Bad clients are bad business and are a drain on the limited willpower and mental strength that we have, so always be firing your worst clients. If you always fire your bottom 10% of clients, you'll always be improving the level of client and person you are working with.
One problem that every entrepreneur, business owner, manager and executive will eventually run into is the bad client or customer. The person (or company) you dread having to work with. It could be because they:
- pay extremely low rates compared to what you charge now.
- are just mean people.
- take up far too much of your time.
- never listen to instructions, guidance nor advice.
- or even, you really just don't like working with them anymore.
For whatever reason, they are the ones you would really like not to work with. So why do you?
Let me say this again:
Why are they still a customer or client if they only drain your resources, are a pain to work with and you absolutely hate working with them?
Give me a good reason. I dare you. But let me guess a few ‘excuses' you might give me:
- they give you much needed money.
- they have some connection you need.
- you're afraid of the backlash if you fire them.
- they were your first, so you feel you owe them something.
- you have a long standing unchangeable contract with them.
Out of those five, only the last one is an almost acceptable reason.
- if you need money: find more and better clients.
- they have some connection you need: get that connection, make it yourself or somehow get in touch and then get away from that bad client! It really is that simple.
- you're afraid of backlash: what are they going to do, send an angry email at you? Call you mean names? If you end the relationship kindly, warmly, amicably and reasonably they'd have no reason to say or do anything bad to you. Especially if you offer them an easy out and help with moving to a new service provider.
- **they were first: ** so what? Other than getting the ‘you were first' badge, they don't get any special treatment because of it. They are a client just like everyone else.
But this brings us to the fifth issue: if you have a long standing unchangeable contract with them then you're sort of SOL. BUT, many contracts and agreements can be changed or alters to fit the new needs of both parties. Since this isn't an article about contract, I'll make this example brief:
If you have, for example, a retainer agreement for your consulting services but you've since the original signing grown your business significantly (higher caliber clients, higher fees, ect ect…) and the retainer contract is for a very very long term, then you can still go to that client and tell them something such as “Hey Mr. Client, I know you love our agreement though with all the growth that growth that I've had over the past two years this agreement isn't really working for me anymore. At this point, many people will see your point that things have changed and may be open to SOME changes. Some will agree to redo a contract for the new terms, and others will refuse to change anything.
For those who refuse to change anything, you can still offer to change things but try adding extra added services (for extra monies), delegating the work to others (if possible) and starting show them all the great new things they are missing out on because they have this old agreement with you (possibly a new agreement includes free products, extra value added work, or even more facetime). Whatever you offer, make sure it works for you and something that they are more than happy to pay the NEW rates for.
This section probably should have been said first, but why should you fire your bottom 10% of clients? Part of it is from a business standpoint and the other part is mental/personal.
For business, getting rid of the bottom 10% of bad ‘stuff' will mean that those resources are now free to service the better clients (who presumably generate more income for you). This doesn't mean that your client base is shrinking, though it can be if that's your goal; all it means is that you are removing whatever is bad in-order to make room for better clients.
Internally/Mentally, bad clients are just a drain on your willpower and energy. Ever talk to someone that after you were done having a conversion with, you were just dead tired and not in a great fun way either? In the: ‘today just sucks, all I want to do is crawl into bed and forget about the day' type of conversation? Yeah, that's what bad clients do.
It's scientifically proven that we, as humans, have a limited amount of will power. This gets replenished when we rest, relax and sleep. Doing stressful activities or bad experiences depletes this limited power faster than normal. How much faster? That is different from person to person. On a quick side note though, will power is like a muscle: if you train it, it can get stronger.
If that client is such an energy drain on you, you'll be dead tired mentally in no time and your business will suffer for it as well. You won't be able to person as well at work, and your business will loose time, money and resources on them that could be better spent on profitable clients.
So am I saying that you should fire every ‘bad' client you have? Certainly not! This is NOT a black and white, night and day, 1-0 scenario! There is a lot of middle ‘gray' area!
The graph above is a an simplification on how you can ‘rate' clients. Every client starts at zero. The more good things about them, the more plus (+) points they get and thus closer to the good ‘perfect client' side. Though the more and more bad qualities they have the more minus (-) points they get.
Once they get past a certain threshold, you should really consider politely showing them the door. That threshold will be different for you than it is for me. Everyone is different. The ‘amount' of points doesn't really matter either, as long as there are more good points than bad.
Essentially: if they aren't worth keeping around: then don't keep them around anymore.