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How to Fire Bad Customers: A Simple Framework for Small Business Owners

How to Fire Bad Customers: A Simple Framework for Small Business Owners

After your sales team scratches and claws for each account, it is often easy to forget about purposefully curbing your client list. No matter how important your customers are to you, some of them just aren’t worth the time.

Below, we discuss how to figure out if a customer is bad enough to fire, and what you can do about it.

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Differentiating “good” and “bad” customers

The first step is determining whether or not you actually have any bad customers. One thing you do not want to do is simply pick the customers that complain the most and get rid of them. These customers are actually extremely valuable. A recent survey found that if 27 people experience a problem, only one actually reports it. Without those people alerting you to your shortcomings, you may never know how to improve for the rest of your customers.

Here are some important questions you should ask yourself when deciding whether a customer is worth firing or not:

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  • Do you make money from the account? If you are actually losing money on a customer due to frequent returns, outrageous demands, or slow payments, you can get rid of them without thinking twice.
  • What is the opportunity cost of servicing them? Consider whether or not you are spending too much time on low-profit customers. Usually, this time can be better spent focusing on growing higher potential accounts.
  • Does the customer hurt morale? Some customers will be profitable, but treat their account managers or sales representatives abusively. If their behavior is severe enough, cutting ties could be warranted.
  • What else do they bring to the table? Think carefully about any other benefits a customer might bring to the table for you. For example, if they have offered referrals or positive reviews in the past, even if they are not profitable or are hard to deal with, the ancillary benefits could be worth keeping them around.

Contemplating your alternatives

After identifying your problem customers, avoid cutting them loose immediately. Take the time to see if there are any alternatives available to you. You might consider hiring a junior salesperson to handle lower-value accounts while the experienced reps take care of the most important ones.

Another good strategy is simply laying out the facts instead of cutting ties with them. Explain the problems that you are having with them in a polite manner. Let the customer decide if they are willing to make fewer demands or would prefer to find another vendor. They might be unaware that they have been difficult, or quite willing to lower their demands in order to save the business relationship.

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Breaking the bad news

If you have determined that a customer is no longer worth your time and there aren’t any alternatives available, you must figure out how to fire them gracefully. This is an uncommon business proposition and can be quite awkward. However, you can take the following steps to ensure that the separation goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Keep it short and professional. Do not bring emotion into the conversation or engage in any arguments. Simply let your former client know that you will no longer be doing business with them.
  • Offer a referral. If you are comfortable doing so, provide the customer with the name of a competitor who might be a better fit for them. Doing so will minimize the impact on their operations and lower the chance that they will spread ill will towards your company.
  • Try to leave the door open. The only consistent thing in business is change. A company’s budget could increase exponentially, or their purchasing manager may change. Leave on the best terms you can in order to keep your options together open in the future.

Nipping the problem in the bud

As you weed your problem customers out, take care to identify any patterns between them. You might notice that businesses of a certain size or in a certain industry tend to cause more problems. Take a look for any early warning signs that raised a red flag early in your business relationship. Identify these customers and try to train them better from the very start. In many cases, you can preemptively avoid account issues with strategic customer onboarding. The better you become at nullifying problem customers from the beginning, the less time you will waste handling and firing them in the future.

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Getting rid a customer is never an easy proposition. Having the chance to develop more profitable relationships and relieve your account managers of unnecessary hassle, however, is well worth the effort. By following the steps outlined above, you will drive more revenue and make life easier on your employees.

Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on November 19, 2019

Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

Work Smarter, Not Harder: 12 Ways to Work Smart

I imagine that like me, you say that you never have enough time and that you just cannot cope with 60 dozen things all at once.

How on earth do you get out of that spiral?

Many people never sit down and look at how to work smarter, rather than harder and even longer hours. But not you, you’re smart enough to try to learn effective ways to work.

So how to work smarter not harder? Here are 12 smart ways you should be following:

1. Improve Your Time Management Skills

Easier said than done? Well, no actually, because there are a few simple rules that can really help you to manage time better.

For example, when setting up a top priority task, you need to switch off the phone and ignore your email first. Then you need to abandon any ideas of multitasking as that will slow you down and ruin your focus.

Finally, set a reasonable deadline and do everything in your power to meet it.

“When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” — Sir Ray Avery

2. Speed up Your Typing and Use Shortcuts

These days we’re all keyboard slaves. So why not speed up your typing and try to get rid of the two finger syndrome. In fact, when you save 21 days per year just by typing fast!

This is exactly what I am doing now, so I cannot honestly say I am practicing what I preach!

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But help is at hand. Try some of these apps and games to help you type fast: 8 Most Effective Games and Apps to Learn to Type Fast

Using shortcuts on the keyboard is another time saver and can speed up your work.

For example, press F2 to rename a selected file, while CTRL + I will put selected text in italics.

There are so many of these. If you make the effort to learn them, they really can be helpful.

3. Learn How to Use Productivity Tools

It is well worth downloading all the useful tools and apps that can highly boost your productivity. Take a look at these 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools and install whatever fits your needs.

Now that is really a great way of working smarter, not harder.

4. Use Your Phone Wisely

Instead of writing emails, sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone and talk to the person responsible. It saves time, especially for important or urgent discussions.

If that colleague works in the same office, it is even better to go and talk to him or her. It gives you a break, you get some exercise and you actually make human contact which is becoming quite rare in this electronic world.

5. Keep a Tab on Your Tabs

If you are like me, you might well find that you have a ton of tabs open at the top of your browser.

In order to find the one you want, you have to search for them as they are off screen. Having all these tabs open slows down your browser too.

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One solution is to use OneTab which can keep a neat list on the screen of all these tabs when you want to quickly get to one of them or you want to remind yourself which ones you have open.

6. Use a “To Don’t” List

We all know about to do lists and I find that they are generally great. They give me a great sense of achievement as I cross off the tasks done.

But often, I find that we are doing non-essential tasks or ones that can easily be postponed. That is why many people recommend the to don’t list.[1]

Some people prefer to savagely prune the to do list while others prefer to have two separate lists, to do and to don’t. You just have to work out what works best for you when you are trying to save precious time to become more productive.

7. Expect Failure and Fight Paranoia

When failure rears its ugly head, some people get a bit paranoid and fear that this may become a trend.

Projects will go wrong and failure should be expected rather than feared. Learning lessons from failure and analyzing what went wrong is the best way forward.

“Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.” — Richard Branson

And here you can find 10 Great Lessons Highly Successful People Have Learned From Failure.

8. Be Concise

Rambling on at meetings, in emails and even when introducing yourself to new clients can waste a lot of people’s time.

One way is to practice and sharpen your “elevator speech,”[2] which tells people in 30 seconds or less why they need your skills and how they can benefit from doing business with you.

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Just think of the many situations where this could be useful:

  • Making new contacts
  • Talking about yourself at a job interview
  • Meeting people at conferences or parties
  • Phone calls to new clients

9. Ask the Right Questions

“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.” — Naguib Mahfouz

How do you get feedback? The secret is to ask the right questions at the right time.

When you do this, you are gathering the information you need to help in decision making. This will save you time and you will be able to cut meetings to a minimum.

Forbes magazine reports on research that they carried out on asking the right questions.[3] When that happens, the positive effects are increased by 400%. There are also other benefits in staff motivation and a positive impact on the company’s bottom line.

Lifehack’s CEO Leon has shared about how to ask for feedback to learn faster: How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

10. Learn as Much as You Can

You should always be on a steep learning curve. Look at your skills profile and determine where you need to fill a gap. Talk to important connections and network in your niche.

Keep up to date on trends and developments. It is a fact-changing world. When an opportunity arises, you will be the best equipped to seize it because you have never stopped learning. Just another way of working smarter.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

11. Look After Your Greatest Resource

No, your greatest resource is not time. It is YOU.

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If you do not get enough sleep, exercise and relaxation, you find that you become less and less productive. You begin to work longer and longer hours, which is the exact opposite of what you want.

What you should be doing is making sure you are in the best shape. It is useful to remember that you need a break of 15 minutes after every one and a half hours of work.[4]

Taking breaks and getting fresh air and exercise is one of the best ways of working smarter, not harder.

12. Don’t Fall into the Trap of Working Smarter and Harder

As a society, we are obsessed with doing everything smarter so we are more efficient and we save time all around.[5]

But the most important thing to remember is to accept when we are ready to switch off that computer and not fill up the time with even more work!

The Bottom Line

The key to greater productivity is to work smarter, not harder. Working smarter saves precious time and energy for the things that really matter — your life goals, your personal growth, your health and your relationships.

Stop working for more hours and start working smarter!

More About Working Smart

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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