Have you ever had to fire a customer? Or backed out of a project at the proposal stage?
“The customer is always right” is the salesman’s mantra going back probably 200 years. So what do you do when the customer is clearly wrong or un-focused or worse (what could be worse you are asking – they could be wrong, un-focused and have no money!)?
I had to fire a customer yesterday – actually I stopped the proposal process before it got too much more involved. I had already spent an hour on the phone with the prospect and then an hour in person with them and felt we were getting nowhere. They had only nebulous ideas* about what they wanted their site to look like, but they also knew that they didn’t want to spend too much money on it. It had a lot of potential but after 2 hours we couldn’t decide between us whether it should have 5 pages, 30 pages or 120 pages.
* In truth most people have nebulous ideas about what their site will do and look like, but generally after a couple of session we are normally able to home in on what’s important and get the process started. I’ve got quite good at sorting the wheat from the chaff and getting prospects to realize that their opinion isn’t as important as their clients.
As gracefully as I could I told the prospect that I was uncomfortable with the project and that I probably wasn’t going to be able to give a price for it because it just wasn’t clear to me what it would entail. I offered to give them another couple of firms to talk to and I honestly would be happy to do so, I just don’t see anyone being able to help at this juncture. At that point the prospect told me that they had already scheduled a meeting with another firm – one with more experience in their field. I wished them luck and backed out as gently as possible.
So what’s your experience with firing a client? Maybe you’ve been on the other side and was fired by a vendor or supplier – let me have your story in the comments below.
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