Firing a Client From Hell!

I know, it sounds like an oxymoron, but there usually comes a time in every salesperson’s career when the best move, both emotionally and often financially, is to fire a client. Obviously this is a last resort after we have tried everything else, but factors might include:

  • An abusive client who consistently upsets not only us, but our sales and support team.
  • A slow pay client who hides behind administration and other excuses while burning our collection time and resources.
  • A scope creeper who keeps asking for more attention and services but then becomes indignant when we ask to increase our fee.
  • A dishonest client who might pull us in to projects and relationships that could carry risk.

One way to try to head off a bad client relationship is to include a description of client responsibilities to match our own description of services in your initial proposal. Most clients respect this as a fair basis of understanding since it always takes both sides to develop a relationship and reach its full potential.

Finally, it is always a good idea to establish a value for your time when trying to make decisions about all priorities. If you assign a value of, say, $100/hour to your time, and a bad client is sucking up your energy and attention, it is easier to be objective on what may otherwise be a counterintuitive decision.

I remember one time I was caught up in an argument with an abusive client on the speaker phone, and I finally told him our relationship was over. He slammed down the phone and I was a little shaken until I walked out of my office and got a standing ovation from the staff who the client had been working over for months.

Obviously firing a client should be discussed with and approved by the proper authorities in your firm, who may also have other ideas on how to handle the problem client. In fact, sometimes a confrontation can lead to reconciliation. That said, just because we are on the selling side of a relationship does not mean we should tolerate excessive abuse. We are producers and at the end of the day that is where our time and energy is best spent . . . producing.

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