No matter the current economic climate, firing a client tightens your business and sharpens its focus. It can also revitalize your energy as you let go of the stress of dealing with the client. You’ll be happier. You may even replace the problem client with two new ones as the fired client won’t drain your energy anymore.
Figuring out which client to let go is easy. Doing the actual letting go is hard, more so with the likeable clients.
Why you must make every effort to be diplomatic
Regardless how you feel about the client, remain professional while showing them the door. Otherwise, it could come back and hurt you. Even if you never work with them again, they’re not going to disappear.
It’s a surprisingly small world that has gotten smaller with the advent of social media. Don’t let unhappy lips sink your ship.
Here are some scenarios in which you could cross paths with the client to justify the need for a tactful parting:
- Your customer partners with the fired client.
- You get business from an employee who has left the client’s company.
- The client tells others about your business especially if you part on bad terms.
- You bump into the client at the store or around town.
One of my first local clients found me on the Internet. After getting to know him, it turns out that we live close to each other. In fact, our kids are a year apart and go to the same school.
I can’t tell you how many times I ran into him at the store or at a school event. And I’ve worked with him while he was at three different companies. This would’ve never happened if I had dropped him on less than stellar terms or didn’t work to keep the client happy.
You’ve probably had enough small world experiences to know why it’s important to ensure the bridge doesn’t burn.
These five tips will help you fire your clients with tact.
1. Stay professional.
Not to be Captain Obvious, but this needs to be mentioned because it’s critical to avoid mirroring the client’s anger. Think about what you will say and how you’ll explain the why. Discuss the situation rather than placing blame.
It’s all too easy for one person’s voice to get louder and the other person to get louder. That’s just human nature. Try lowering your voice. It can provokeW the other person to do the same. If it looks like the person needs a moment, it might help to politely excuse yourself and leave the room for a few minutes.
2. Give enough notice.
Your business has a role in the client’s business. Removing your company from the equation disrupts the client’s business. How much notice should you give? That depends on the product or service you provide.
It would be ideal to stay on until the client finds a replacement. However, that’s a dangerous move because the client may delay the search for a replacement. Prepare yourself in case the client instantly cuts all ties with your business.
3. Choose the best means for communicating.
How do you communicate with the client? That’s most likely the method you should use to fire the client. If it’s face-to-face meetings, avoid using a different means because it makes a tough situation worse.
If you’re too far apart for an in-person meeting, opt for the communication method you use most often. A telephone call is probably the best option. You could send an email, if it’s not unusual. This ensures you don’t say anything you might regret. Write a draft. Sit on it. Review it after you’ve had time to let it seep.
4. Double or triple rates.
Some clients refuse to break up. Determine how much you’re willing to charge to keep working for the client. A rate hike could push the client to let you go.
It’s always possible the client will accept the rate increase. Thus, think about the highest rate possible that makes up for continuing the relationship.
5. Offer a referral.
This doesn’t mean you’re passing the problem child to another company. Although the client did not work out for you, the client could be a better fit for another company.
Build goodwill by contacting the company you refer to your ex-client. Let them know about the referral and describe your experience and problems in working with the client. Perhaps, they can learn from your experience and adapt to build a better working relationship.
One thing not to do
Some people suggest telling the fired client that your company is booked or has a new client. This move could burn a bridge. Doing this implies that your clients don’t come first. That’s not something you’d want to associate with your company‘s brand. Besides, the client might tell others about it.
There’s no avoiding this situation and it’s an awful feeling while it’s happening. This, too, shall pass. Think about how much happier you and your employees will feel after dropping the problem client.
Employees could be considering leaving the company because they can’t handle the stress of working with a difficult client. You’ve saved yourself the cost of finding and training replacements by firing the client. Your actions to make life easier will motivate employees to go the extra mile for the company.
What are good reasons for a company to fire a client? Any other suggestions on how to gracefully part ways? Please share your comments because others want to hear your thoughts.
Image credit: Gila National Forest