business.

It’s as fair to say that your business has outgrown some types of customers as it is to say that you have some customers that you should have never brought on in the first place. (You know who they are!)

If you’re miserable working with a client that you know isn’t profitable for your company, you won’t be motivated to serve them well. And, if that client isn’t receiving the best treatment, they won’t hit their desired goals. By virtue of this predicament, you’ve created a lose-lose situation: You’re not helping the client reach their objectives and they’re not helping you reach yours.

Besides the ones that are clearly not profitable for you, here are four other types of clients that must go immediately:

1. The ‘no one else matters’ client.

These are the clients that expect you to work only for them and all the time. They drag quick calls into 90-minute meetings, and 90-minute meetings into all-day events. They call you on the weekends on your cell phone. These relationships never work and turn ugly when their inappropriate expectations aren’t met. I fired one of these ‘I expect you to be in my office at 8 a.m. tomorrow’ clients after only one month. Life’s too short.

2. The ‘Sword of Damocles’ client.

Walk away from any client who constantly peppers you with threats. Perhaps they threaten to withhold payment, leave for the competition, or shop your solution around. You can’t do your best work for them if you are constantly under negative pressure. Recently a staffing agency I work with fired a customer who used at least one ‘or else I will…’ in every meeting. Morale in the office improved immediately and the client was replaced within the month.

3. The ‘check is in the mail’ client.

You aren’t a bank, even if you work for a bank! Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. When a client starts abusing the financial aspect of the relationship, talk to them immediately. If they will not rectify the situation, stop work until they do, or fire them immediately. No matter how prestigious. Recently a software client of mine cut off software support and turned off the online database for a client who was 90 days late with payment. The check was couriered overnight that day.

4. The prima donna client.

Success and failure should be a shared experience. When you and the client achieve a desired outcome, it should be celebrated as a team effort. And, when something goes awry, there shouldn’t be any finger-pointing on either side. Each accepts responsibility for their part in what went wrong and quickly resolves the issue. Rarely is a mistake one-sided but if it is (and all on you), accept responsibility immediately and resolve the issue. If a client is continually parading your joint success as their own singular success while at the same time foisting all the blame on you for failures, your relationship is one-sided and can never be profitable for you.

Firing a client may mean a short-term hit to the organization’s profits, but it’s critical for the long-term emotional health of your team and the company. Firing a client now not only frees up time for you to spend on more profitable clients, it also provides a boost of morale internally. When you step up and fire a bad customer, you win everyone’s trust, loyalty, and respect. Especially your own.

The easiest, most respectful way to fire a client is:

  1. Call them. Do not use email. Thank them for their business to date and explain that you’re not the best fit for them moving forward. Try, “Thanks for considering us. At this point I don’t think we are the right fit for helping you meet your goals.” Always keep the focus on their interests.
  2. Be professional. Don’t use this call as an excuse to tell clients all of the things that are wrong with them and their approach. Simply tell them that they will be more successful working with another company.
  3. Recommend another option for them, even if it’s a competitor. This way you can find them a new home quickly. For example, I always have a list of other sales consultants that would be a better fit for prospects that call Engage Selling in case I am not.


BTW, our non-edgy legal people need to remind you that this excerpt is © 2001-2014 by Engage Selling Solutions. All rights reserved: All trademarks used or referred to on this site are the property of their respective owners. No materials on this site may be reproduced, altered, or further distributed without Engage’s prior written permission. 



0 Replies to “Fire These Customers Immediately!”

  1. Hi Dan,
    Thanks for bringing this kind of attention to Colleen’s book–such sensible advice and definitely EDGY. Something to keep in mind for the leader who needs to fire a client OR an employee who is behaving in a way that’s stressing people out–your team knows and is watching to see what you will do. That morale boost is a big Thank You to you for doing your job responsibly!

  2. Awesome post Dan – we all have had the client from “hell”. Put on your big-boy pants, fire them and focus on clients that are fun to work with, appreciate the value you bring. Life’s really too short to endure abuse, domination and ludicrous expectations. Businesses less willing to bend over backwards for difficult clients have a great culture, upbeat morale – and thrive. Amazing what people put up with to hang on to “precious” clients. Value & respect first, revenue second!

  3. This happens a lot to our Business in India, where clients do not value the Cloud Security Services which we provide them, I personally believe this is great strategy to be polite to client & refer them to some one else.

  4. We had this thing; we arrived at an impossible situation; client was just too difficult, there just wasn’t enough profit, and to top it off, we were spending way too much time trying to do the deal – so here’s what we did; we told the client to hold on, and we picked up a very nice bottle of wine from our company wine cellar. (this company was close to Napa Valley, No. Cal so we always had a nice selection) Then we just very politely said to Mr. and Mrs. Customer, “here’s an excellent bottle of wine , and we’d like you to have it and enjoy it”. Most of the time, they were quite surprised, and asked why are we doing this, especially since our negotiations were actually not going anywhere. So we said, “that we just want to do this because we appreciate the time and effort they’ve put in to this, and giving us a chance to do business with them. However, we can not do this deal as they had hoped, we are seriously apart and can not do justice for them or us. So, as a departing gift, here it is”. Most of the time, people were just flabbergasted and didn’t know what to say. And as it turned out, we usually closed about 6 to 7 deals our of 10. So, yes, it pays to put the customer in their place, but I advice you, do not do this at home! 🙂 It takes training, and not just anybody can do this. You do it wrong, you lose your clients, and that expensive bottle of wine to boot.

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