Let’s face it; the internet has leveled the playing field. I know the real estate market is suffering but frankly, online commerce is still a sellers market.
As a small business owner you now have more tools than ever to promote your wares. And instead of being restricted to 8am-5pm, your products and services are on display 24/7/365. Yes, it’s true that your industry is saturated with competition but you are savvy enough to get above the noise.
Last week’s Harvard Business Review published an article about firing clients. Here is the direct link – http://blogs.hbr.org/tjan/2011/08/its-time-to-fire-some-of-your.html
In this piece CEO Anthony Tjan discusses the merits of firing clients that are more trouble than they are worth. He suggests that you view clients based on two variables: the gross sales they bring in and the amount of hand holding required.
His research showed that clients that spent little monies tended to require more hand holding. On the other hand, clients that paid more for a service tended to be less “hassle” to the business owner. He suggests implementing a price based service model.
This is nothing new, we all know that the local pizza place has a minimum delivery amount. Essentially this is the same thing. And the options are endless. Companies like NCH software and others sell premium customer service like a warranty. If you didn’t pay for it ahead of time, you will have to pay through the nose to get a tech on the phone.
I’m not a fan of treating clients differently. Coming from an extensive customer service background, it’s a bit out of left field. However, I do keep a list of red flags. These are items I have found that indicate trouble down the road. As I maneuver Content Equals Money into a higher price range and a bigger market the list grows.
Here are a few samples of the red flags on my list:
Lack of respect for my time as indicated by:
- Multiple emails within a 2 hour period with statements like “why aren’t you responding to me?”
- Calling me directly on Skype or personal cell without an appt and immediately spewing orders. I’m happy to chat with clients anytime, I just appreciate a quick “is this a good time?” before jumping in 🙂
- Calling my personal cell well after business hours. I had a client once who would call my houseline at 3am even after I repeatedly asked him to call me during business hours.
Lack of respect for my team as indicated by:
- Use of derogatory language during feedback.
- Insistent on personal information of my team members
The list goes on and on. The vast majority of these indicators have to do with respect. Other indicators are related to my experience in the content generation field. Things like late payment or ridiculous amounts of revisions are also on my list.
So what do I do with this list of red flags? I use it.
I keep a running list on my desktop to refer myself to when I am having a difficult time with a client. I decided a long time ago that any client that has 5 or more of these red flags is not worth our time. It sounds harsh but each one of these red flags takes the wind out of my sails.
When you craft a business from the ground up like I have you have a duty to yourself and your team to avoid difficult clients. Yes, you should give people leeway. Absolutely you should bend over backwards. You should also have a set limit. That way you don’t make rash decisions out of nowhere.
When you have a list of red flags or you have a price point you have an unemotional yardstick. That way you can let clients go with confidence that you are making the right decision.
Michael Michalowicz of Toilet Paper Entrepreneur talks about learning to say no to clients at length. When you waste your time with the wrong clients, you won’t have energy for the right ones. And remember, it’s a sellers market: there are plenty of clients to choose from!
Do you have a list of red flags or other indicators of difficult clients? Care to share what some of them might be?
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