Why You Should Fire Your Worst Customers

Last week I wrote about my business non negotiables. My own list of business non negotiables includes the type of client I will, and won't, work with. Recently I fired one of my clients, a business turnaround project. I did this very elegantly. So much so that the client may not even have realised that they'd been fired. I didn't want to lose the income. But sometimes there are sound reasons why you have to bite the bullet and fire your worst customers. Just in case you're wondering, I don't make a habit of firing customers. I took no pleasure in this, but I recognised that this particular client - a turnaround - wasn't safe to work with. I could see no purpose in wasting my time with a client who refused to follow my advice, and take any of the actions which will save that business. Let me explain why.

When a business is in trouble, it's imperative to act fast. When cash is running out, there's no time to prevaricate and procrastinate. You've got to take swift, often radical action to cut costs, improve profit margins and drive sales. You've got to stop doing the activities that got you into trouble in the first place. And be willing to take and act on professional advice. In this instance, I could see the car crash about to happen, and I did not want to be in the passenger seat. So I detailed, in writing, exactly what needed to be done to turn the business around, and offered my client the opportunity to go through my report at no expense to them.

Why It Pays To Be Selective About Our Customers

When we start out in business and/ or economic times are tough, we’re generally pleased to work with anybody who has a pulse and can afford to pay us! We think that getting ‘clear on our ideal client’ is a luxury we can ill afford, preferring instead to work with ‘anybody and everybody.’ But some customers suck the life out of us, leaving us feeling drained, stressed and even doubting our abilities. They take up undue time, energy and resources to the detriment of the clients we love working with. And because they’re so demanding and time consuming, they’re far less profitable.

[callout]What are your business non negotiables? What are your 'must haves and must nots? What does this mean for the way you do business? To help you map these out, I've created this free spreadsheet to help you gain greater clarity on these questions. Click HERE to download your copy.[/callout]

How Do You Know When To Fire Your Worst Customers?

The ideal time to fire your worst customers is before you even start to work with them.

When you’re having your initial sales conversations, there are 5 telltale signs that a prospect is unlikely to be a good customer:

  • The prospect is critical of you, your company or your product.
  • The prospect immediately haggles and complains about your price.
  • The prospect is indecisive about purchasing from you.
  • The prospect is overly controlling, questioning the minutiae of what you do, to a level that is unreasonable and disrespectful.
  • The prospect has a history of poor relationships with previous suppliers. This is a BIG red flag. Why do you think you'll be any different if your prospect has fallen out with others before you?

If the prospect exhibits any these warning signs, break off discussions straightaway – politely of course – before you waste too much of your time. In a service based business, your efforts should be spent with prospects who fit the profile of your ideal clients. The temporary financial loss will be worth the longer term payoff. Your time and energy will be free to work with clients who appreciate and value your service, and importantly will go on to refer you to their friends, family and associates.

If the idea of firing your worst customers worries you, bear in mind that you’re doing this for your client’s benefit as much as for your own! If you dread every interaction with the client (and worse, are a point when you could cheerfully throttle them) you will struggle to give the client your best service. And if you’re not able to do your best work, then you are out of integrity. If this hasn’t convinced you to fire your worst customers, remember that when s/he goes out into the world and speak about you to others, they are representing you. Are they the Ambassadors you want for your business?

I urge you to get really clear about the type of clients you want to work with – those who become your raving fans and tell their friends, family and associates about you. And then create your own Red Velvet Rope Policy (more on this in my next post) so that you work with clients you love who inspire you to do your best work.

[callout]What are your business non negotiables? What are your 'must haves and must nots? What does this mean for the way you do business? To help you map these out, I've created this free spreadsheet to help you gain greater clarity on these questions. Click HERE to download your copy.[/callout]

Join The Conversation

Questions: Have you ever had to fire your worst customers? What lessons did you learn from this? I love to get your feedback so please tell me in the comments box below. But no names please!

Explore These Additional Resources

If you got value from this blog post, you may also enjoy reading: