In life, we’re forced to make choices we don’t want to make, and these choices come with a pretty little basket of consequences wrapped in a bow. Sometimes we realize we made the wrong choice when we peek inside the basket; other times we smile triumphantly when we see that our choices have been successful.
In business, we also have to make decisions we might not want to make – leads and potential clients come across our desks that we must choose to pursue or forego. These are some of the most important decisions you make.
One recurring theme in small and midsize businesses is the feeling that if the client has the money to pay their bills, they’re automatically qualified to be your client. Right?
Although companies all too often operate from this fear-driven approach to accepting clients, the decision to accept a bad client – even one who can pay – can be more costly than turning them down.
A bad client:
- Has unrealistic expectations and will be unhappy no matter what you do
- Is grumpy, grouchy, Eeyore-like, etc. and will be dreaded by team members
- Has no clear focus or goals – they want to pursue a different strategy every week, which wastes time and is an inefficient use of resources
- Thinks you’ll be at their beck and call at all times – they think they should be your only priority
- Expects you to render services that you don’t offer
- Is never satisfied – no matter the numbers, the growth, or the improvement, this kind of client is always complaining and never happy with the work delivered
As we determine which relationships to enter, it’s important to look for warning signs of bad client traits to avoid choosing the wrong client, as doing so will have significant ramifications for your team.
Here are the 3 top problems of hiring a bad client:
Spending a lot of time and getting little results
If your client is difficult to please, you might find yourself in a never-ending cycle of revisions, edits, and redesigns that strain your team and make it difficult to focus on other client work. These kinds of clients, which we often dismiss as “picky,” are toxic and have a direct impact on your team’s productivity. In addition to frustrated employees, you’ll also have a frustrated client, as their lack of focus/goals make it hard for you to deliver satisfactory results.
If you’ve already hired this client, communication is key. Set clear expectations of delivery dates, number of free revisions, and the length of time necessary for projects. This will help control costs and save your employees a lot of frustration.
Unhappy Client, Unhappy Employee, Unhappy You
We grew up hearing the phrase "the customer is always right," and while that may be true in retail (but increasingly less so there), it’s not true in the knowledge business. When clients hire you, they’re hiring your mind, knowledge, and experience. Hence, they’re hiring you because you know best!
Establish yourself as the expert early on and don’t cave into every client demand. The likelihood is that the client doesn't know what they're doing and will lead you down a path to nowhere – and then blame you for it. (The audacity!)
These clients are bad news for any company. They’ll always be unhappy with your work because it’s not delivering, but their lack of goals means you don’t even know what you’re supposed to be delivering. They’ll also bring down your team’s morale, so again, you'll be dealing with unhappy employees AND unhappy clients. (No bueno! Mission abort!)
If you already have one of these clients, sit down and clarify goals, re-establish the reasons why they hired you, and take a more decisive leadership role. They may throw a temper tantrum, but without this re-establishment of authority, you may be in for a roller coaster ride – and not the fun kind.
Perhaps one of the most ignored issues in taking on a bad client is: YOU LOSE MONEY – the exact opposite of your goal as a business! You went into business for a myriad of reasons, of course, but making money has to be one of them or you won’t have a business at all. Taking on a bad client, therefore, means you run the risk of defeating the very purpose of your existence.
These bad clients are a big time and resource suck. In trying to satisfy them, you’ll end up dumping hours and hours and hours of your employees’ time into their projects.
Keep track of all your clients’ profitability; if they’re not profitable, it’s time to re-evaluate what you do for them, restructure their contract, or even possibly “fire” them as your client. Don’t stay in a bad relationship to save face.
Ultimately, choosing the right client is like choosing the right partner in life. Not everyone is going to be a good fit – some are better, some are worse, and some are just right. A good fit for a business is a client with clear goals, realistic expectations of you and themselves, a sense of self-awareness, and a willingness to establish good communication. They should be respectful and have faith in your ability to do the job. In turn, you must deliver results and give them the attention they need. Although it won’t always be easy, these are the makings of successful business relationship that will thrive over time.
If you follow these steps, you'll find yourself in a blissful business relationship where both you and the client benefit enormously. You help them achieve the success they seek and get the most out of their partnership with you; meanwhile, your happy client is willing to refer you to their business contacts and send you more business. Conversations lead to the exploration of new ideas, and your employees are excited and happy to help that client grow. This business synergy is the stuff that success is truly made of.
What are you waiting for? Go out there and look for your true client match! (If you need a little help with your marketing match, check out the resource below.)