Many people believe that the trickiest relationships on the planet are the ones between spouses or family members. Not me.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying those relationships are not interesting or even complicated…they certainly are. 🙂 But, having been an entrepreneur the greater part of my working life, I’m convinced it is the relationship between client and business that can often provide the most challenges…and rewards.
When it works for both parties, it is a beautiful thing, full of warmth, respect, appreciation. The client is satisfied and the entrepreneur is profiting.
But sometimes it just isn’t working and to continue the relationship will be destructive. Alternatively, sometimes you just have to fire the client even when you like them personally.
What clients represent
Both client and entrepreneur have expectations when they first get together.
The client needs a problem solved either through the execution of a service or the purchase of a product.
The business person needs to do the work for the client and make a profit so that they can continue to be in business.
On paper it sounds so simple, but in real life, it can get incredibly complicated.
That is because it goes against our nature as business people to encourage a client to leave us. It is mentally akin to taping wings to dollar bills and throwing them up in the air on a windy day.
So we know that clients will often be demanding, but we are prepared to meet those demands. We know that they will complain if they are not satisfied, and we will make extra efforts to avoid those complaints.
The growth and nurturing of the client relationship
Clients are people and as time passes, it becomes clear that some are just nicer than others. They are pleased easier, they require less time to do the same work as for another, and they are willing to pay a reasonable price for what they receive. And, perhaps most importantly they see value in what you do.
But even when they are not nice, we are determined to work through the rough patches and get back to a good relationship. We pride ourselves on our good service and our ability to manage all kinds of people.
How many times have you heard a business person say proudly: “I’ve never lost a client!” It is a badge of honour that somehow or other, we were able to work out the difficulties and keep the client coming back.
How to recognize when enough is enough
Sometimes, however, you have to accept that losing a customer isn’t always a bad thing, especially if the relationship isn’t working for you.
It is okay in rare instances to accept that whatever is wrong with the chemistry between the two of you, it just isn’t work and you have to let it go.
Signs that the point of “enough is enough” has been reached is when you physically hide from the client when you see them approaching, you feel your gut on fire when you have to pick up the phone and find them on it, and you avoid opening their email for hours or even days. Not that I have ever experienced any of these of course. 🙂
At some point you have to admit that while you are in business to make money, the money you are making from this client just isn’t worth the aggravation and stress you are experiencing because of it.
Cut the tie and get it over with. You deserve more in life than to cringe from a particular client.
If they have been depending on you for a long time, the decent thing to do is make them aware that you are not available and recommend they find a replacement. You may even wish to suggest potential replacements.
Send an email that is polite, clear and concise and outlines the action being taken in clear steps.
A sample email could read like this:
Dear Not so nice client,
After considerable research and thought, I am regretfully letting you know that our firm will no longer be able to provide your firm with our (fill in the blank) services.
Business is about constantly adjusting to changing priorities and marketplaces, and after a thorough review of how we operate, we have identified a future growth direction that is not aligned with all sectors of our current customer base.
We appreciate all of your past support and business and wish you continuing success.
We understand that you will be searching for a new provider. In the interim, to ensure that you are not left without the services you need, we are aware of three local firms may be a better fit for you.
They are: (list)
However bad the fall-out is from sending such an email, it is still better than continuing to work with someone who is driving you crazy.
One caveat here. If you really feel this is not a very nice person then I would not recommend any alternate service providers simply out of courtesy to those providers. If you would not want this person referred to you it is not very professional to refer them to someone else.
Stop if you’re not making any money from a client
Even harder than dropping a client you can’t stand is getting rid of one you like, but can’t make any money from.
The client gets quote for a job from you and doesn’t even negotiate on the price. They are pleasant each time they speak with you.
But for one reason or another, usually linked to their personal work habits, the project takes weeks longer than it should and your profit is slowly eaten away.
Sometimes the client just can’t make up their mind. Sometimes they are only dabbling at their work and they are gone for days at a time without answering emails or phone calls.
Sometimes they get a draft of a project and say they love it, and then send it back over and over again to make changes that weren’t even discussed in their original meeting with you.
If you gently remind them of this, they apologize profusely and thank you so much for your patience. They may have a continual supply of pity stories about why they have to change specifications or insist on redoing something, but the end result is your profit is gone.
I am sure none of us have ever spent time chasing clients for paperwork so you can do the job promised so they can get the report they need. 🙂
At the end of the day, they just take more time than they are willing to pay for, and it is obvious this is their behaviour pattern.
Cut your losses with that one project and be too busy when they call for a repeat contract.
Lack of respect is always a reason to let go
Remember that you are hired because you are an expert in your field.
If you get a client who speaks to you or any of your team in derogatory terms, who constantly questions your recommendations even after accepting your proposal, and who generally does just the opposite of what you advise, you are in a relationship that is going nowhere but to a stop sign.
If you do not insist that your skills and experience are respected, you will never win over this kind of bullying client. They will not wake up some morning and have a change of heart and tell you that you were right all along.
They will just go on endlessly berating you. When they talk badly to you, they will also talk badly about you.
Let them go.
In rare instances, if necessary, it may even benefit you to return their deposit and walk away. In that case, you can tell them it’s about you, not them.
You have noticed issues in how the two of your communicate and you think that another person might be a better fit for this project. You appreciate their understanding, here is their investment back.
If they harass you further, do not allow yourself to be drawn into difficult conversations or be bullied further. Say firmly “my decision is final. Thank-you for understanding.”
Life is way too short to spend time working with people that do not add to your life in positive way.
Thank you for reading. Until next time. Take care.
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