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Why it’s ok to fire a client.

As business owners, it is sometimes easy to forget about who we originally set out to serve and, as a result, say “yes” to every client who seeks to engage our services.

Where it can go horribly wrong is when you say “yes” to a client who is not a true fit.

Maybe you haven’t thought about who your ideal client is, but it was definitely an exercise I found invaluable.  Think about it …. When you decided to open your business who were you aiming to serve?

  • Which industry?
  • Company size?
  • Demographics?
  • Their business’s mission?
  • Annual revenue?
  • What values are important to them?
  • Why are your goods or services best suited to that type of client?
  • Why do you want to target them?

These are just some of the questions you should consider when formulating who your ideal client is.

This information is also critical when you are creating your marketing strategy – but that’s a topic for another article.

Unfortunately, a very common mistake (which I have committed), is that we say yes to a client who does not fit our “ideal client” profile just to land the sale. What harm can it do, just this once?

My big mistake came when I was referred by a client from a business that was closing down. I was thrilled to get a fully paying, fully engaged client with zero effort – yippee! I didn’t check who this client was, I just said “yes thank you very much!”

In a round-about way this client met my “ideal”, and I convinced myself I could make it fit.  I chose to ignore the red flags that came up almost immediately.  I told myself it would be fine and I was doing the right thing by both the business owner who referred the client to me, and of course for the new important client.  Wrong!

Almost immediately the client became extremely problematic and certainly not someone I wanted to have associated with my business.  I spent more time managing this client than I could comfortably charge them for – they were costly both in profitability and potentially reputation. It was a tricky situation. I made a decision.

It was a long and difficult process to fire this client but I did not regret it.  Once the client came to terms with the fact that “I no longer felt we were the right service provider for them” I was able to redirect that energy on providing service to an “ideal client”.  I was also in a less stressed state which made it easier for me to attract new clients.

While it was difficult to say goodbye to a “big spender client”, I knew that the long term implications of servicing this client would present bigger problems than earning.

It is OK to fire a client if they don’t meet your ideal.  Each client you agree to work with must be a good match for your business and actually feel right to work with – instinct should not be ignored!

When a new client calls to ask about your service take the time to find out about them, particularly if your business model is to create ongoing relationship with your clients.  Why not create a checklist that prompts you to ask questions of the caller.  Then listen, listen, listen.

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