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Turning Down a Potential Client

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Harman

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So, I met with a potential client the other day, we've exchanged emails a few times and had our first face-to-face. I walked away from that meeting and my gut reaction was that working with him would be a big mistake. There were a couple red flags during the conversation and I decided to drop him.

Anybody here have a similar experience and care to share why they turned down a potential client?
 

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UnderdogStrategy

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From my little experience, each time I had that gut feeling it was always right.
Obviously i figured that out not listening to it and keep going.

What red flags did you spot, if i may ask?
 

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Anybody here have a similar experience and care to share why they turned down a potential client?

Lots of times:
- they seem to want to micro manage everything and won't let me do my best work
- they have too many ideas and/or unrealistic visions of what will happen
- they are too nervous about spending money and buyers remorse is very likely
- they seem annoying to deal with or super needy
- they are "political" > it is more about some statement than actually what-makes-sense business

It is a lot easier to find a new client then it is to get rid of a bad one > if your gut says no just walk away.
 

Harman

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From my little experience, each time I had that gut feeling it was always right.
Obviously i figured that out not listening to it and keep going.

What red flags did you spot, if i may ask?
The job was a one off deal but the guy was trying to shoe-horn in as much extra stuff as he could.

We have a contract (very basic) that protects the potential client on the timeframe and price and he refused to sign

his business is in a niche that I'm not interested in pursuing

A big one was his constant suggestion that by working with him we would get all kinds of awesome perks, but his previous web guys kept backing out after a few weeks working with him.
 

Harman

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It is a lot easier to find a new client then it is to get rid of a bad one > if your gut says no just walk away.
I like that a lot. And thanks for the feedback. Was there ever a time you didn't listen to your guy but it still worked out okay?
 

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I like that a lot. And thanks for the feedback. Was there ever a time you didn't listen to your guy but it still worked out okay?

Ya 2-3 times.

Sometimes I try finish it best I can, other times I get myself out of the deal early.
 

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So, I met with a potential client the other day, we've exchanged emails a few times and had our first face-to-face. I walked away from that meeting and my gut reaction was that working with him would be a big mistake. There were a couple red flags during the conversation and I decided to drop him.

Anybody here have a similar experience and care to share why they turned down a potential client?
Skim the cream! -- which means you MUST choose your clients carefully. Keep the best and throw the rest back. A bad client can take 80% of your time and only account for a small percentage of your income.

When I was selling RE, I used to pick up cards from my competitors. When I determined that the prospect wasn't going to be a reasonable client, I would respectfully tell them that I was unable to help them. I then refer them by giving them another agent's card. It kept those other agents very busy with sellers who weren't inclined to be reasonable in their expectations. And it freed me to go find another property seller who was more reasonable.

As an appraiser and an expert witness, I turned down a lot more jobs than I accepted. And I was known to fire clients. I simply finished whatever work we had going and refused to take any more work from them. When I had secretaries, some would call and tell my staff that they were going to ask me to do _____ on a job. If their request was questionable or wrong, my secretaries would warn them not to ask me. My staff knew that I would refuse to do anything I considered to be wrong or illegal. Then I would either refuse the current assignment or totally remove them from my client list.

You may think that this business model sounds sanctimonious and prudish. It's actually a very practical firewall that protects against problems and it maximizes profits. In order to carry it off, you must produce superior work and maintain very high ethical standards.
 

Johnny boy

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I always adjust terms to deal with problem people. They usually turn themselves down.

"Okay. Here's the agreement. I will need it signed. Also, we will communicate via email only. It will be $2,500 paid with a check and work will begin after the check has been cashed. There will be no refunds for any reason. We can get started right away. Sound good?"

"Oh you don't like that? Okay. Let us know if you change your mind"

For my service business, when I get a job to give a quote for that doesn't fit into our normal services, I ask myself why. It's usually because it's so time-intensive that for us to be as profitable I would have to charge a ridiculous amount, so that's exactly what I do.

"Okay mr. customer, for us to mow your 1 acre field on a biweekly basis, it would be $1,500 a month"

I've had people actually pay the ridiculous price, but most don't. Remember that there's a price that will make any job worth it. If you don't want to do the job, price it and give yourself the terms that you'd be happy to have the job. If it makes the terms or price ridiculous, so be it.
 

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Anybody here have a similar experience and care to share why they turned down a potential client?
You should NEVER turn down a client. That is a huge mistake. Why are you turning him down? Because he's a pain in the a$$? Well then, you should ask him for a price that it's worth feeling that pain in your bottom. If the price is high enough, surely the pain will be worth it.

Turning clients down is a response to your anxiety. You're feeling anxious, so you want to run away, not realising that you actually have all the control you need in the interaction. You can ask for whatever price works for you. If he's going to be a pain fine - you'll accept working with him for whatever price. Then it will be worth going through that pain.
 

WJK

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You should NEVER turn down a client. That is a huge mistake. Why are you turning him down? Because he's a pain in the a$$? Well then, you should ask him for a price that it's worth feeling that pain in your bottom. If the price is high enough, surely the pain will be worth it.

Turning clients down is a response to your anxiety. You're feeling anxious, so you want to run away, not realising that you actually have all the control you need in the interaction. You can ask for whatever price works for you. If he's going to be a pain fine - you'll accept working with him for whatever price. Then it will be worth going through that pain.
It depends on your type of business... I've said no often. There's a flip side to this coin. I've chosen to work with respectful people who have reasonable expectations. Then I do my best to please them. It's all about the work. There isn't enough money in the world to make me put up with BS from a difficult person. It's not "fine" with me for a client to be a "pain". I can work through a difficult job or a complex situation. That has always been my professional specialty. But, I draw the line when it comes to BS. Work is collaborating with a client. It takes a meeting of the minds. If I can't connect, or it gets painful, the whole thing is going to fall apart. Life is too short to knowingly create a bad situation.

Yes, I can raise my price for the job -- and in my career, I charged well for my services. Yes, they can say no and walk away. If they accept the higher price, they will probably have higher expectations. And there is a high chance that they will feel forced and/or cheated. Many people react to that stress by being passive-aggressively. Like I've been saying, why throw a stone into my path?

Edit -- Saying no and setting boundaries is a position of strength. Wimps go along to get along. I worked too hard and long to grab for anything that comes my way. I am not a clam in a fixed location who must wait for anything that the tides bring to feed me.
 
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Harman

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I would respectfully tell them that I was unable to help them. I then refer them by giving them another agent's card.
Holy heck that's awesome! Laughed right out loud when I read this. That's a great suggestion!


I always adjust terms to deal with problem people. They usually turn themselves down.
I guess on the flip side is that if they end up agreeing to your outlandish offer, you still have to work with the client but on terms heavily favoring you. Anything like that ever happen for you and they were still totally obnoxious? Did it make the client easier to stomach?

You should NEVER turn down a client. That is a huge mistake. Why are you turning him down? Because he's a pain in the a$$? Well then, you should ask him for a price that it's worth feeling that pain in your bottom. If the price is high enough, surely the pain will be worth it.

Turning clients down is a response to your anxiety. You're feeling anxious, so you want to run away, not realising that you actually have all the control you need in the interaction. You can ask for whatever price works for you. If he's going to be a pain fine - you'll accept working with him for whatever price. Then it will be worth going through that pain.
I have to respectfully disagree here but I do really like @Johnny boy 's comment about making the terms such that the client will turn themselves down.

Refusing to work with the client outright is probably the wrong move. Andy Black has mentioned working with people and it not working out but their relationship is such that even though the transaction went south, the client still appreciated him enough to refer other potential clients.
 

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Black_Dragon43

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There isn't enough money in the world to make me put up with BS from a difficult person
Then you just didn't set your price high enough or negotiated the right conditions. Suppose someone wants me to write an email for them, and I know that they're micromanagers and will ask me to revise it a lot, and I'll end up spending 10 hours on it. So I tell them ok, $30,000 USD, you have 10 revisions, let's go, sign here. If they're going to take the deal, who am I to blame them? Their mistake.

Same thing holds for you. Oh, you want to rent this 500 sq ft apartment? The rent is $30,000/month, sign here. Seeing their faces is the most priceless thing in such deals. Say X is a horrible tenant, but he's willing to pay you $1 million a month to rent your property. You'd say no?
 

Johnny boy

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I guess on the flip side is that if they end up agreeing to your outlandish offer, you still have to work with the client but on terms heavily favoring you. Anything like that ever happen for you and they were still totally obnoxious? Did it make the client easier to stomach?
For a company like a web design firm, it would be adjusting terms and setting communication expectations like "we will communicate via email only" and "there are 5 reasonable revisions included" and a ironclad contract that says that your firm is the one who decides which revisions are reasonable, and the customer pays with a check so there is no chance of them stealing their money back with a chargeback. They paid. They can only get their money back through a lawsuit in your state, in which case they will lose because judges don't ignore clearly written agreements. You're covered there.

For my lawn care company, everyone signs contracts for 12 months which have a 2-month cancellation fee. We try to make everyone happy, but if a request or complaint is unreasonable, we just tell them to chill out. They can cancel if they want, but it will cost them around $300 dollars just to get us to stop showing up. Theoretically some customers can chargeback their cards and we could send their entire bill to small claims court, get a judgement and start collecting but the threat is usually all we need. This is for bad, bad customers. We cover our asses against shitty people and we only get mean when people are mean first. 99% of the time, customers are great, we keep them very happy, they love us and we are rated highest in the area. We are a nice person's dream company but a nightmare for karens.

We absolutely get crazy people. Building a system that can deal with the crazies is such an underrated part of running a business. It's the part I'm pretty good at now. Some of our worst customers have been pretty profitable. They'll signup for a $220/mo lawn care plan, be rude and complain for no reason, cancel and pay us $440 and then we can better take care of the 99% of our reasonable, kind customers. When I give quotes, their personality accounts for about 30% of the price. A nice, casual person gets a much better price than some old hag telling me about how she "fired the last two people for being so stupid hahah I guess they couldn't handle my high expectations". We set the price high so it can account for us spending more time there as well.
 

WJK

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Then you just didn't set your price high enough or negotiated the right conditions. Suppose someone wants me to write an email for them, and I know that they're micromanagers and will ask me to revise it a lot, and I'll end up spending 10 hours on it. So I tell them ok, $30,000 USD, you have 10 revisions, let's go, sign here. If they're going to take the deal, who am I to blame them? Their mistake.

Same thing holds for you. Oh, you want to rent this 500 sq ft apartment? The rent is $30,000/month, sign here. Seeing their faces is the most priceless thing in such deals. Say X is a horrible tenant, but he's willing to pay you $1 million a month to rent your property. You'd say no?
How about just saying no? It sounds like you've never had to do an eviction or follow Fair Housing Laws. Try explaining that rent to judge!
 

WJK

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Refusing to work with the client outright is probably the wrong move. Andy Black has mentioned working with people and it not working out but their relationship is such that even though the transaction went south, the client still appreciated him enough to refer other potential clients.
It's exactly the right move to say no at times. When you know up front that you are putting yourself into a situation where you are putting yourself in harm's way -- stop. Say no. Weigh your odds. When you are already sinking, stop digging yourself deeper into that hole. I have always done difficult jobs and I'm good at it. I like to be challenged. Doing that difficult job for a person who is going to make it an impossible task, would make me miserable and take up all of my time. So, my policy is to screen clients and chose with whom I want to work. I've been self-employed for 45 years and it has worked for me. I use the same process in my personal life.
 

Harman

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Loving the feedback guys. Thanks for your input!

@Black_Dragon43 I totally get what you're saying and I will definitely take that into account next time I come across a situation. I've spent years learning to trust my gut and I went with that instinct with this last guy. Since then I've signed on 2 new clients and both experiences were easy and smooth.

I think that because I'm in a field where business opportunities are plentiful I'm in a position to turn down potential Karen's and not deal with 'em. I get that this might not always be the case and it's possible that my potential client pool could dry up and then I'd have to be less picky.
 

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