The Vital Importance of Saying No to the Wrong Clients

31 replies
I spoke with a prospect today and after about 10 minutes told him "I'm sorry - we cant do business. You are completely unteachable."

I am so thankful that I learned the lesson that some people just aren't worth working for an ANY price.

It is one of the very best lessons you could ever wish to learn in this business.

In fact choosing the right clients makes all the difference in the world!

Your Thoughts?
#clients #importance #vital #wrong
  • Profile picture of the author ExRat
    Hi Chris,

    For me it's been a rite of passage - every business I have been involved in, I start out too eager to please and then learn the hard way that there are always clients out there who seem to make a living by continually finding those with a little dampness behind their ears and exploiting them.

    It feels like I've only really arrived in an industry when someone reminds me in this manner to dry the behind of my ears off - quickly.

    It's a nice feeling when you know you have 'arrived' when you tell the next one, 'I'm too busy', I 'don't do that type of work' or just 'no thanks', then give them that knowing look - 'I know what your game is mate.'
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    • Profile picture of the author ShawnSells
      Originally Posted by ExRat View Post

      Hi Chris,

      For me it's been a rite of passage - every business I have been involved in, I start out too eager to please and then learn the hard way that there are always clients out there who seem to make a living by continually finding those with a little dampness behind their ears and exploiting them.
      Thats what I've experienced too. I began not wanting to lose any leads and opportunities. I was very flexible, and after awhile realized that it was only making things worse. I now believe the 'trouble' clients sense that and zero in on those vendors, like I was.
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      • Profile picture of the author JettH
        Originally Posted by ShawnSells View Post

        I began not wanting to lose any leads and opportunities. I was very flexible, and after awhile realized that it was only making things worse. I now believe the 'trouble' clients sense that and zero in on those vendors, like I was.
        Been there, done that. The key is to be flexible, but only up to a point.

        I had a client that began to drop work on me at very short notice, and wanting everything done "yesterday".

        One day they rang Friday afternoon with an urgent job which needed to be ready for Monday. I said "sure - but this will cost you twice as much as I would normally charge due to the short notice".

        Suddenly the job wasn't so urgent........
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  • Profile picture of the author TheZafraGroup
    I agree with you. We need to also learn how to say no. Not everyone can do what we do. People who constantly whine, complain see everything negatively, is not a good team member. People like those will only bring our productivity down. Besides, there's over 6billion humans on earth. So don't worry about running out of people.
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    • Profile picture of the author geom2000
      Im in that position right now , Understand what you say 100%
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      • Profile picture of the author Sandor Verebi
        Originally Posted by copywriter View Post

        ... I am so thankful that I learned the lesson that some people just aren't worth working for an ANY price.

        It is one of the very best lessons you could ever wish to learn in this business.

        In fact choosing the right clients makes all the difference in the world!

        Your Thoughts?
        Really, you need to acquire the ability of saying NO, sooner rather than later. It may sounds easy now, but I also needed to learn it at the beginning phase of my offline business.

        Originally Posted by ExRat View Post

        ...For me it's been a rite of passage - every business I have been involved in, I start out too eager to please and then learn the hard way that there are always clients out there who seem to make a living by continually finding those with a little dampness behind their ears and exploiting them.

        It feels like I've only really arrived in an industry when someone reminds me in this manner to dry the behind of my ears off - quickly.

        It's a nice feeling when you know you have 'arrived' when you tell the next one, 'I'm too busy', I 'don't do that type of work' or just 'no thanks', then give them that knowing look - 'I know what your game is mate.'

        Hi Roger,

        I know, where you're coming from.

        There was a period, when I operated as a building contractor (this is one of my qualifications, among others). The preparation of any projects and the organizing its every aspects are very important in this industry. It can make or brake your business. You can only be economical, if the continuity of production is ensured.

        Happened, that I performed the usual preliminary technical survey for a prospect at my first visit. We negotiated his request, the circumstances, the feasibility, our prices, and I made a written record. I promised him to bring the offer in a week.

        After a week, he was too busy to negotiating our business, so we agreed on the phone in a new date.

        At the agreed time I visited him again, with the specific business offer I compiled under the initial week, including the material usage statement. We settled the start time, and negotiated the price. He approved the plan and the cost. Our agreement recorded in writing. Both of us signed it up.

        That happened a month before the start. A week before the agreed starting time I phoned him to know is he ready. He assured me, that everything is okay.

        At the night before we starting the work, he phoned me to give him a 25 percent discount. I remembered him on our written agreement. He had a whole month to let me know his intention. Why he always left me in the belief that all is well? Do you conduct business this way?

        Then I told that I let him to get the work done by whom he wants to, but not me. Next morning he phoned me, if we go there to do the work. I told him NO, because we aren't in the kindergarten.

        Cheers,

        Sandor
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  • Profile picture of the author Tom Reed
    Fire quickly and hire slowly ... this old adage holds as true for employees as it does for customers. 1 Bad customer can destroy your entire business if you're not careful.
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  • Profile picture of the author dvduval
    That said, I've had customers that were difficult at first, but once trained became great revenue streams. For me the measurement is whether or not they are will to pay for my time, because then I can be patient with them.
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    • Profile picture of the author Calvin
      I have found that there are some clients who are all rainbows and unicorns before you take the job, and only after you have accepted the job do they become "client-zilla".

      For me, that is the point where I just grit my teeth and do the job as quickly as I can so I can get paid. As long as I get paid, I can deal with a lot of BS.

      But I would never accept a job from that client again.

      So, if there are questions in the beginning, my thought would be "Will this person pay me?" and "Can I suffer through this long enough to get paid?"

      You might not want to "suffer" through a less than perfect client, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

      Calvin
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  • Profile picture of the author FrankRumbauskas
    In my AdWords management business I started out by promoting to my list along with referrals/word-of-mouth.

    The result was about 10 small biz clients paying me $497/month each and one large business client paying around $5,000/month.

    Each one of those small biz clients alone was more trouble and hassle than my big $5k client who was happy and I never heard from him other than receiving his check each month!

    Needless to say I'm no longer promoting to small biz and am very patiently holding out for more of the big dogs and also reviewing resumes for independent sales reps for the same purpose.

    -Frank
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  • Profile picture of the author John Romaine
    CLIENT "Yeah, Im starting a fitness clothing range, we're hoping to do about $50,000 a month, can you help us get first page rankings John..?"

    ME "Sure, my entry level pricing is $2,200 a month, when would you like to start..?"

    CLIENT "WHAT!?? ..we can't afford that.."

    Mission accomplished.

    As Frank said, serious business owners will have an allocated budget, and be willing to invest their money. The rest of them are just tyre kickers wasting your time.
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    • Profile picture of the author Daniel Evans
      Yep.

      It's always best to establish the price in the early stages, then consult.

      Sweet talking for hours only wastes valuable time and is a job within itself - which doesn't pay.

      With a little experience it's easy to weed out the people who want everything for nothing.

      In the same respect as teaching, I have people close to me who could work with me to earn us both a buck, but they are a waste of time. No motivation. More drive in a car with no wheels. Onward without!
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    • Profile picture of the author Joe Mobley
      Originally Posted by copywriter View Post


      I am so thankful that I learned the lesson that some people just aren't worth working for an ANY price.

      It is one of the very best lessons you could ever wish to learn in this business.

      In fact choosing the right clients makes all the difference in the world!
      Yep. Some of the best business decisions you will ever make are clients you walk away from.

      And this fits almost every area of life.

      Some of the best financial decisions you will ever make are opportunities you walk away from.

      Some of the best relationship decisions you will ever make are people you get away from.

      You get the idea.



      Originally Posted by FrankRumbauskas View Post

      The result was about 10 small biz clients paying me $497/month each and one large business client paying around $5,000/month.

      Each one of those small biz clients alone was more trouble and hassle than my big $5k client who was happy and I never heard from him other than receiving his check each month!

      Needless to say I'm no longer promoting to small biz and am very patiently holding out for more of the big dogs and also reviewing resumes for independent sales reps for the same purpose.

      -Frank
      Gold here! And it is in keeping with the gospel of Timothy... Ferriss in the 4-Hour-Workweek.

      Do an 80/20 analysis. Can the 80 percenters and duplicate the 20 percenters.


      Originally Posted by ramone_johnny View Post

      CLIENT "Yeah, Im starting a fitness clothing range, we're hoping to do about $50,000 a month, can you help us get first page rankings John..?"

      ME "Sure, my entry level pricing is $2,200 a month, when would you like to start..?"

      CLIENT "WHAT!?? ..we can't afford that.."

      Mission accomplished.

      As Frank said, serious business owners will have an allocated budget, and be willing to invest their money. The rest of them are just tyre kickers wasting your time.
      Id'ing clients that fit sooner than later is just smart business.

      Joe Mobley
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    • Profile picture of the author JamieSEO
      Originally Posted by ramone_johnny View Post

      CLIENT "Yeah, Im starting a fitness clothing range, we're hoping to do about $50,000 a month, can you help us get first page rankings John..?"

      ME "Sure, my entry level pricing is $2,200 a month, when would you like to start..?"

      CLIENT "WHAT!?? ..we can't afford that.."

      Mission accomplished.

      As Frank said, serious business owners will have an allocated budget, and be willing to invest their money. The rest of them are just tyre kickers wasting your time.
      My quoting is my price + $'s for how much of a pain in the neck I think the client will be. The more annoying the client, the more I quote.

      I ended up with one client that I REALLY did not like that was paying me 6 times more per job than anyone else (about 3-4 times more than most competitors). It was only when I quoted even higher for the last job (about 10 times what I charged anyone else) that he finally went away.

      I do turn some clients down, but most I just quote high enough to put off. I figure if they are a pain to deal with, at least I make a bundle of money from the job and can grin about the 'hazard pay'
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  • Profile picture of the author laurencewins
    I agree that the worst customers are often the penny pinchers too. I write resumes for people and they apply for jobs that may pay $50k or more. Yet they quibble about paying $100 or more for a professional resume written by a former recruiter and marketing manager who KNOWS what the employer wants in a resume.

    My writing clients are also strange. Many are fine but the odd one or 2 are always complaining about something. I have one who needs her job finished urgently but doesn't reply to emails for 3 weeks at a time.

    There are definitely some that are not worth working for and I try to weed them out at the start to save headaches later on.
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      I totally agree that it's important to turn away clients who are not a good match for you.

      However, what is the point of telling the would-be client "You are completely unteachable"? It's not helpful to them, and it's probably not even true. (It also doesn't make for good word of mouth when that person is talking to others about you.)

      Probably someone with a different personality and different experiences would do very well with them and even find them enjoyable to work with - and get results out of them.

      I think it's a much better idea to simply tell the client you are turning away that you and they are not a good match.

      Marcia Yudkin
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  • Profile picture of the author nicholasb
    that's why I pre qualify all of my students, but it is a $4,500 offer so that alone gets rid of most of the lame clients right there. I still run into few but not nearly as many as when I was selling a $500 service
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Rosenbaum
    Post of the day! Great thoughts from everybody.
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  • Profile picture of the author jgant
    It's also great to turn down work you don't want to do. As you build up your business, it's nice to take on only the type of work you want to do.

    In my first offline business, I took work that was not much fun, but needed the business. The clients were cool, but their work not so great.
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  • Profile picture of the author RevSEO
    I couldn't agree more and do this quite often with the "wrong" clients.

    Some clients will naturally be unhappy with just about any product, service, or item they purchase. No matter what you do, you simply won't satisfy them in the long run.

    I've learned through the years to "fire" clients quickly and politely as possible. Losing sleep, or having to deal with these types of clients simply isn't worth it.

    I believe that this is the biggest mistake the most novice entrepreneurs make, is trying to make everyone happy, rather on focusing on making your product or service better for the right clients.
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  • Profile picture of the author aarthielumalai
    I still haven't learnt how to say no. I need to start doing that. Most of the times, I agree to do things just coz I don't want to offend the clients, and then I later find out that it's not worth my time and the money they paid. You guys are right. Certain customers are not worth it even if they more than the others.
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  • Profile picture of the author barbling
    I think it all comes down to one's health and sanity as well.

    I'm okay with newbie clients so long as they're respectful and not abusing. After all, we've all been beginners at one time or another.

    But if a client/customer starts becoming the Creature from the Black Lagoon, I now have no problems firing that person *as* a customer.

    Life is too short to deal with people who want to cause you grief.
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  • Profile picture of the author maile15
    "Every Client is a good Client", said a friend of mine a while ago. I think he is right, even though there can be stressfull, they still bring in money.

    So it depends if you can afford that?!
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    • Profile picture of the author JennyBizz
      Originally Posted by maile15 View Post

      "Every Client is a good Client", said a friend of mine a while ago. I think he is right, even though there can be stressfull, they still bring in money.

      So it depends if you can afford that?!

      It's so easy to fall into the trap of thinking this way when you really need the money. However, if you can try to spend most of your time with your good clients - the ones who treat you well - then your business can continue to grow. When you waste your time with the bad ones, you may be making money, but your business will not grow as fast because you will be frustrated and become discouraged. It can be very hard to let go of a bad client when you really need the money - but sometimes it can be the very best thing for your business (and your sanity!).
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  • Profile picture of the author Levira
    When I begun writing, I was desperate for work and took any work that came my way, even if it meant re-writing 'x' times. It became too much and I finally decided to work with the few I had, get good reviews from them and it worked. It worked. Now I look back and wish I had said no much earlier.

    Trying to please everyone will not work. When it pinches and you have the power to remove the person who does so, move speedily to save you time, but also be gracious and don't ruin your reputation in the process.
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  • Profile picture of the author JCorp
    My 3 SW's....

    "Some will. Some won't. Someone's waiting."

    There are many fish in the see, so cast your line and reel in success!
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  • Profile picture of the author LilBlackDress
    Originally Posted by copywriter View Post

    I spoke with a prospect today and after about 10 minutes told him "I'm sorry - we cant do business. You are completely unteachable."

    I am so thankful that I learned the lesson that some people just aren't worth working for an ANY price.

    It is one of the very best lessons you could ever wish to learn in this business.

    In fact choosing the right clients makes all the difference in the world!

    Your Thoughts?
    Hopefully you did not actually say "you are completely unteachable".

    Why burn your bridges?

    A simple, I don't think my company is what you are looking for would be polite, professional and not likely to cause hard feelings or potential problems down the road.
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    • Profile picture of the author copywriter
      Originally Posted by LilBlackDress View Post

      Hopefully you did not actually say "you are completely unteachable".

      Why burn your bridges?

      A simple, I don't think my company is what you are looking for would be polite, professional and not likely to cause hard feelings or potential problems down the road.
      Actually, that is exactly what I said. My time is so valuable. The guy was an arrogant fool and every other word was a profanity followed by ten reasons why every suggestion I offered him 'would not work in this industry'

      In the end I stopped him and just asked: "Have YOU generated tens of millions of dollars in combined sales for hundreds of different clients? because if so, I'll stop talking and listen to your suggestions..."

      His reply had me stumped: "Strewth no mate! That's WHY I'm talking to you - YOU are the expert!"

      Seriously, in the 12 years I have been making a full-time living online the deepest regrets have been when I have ignored all the 'warning signs' and taken a client on board that I knew in my heart would be more trouble than they were worth.

      Anyway, I learned this lesson years ago at a training workshop when the facilitator asked what action we should take with the 20% of clients that gave us 80% of our troubles?

      I was sat next to a Lawyer and an Accountant and he went around the room asking people what they would do.

      The Lawyer mentioned possibly doing a course in mediation and the accountant said he would learn better communication skills.

      The guy knew I owned an advertising agency and he said: "Let's see what Mr Marketing twill do..."

      And as he looked at me it hit me what he was trying to teach us...

      "I'm going to fire mine 'immediately' and focus like crazy on the 20% that really appreciate what we do for them!"

      At times my resolve has been severely tested but it is a decision that I have NEVER even for one moment regretted!
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  • Profile picture of the author eminc
    I worked for a company with a full time job, with the motto "customer is always right". I dealt with a project, where they were asking for extended support and development(illegitimate demands). Obviously, I said NO. And that was the first sign for me to quit the full time job and join the IM community again.

    Customers are people, some are good and some are not so good. But in the process of saying NO to the customer who make illegitimate demands and want to extend the work every time they think of a new idea, don't drop off the customers who are completely unaware.

    Some customers always think of their budget. If they are outsourcing, it should be as low as it could be, so that the remaining money can be applied at other places. Sometimes people don't know the REALITY behind things. Being a programmer, i can't expect a regular Internet Marketer to be aware of timelines. For example, some days back I got a customer who wanted to add a like button of facebook, and who thought that it takes a loads of programming. And one more, who thought logging in a posting to a wall in Facebook takes mere 5 minutes of work.

    What I want to say is that YOU are the person who is actually an expert of your field, your customer isn't. The whole idea of providing service is to help people. We can take efforts in explaining them in 2-3 mails of what is the scope of the project and a detailed justification of WHY the price is this. Because you don't know, maybe its the first time he/she is outsourcing or hiring somebody.

    But again, if the person is from the bunch of "not so good customers", don't waste your time explaining. As copywriter said, "I am sorry, but we can't do business together"

    Mohit
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