Is it Time to Fire Your Client?
While producing new opportunities for your service company, it’s only natural to want to push the sale forward to grow and to meet your goals. But what if your new client starts seeming like a bad fit? Does it make sense to put your blinders on (in the name of money) or is it better to stop your momentum before they wither moral? Sometimes we can miss the signals upfront or during a relationship that a client is just bad news and doesn’t match up to your standards. As much as clients are the key to our success, it doesn’t justify allowing them to interject toxic energy into your business and your life.
In my experiences as an entrepreneur running my business for over 15 years concentrating on sales, marketing, design and customer service, I have witnessed first hand how clients have become more unreasonable. In fact, within the last five years, it seems to have gotten worse. There are a variety of reasons why this may be the case like dealing with a challenging economy or how the digital age is pushing us to do more, in less time. Even though just because they are paying for your time, it doesn’t give them the green light to try and smash your integrity. Stand sturdy against these hazardous clients who will only bring on anxiety, stress, and problems for your brand.
Before their actions can generate these severe consequences, consider terminating them from your roster to spend more valuable time assisting the clients who deserve your attention because of their respect for your business and talents (i.e., follow the 80/20 rule). Develop a client criteria list that will help you to focus on your ideal target and what characteristics you want your clients to have. Always remember that time is money so being able to avoid catering to relationships that go nowhere fast, will help in your long-term success.
Here are some unacceptable signs to look for when it comes to client behaviors that should raise your eyebrows and ultimately make you feel good about handing them their pink slip:
Big Vision, No Plan
Clients usually like to present their passions for what they do and their big vision for it, especially if they are new clients ultimately putting a test to your intrigue. However, talk is cheap especially if they don’t have a business plan, marketing plan or even a budget to propel their dream into reality. Not being able to review these details can be a sign of future trouble. Chaos and confusion will become standard practice without something to reflect and hold their vision accountable. Don’t allow this to slip through the cracks, push them to provide a plan or at least help them generate something simple like a Project Brief to agree upon so the team can drive forward. Otherwise, your client will be chasing their tail and having you join in on all that fun.
Smells like a Criminal
You need to TRUST your instincts when it comes to new client opportunities. Pay attention to their behaviors and language, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. A simple sign to pick up on is if your client likes to tell you often how they have been “around the block” or even, “screwed over” in their past. This talk only amplifies their knowledge of the system and that they will try to wear you down in it. A great way to keep you on the right track is to check into your new client’s legal history from their county. If your client has been in litigations more times than you can shake a stick at, its time to run for the door! Use this valuable tip I picked up from Adam Czerwinski owner of Sidebar Insurance Solutions, sidebarinsurance.com, to avoid becoming their next casualty. Review the county’s website and if located in Cook County use this website path to navigate to the precise destination:
cookcountyclerkofcourt.org > “Online Case Info” > “Full Electronic Docket Search” > choose “Division Name” (either Civil or Law) > type in client’s last name or search by entity name and select “Defendant” > “Search Now”.
Tight in the Wallet
Everyone operating a business understands that they need to spend money to make money. However, we all still love a deal! Although, the question is at what price? The reality is you get what you pay for so be aware of those clients who like to dig into you too often for a lower price, but yet wear flashy clothes, jewelry and drive a fancy car. At the beginning of the relationship scrutinizing estimates can show you their lack of trust but this behavior should end after they understand what benefits you bring to the table. Be clear about this upfront and stand your ground often on what your services cost. Also, probe them about how much they can afford and set expectations, reflect on the going rate in the marketplace instead of their desire to react to a quote. Your value is based on your point-of-difference versus your competition and not from a lower price. As soon as you compete on price, you will be dead in the water and better off passing the gig on to your competitors.
No Time for Bullshit
Be on the lookout for new client’s who have tight deadlines but are nowhere to be found or are struggling to find the time to meet with you. Confusing yes, especially knowing they needed the work yesterday but are unable to review your completed milestones or solutions. This behavior will only encourage a title wave of issues ahead of you, what I like to refer to as, “rush to wait” projects. If the project has a hard deadline, you need to be presenting efficient ways to help your client move things along like having a dedicated team assigned to the work that can make decisions. Without a committed schedule to a timeline agreed upon upfront, the deadline will be in jeopardy. They need to understand that their approvals are critical to project completion so if they are having challenges with time management, the end date will need to change, or your price should at least jump up to accommodate. Rushing projects through only will enable room for error, and in the end, your client will not acknowledge the time crunch effort but instead the final quality.
King of the Jungle
Another concerning sign to watch out for is if your new client has an ever-changing team, partners, or resources that come and go in their environment accompanied by their loads of complaining because of it. Their perspective toward life sees the glass half empty instead of empowering their colleagues to take ownership. What makes matters even worse for these types of clients is that they are consistently loud and disrespectful to others, just waiting for a moment to explode on someone for no reason. Apologizing is not in their vocabulary even when they have crossed a line. Before being lured into their crosshairs, try researching their personality ahead of time. Ask questions to their associates that have history working with them and about their conduct over the years. Ask the question, “under pressure, what is most apparent about them” to learn their natural characteristics. Remember that you’re not a business slave and deserve respect for your talents and the services you provide. Battling these narcissistic people who like to taunt their ego around will only lead you down a path of exhaustion.
Questionable Payment Terms
Not being able to be flexible with your payment terms at the beginning of your new relationship with a client will only start things off on the wrong foot. The truth is everything is up for negotiation, and if you feel strong enough about your terms, you need to enforce what works best for you in the start. It will be nearly impossible to change this at a later date, clarify this on the first project and discuss any fees for being late, cancellation or even for credit card payments. Compensation stability is critical to keeping you in business, and they should understand this especially if they want to work with you. Also, be conscious if their payment installments start to become inconsistent with the terms they agreed to. If this happens, your new client may be experiencing money issues or even be operating with an accounts payable system that is not aware of your agreement. These things should be discussed openly before a project kick-off otherwise they will have the potential to become a problem in your relationship. Remember, you don’t work for free so don’t allow your payment terms to get out of control, set the precedence upfront that this behavior is unacceptable for your survival.