Spot the Losers and Say ‘No Thanks’

Do you dread seeing a particular client’s caller ID or email show up on your phone or inbox? I refuse to be so desperate for any kind of business that I will subject myself to rude, demeaning, demanding, nonstop complaining or simply unlikable clients.angry

So I’ve learned over the years how to get more clients who delight me and fewer who stress me. Here are four quick tips for spotting the losers:

1. Establish expectations

Set the stage in your initial encounter with your prospective client for mutual behaviors. What do we expect from each other — can we work together? Here are two examples:

      • I respond rapidly to voicemails/emails and expect reciprocity. If I need to reach the client, I don’t want to have to constantly call or email for a reply. Can we accommodate our different communication styles?
      • I won’t book something that I know will be a mistake, no matter how much they say they won’t hold me responsible (because they will).

2. Get referrals

Ask for referrals from clients you’ve enjoyed — their friends are often similar in temperament. Admittedly, it can be tricky to sever a relationship with someone who has been referred as you risk ruining the original relationship.

When a referral doesn’t work out, I always let my referring client know: “I’m sorry it didn’t work out with So-and-So; I thought his needs would be better served by working with a different travel advisor.” I then thank them for thinking of me.

Sometimes the referring client understands, “Yes, So-and-So can be difficult,” and sometimes you just lose it all.

3. Reject the losers

Be willing to reject prospective clients or terminate your relationship if the client is insulting, patronizing or inattentive.

One procrastinating client accused me of “hustling” and “cheating” him when a price changed. I severed our relationship immediately and told him I would not work with someone who maligned my integrity.

4. Have a chat

Have a frank conversation without assigning blame: “I can tell that you’re not happy with my services, which distresses me as I strive for total client satisfaction. Is there something I’m doing or not doing that’s creating an obstacle?”

Sometimes that opens the door to a constructive course correction in your relationship. And sometimes, it merely gives the client permission to spew unreasonable complaints and hurtful insults.

When there are irreconcilable differences, I try to refund their money and walk away. If not possible, then I tough it out and put these people in my “never work with again” file.

It might seem that any business is better than none. Wrong. Clients who drain you cost you mental health and money. These are the people who complain nonstop before, during and after, use inordinate amounts of your time, and often unreasonably demand refunds for perceived deficiencies.

If they’re stressing you during initial conversations, remember how much more stressed you’ll be after several months of dealing with them. Say “no thanks” and make room in your day for the nice client who’s just around the corner.

For more, check out how to know when a trade show isn’t rewarding or how to figure out what attendees are feeling.