Saturday, April 5th, 2008 at
I neglected to elaborate on the “bad client” story as mentioned earlier in the week so here are some of the things I learned from a recent client relationship that went bad in a hurry in spite of my gut telling me to avoid it all costs at the outset. Oh well, live and learn right?
Follow Your Gut
Often times on “The Big Idea” Donny Deutsch talks about “when all else fails, follow your gut.” I’ve had a couple of experiences like this since starting my own firm back in 2005, but none was greater than the recent “bad client” I’m referring to.
First off, I’m not a high pressure individual when it comes to doing things for others. I generally figure if you don’t get the value of what it is I’m offering, it’s not up to me to pressure you into a decision you’re not comfortable with. The same can be said in reverse–I don’t respond well to high stress individuals because they’ve got problems well beyond my capabilities and patience so it’s best to avoid these types of people if the project is going to be successful. Every successful relationship I have built in my business has had a few things in common, and clients that trust me/us to deliver is at the top of that list. Unnecessary stress isn’t going to accelerate a thing.
The lady I’m speaking of is extremely stressed out about everything, and she wasn’t having any part of me explaining that it takes 3-6 months for an SEO campaign to produce the results she was looking for. She wanted to be #1 yesterday and wanted to get off of PPC before that. My gut told me “no,” but my mind and ego told me “this shouldn’t be that difficult so let’s give it a whirl.” Bad decision!
High Stress Clients = Low Probabilities of Success
Whenever someone pushes you or your firm to do something outside of the normal deliverables, that’s a recipe for disaster, and it doesn’t matter how well you perform at the outset. The client is always going to think you didn’t do enough or that things could have been done faster or more thoroughly. It doesn’t matter if you can demonstrate documented progress–they expect the moon regardless of how many conversations you have to the contrary. Their subconscious expectations exceed those of their conscious so that manifests itself in the way of complaints, regular daily phone calls, a blown up e-mail inbox, and demands for additional services without additional compensation or, worse, unwarranted refunds. In other words, their high stress contributes to your escalating levels of stress to which no one wins.
Expectations Get Ignored
Regardless of how many times the client agrees that your timeline or milestones are in line with their expectations of the moment, bad clients will turn the tables at the first sign of things not exceeding elevated expectations. The “rules” don’t apply to them because they are “special” (in their mind).
Your Other Clients Suffer
Bad clients sap the energy of your organization to the point your good clients end up paying the price. Bad clients will hound you like a bad date that calls every day and won’t take a hint. Eventually they wear you down, and you consequently ignore your better accounts to oil the squeaky wheel. Again, not a good decision.
Anyway, I hope this helps someone out there. It’s ok to say “no” to a prospect, and you’re probably better off saying that if you sense any inconsistencies with the way you do business and you’re uneasy about the decision maker you are dealing with. After-all, it’s like a dating relationship–you have to deal with this person on a regular basis. More so if they’re a high stress and/or bad client. Breaking up can be ugly and take longer than expected with a bad date, and a bad client is no different.