July 3, 2015

Flirting With Clients, And the Power of a “No”

Flirting With Clients, And the Power of a "No"

Through the years I came to the conclusion you can’t satisfy all clients, no matter what. On the contrary, it’s sometimes much better to just let a client go than to suffer consequences – beyond what you’d normally expect – because of your stubbornness.

Sometimes you end up under-delivering because, hey, shit happens, but let’s be honest for a moment, it’s not always 100% the company’s fault, and in some situations clients have their own responsibility.

True enough, the contrary can be said as well. Facts are rarely black or white, more often a comfortable shade of gray. We just have to navigate through them to try and understand where and how we fell.

So I end up thinking maybe it’s not the company’s fault, or the client’s fault per se, but more like a mix of the two elements, much like glycerol is harmless unless you nitrate it. Just as two people can date for a while and decide they are not made for each other, two companies can just stay friends without flirting any longer.
It’s no one’s fault, not entirely and not exactly anyway, and the world is full of fishes right?

I know, it doesn’t sound totally right in an economic moment like the one we’re living through, it’s not the best of choices to let go of a client, but it’s sometimes needed, because the mechanics started up by its presence can bring more harm to your company than benefit.
The way some businesses have to manage a consulting/marketing company working for them is just not what you would expect, and this can create malcontent and frustration among the people working for you.
As an entrepreneur, you cannot expect to absorb and be the safeguard of all the negativity of such cooperation, and your employees are in the first line of fire, they feel when something’s just not working right, from the first moment.
This is especially true in small businesses, where the personal touch is felt the most and one starts to wonder if the fault is his, entirely.

So what do you do? You confront the problem, you try to address it, to isolate it, to solve it. Sometimes it works, some other times it’s too much to handle, and you start thinking “why?”.
Well, truth is, there’s not always a why, and you shouldn’t focus too much energy in answering a question that, sometimes, has no reason to exist.

Try to learn from the experience, to learn to recognize the faint alerts signaling that a situation is building up. Try to learn to anticipate said situation, or if need be, to avoid the client entirely.

There’s no shame in that, and it’s perfectly fine to say “no”.

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  1. I’m a freelancer and I frequently say no to certain clients. I know from experience what a good client is and I’m not willing to waste my time with clients that “might” turn into good clients over time.
    Cristian Balau recently posted..Where does PoCo::SNMP debugging output go to?

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      Experience, yes, you build it up on your shoulders, it takes years to realize what works and what doesn’t, that’s the hard part of the job I guess, no?

  2. It’s hard to say “no” but in some instance it’s the best way to save our ass from disasters.

  3. Melanie@Tier 1 Help Desk
    Twitter: followcms

    Good post. I just had to end a relationship with a client for the first time last week. He was threatening and bullying my team, which was something we couldn’t tolerate. Short term the money was great, but long term he would have had a detrimental effect on our morale and cost us happiness, which is far more valuable than currency.

  4. Ana @ how Google works
    Twitter: WebTrafficCafe

    Sometimes we have to say no, especially if it is going to be affecting, say, our families or other important matters. I know it can be hard to say no sometimes.

  5. Man, I’ve let go of clients over the years as an independent consultant and felt pretty good about it. I’ve also “excused” people from my blogs for the same reason here and there. Some people just live with conflict, and as you know, I really do try to stay away from conflict even if I want to give my opinion on things. But I choose my words carefully, never attack (at least I don’t attack first) in doing it.

    And it can’t always be about the money. I’ll never sell myself that short, and neither should anyone else.
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted..Treating Others As A Professional

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      Yeah I know what you mean, sometimes conflict is just unavoidable, and as you say it’s not just about the money. It’s about finding the right balance, in everything.

  6. Hi Gabriele.
    There are also moments when you have to choose between offering mediocre services to a lot of clients, and offering spotless services to only a few. Because, in most cases, it’s all about time.
    When you’re already booked and working full hours, you might just think of squeezing in another 1-2 clients, but that’s going to affect your results on the rest of the clients. You’ll work less on their projects and become sloppy.
    In the end you’ll end up losing more than you’ve gained.
    Beth@College grants recently posted..Government Grants for College

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      That’s very true, one of the hard part of any management job is to figure exactly what’s the potential of your business and take advantage as best as you can. That’s something that typically takes a while to learn, especially if you don’t have any previous business experience, at the risk of ending up “serializing” the processes too much, alienating yourself from customers and becoming just a faceless brand.

  7. Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
    Twitter: notetakingnerd

    One important thing you can do to head of trouble at the pass is to make sure that if you’re getting clients through your blog, you make it known in your writing what you consider to be bad client behavior.

    You tell entertaining stories and show people what you will and won’t put up with as well as what behavior you’re in love with.

    People need to know the rules you play by. If they don’t, you can’t blame them for breaking rules they didn’t know existed in this instance, can you?

    Probably the most important place to kill the drama is with your contract/agreement. You spell out what’s cool and what isn’t there and make them sign it. Then if they start misbehaving you can refer to what they signed.

    But even with all of this, we’re still gonna need to fire some people but these two suggestions can turn a bunch of these would be fire-ee’s away.

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      Not sure a blog is the place for that, at least it’s not what we are using it for. I mean, a contract is a contract, true, but wether something is specified or not, it’s never good to even get to the point where you need to mention the contract at all. From my experience, the moment you cite a contract’s clause, the “magic” ends.

  8. From the 80/20 (Pareto) principle, you have to figure that not all leads/accounts will be most profitable for a business. So, in keeping with that efficiency rule, it’s just best to concentrate on the handful of leads/accounts that generate the most success.
    Sonny@Teen Art recently posted..Design a Cover Too – Madden NFL in Adobe Photoshop

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      I am familiar with the 80/20 principle and for the most part I agree with it, but I also feel like it shouldn’t be taken as written law. However, true that, MOST of the “80” is probably best left alone.

  9. You are perfectly right,but sometimes this works sometimes it doesn’t,sometimes it just pure luck.

    But for me is hard to say no,i don’t know…it just doesn’t come natural to me,i just keep trying and working and struggling,it’s hard!

  10. LOVED your post Gabriele! I could relate with this very much, i have been providing services to my offshore clients for over two years now. i really enjoy what i do, Designing has been my passion, and i am having a great time. I have dedicated team in my team to communicate with the clients, as i firmly believe that communication is the reason of 75% of the project failures. So i try to give extra emphasis on it.

    But you know (sh)it happens, last two years i was able to keep all of my clients happy, i always under-promise and try to over deliver. But last month only one my client gave me a tough times. I wont go into the details, but after that incident, i am better prepared moth mentally & financially to face such clients, now i feel that it was necessary, more than success failure teaches you i guess!

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      You say one great thing in particular: failure teaches more than success. It’s actually very important to fail at least once, and possibly pretty soon in your company’s life cycle. It’s the only way to really learn a lesson, because succeeding all the time leaves you unprepared for the “shit happens” part, and the later it happens the harder it is to fix things up.

  11. Barry@Macular Degeneration Treatment
    Twitter: eyedisease

    When you learn to say no, it means you have grown both personally and professionally. It is difficult. However, you have to realize there are some things you can’t do and why commit to something that you can’t put 100% into right?
    Barry@Macular Degeneration Treatment recently posted..Genetic Mutation Identifies High Risk of Macular Degeneration

  12. “There’s no shame in that, and it’s perfectly fine to say “no”.”

    Completely agree! Well, it’s kinda awkward to say so but if it’s for my own good I don’t hesitate to say it. Common!? It’s just a 2-letter word. lol

    I don’t term the negotiation as flirting instead it is a special way of communicating to have a potential client, but I don’t take much time in them when I hint something isn’t gonna work out.

  13. Abir Mallik says:

    If you can use the word NO in right place, you will get a lot of respect for this word. A few people have got the courage to directly say this little word. I have used and using this word frequently to my clients because it can give a clear image of mine to them and it will let them know that I am very straightforward.
    Abir Mallik recently posted..Ways For Older Adults To Lose Weight

  14. Shalani says:

    As much as I could, I can’t just say no especially if I am serving that client longer… Maybe I will just say no if I feel the client is abusing my time and effort.
    Shalani recently posted..Home Security Software

  15. Sophia says:

    It is not easy to say no to your customer, because it is not easy to earn a new customer for your company. So I can not escape that I am just the provider of service. But I am also the customer in other aspects. What we need just is understanding each other and improving together.

  16. i find it difficult saying no to long term clients, perhaps i should if i feel they are abusing the time and effort i put in for them

  17. Cheolsu says:

    I used to find it very hard to say “No” to client before a few years. Fortunately, things have changed in the last few years. I have learned to say “No” indirectly.
    Cheolsu recently posted..Facebook December

  18. Mark says:

    I always reminded myself the value of maintaining the client and it is great to hear that there are instances that I have to let go. I am willing to do all I can and provide answers to solutions to problems on clients. I will definitely be on a look for signs on when to finally stop.
    Mark recently posted..how to get a girl to like you

  19. “you shouldn’t focus too much energy in answering a question that, sometimes, has no reason to exist.” – I had a very very bad experience from my clients. I used to always say yes to every favor that he asked me to do, unfortunately, he’s kinda selfish and all promises were totally forgotten. Then after putting everything to an end, I kept on asking why that actually happened? Is it a short coming on my part or simply the action of my client. Not too long, I’ve decided to move on from that experience.
    Cosmin Hora@Steam Vac Reviews recently posted..I decided on buying the Hoover Steam Vac because it seemed the most reasonable purchase

  20. Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
    Twitter: maidoesimple

    Oh yes, I realize that we’re all customers too. I try to be a good customer as well but sometimes I get pissed as well when it’s my right to be pissed (like getting a serial after more than 48 hours from paying for a program? Seriously?). But yeah, that’s another story :)

  21. nice post, i notice ive changed a lot over the years, nowadays i do say no but i do it indirectly

  22. Hi Gabriele,

    I agree; and just like a personal relationship it is more likely to remain amicable if you break it off at the right time. True, we can’t really afford to lose clients here there and everywhere, however, retaining a relationship that just isn’t working could be just as costly. I witnessed the affects of this many times in the customer service industry.

    • Gabriele Maidecchi Gabriele Maidecchi
      Twitter: maidoesimple

      It’s not just a matter of knowing how to say “no”, but mainly of when to do so. Saying no at a good time can save everyone a lot of troubles.

  23. To clients, it is good to say NO sometimes because it can create positive impression towards the client also make him feel that you are strict in your words. Not really sure about personal relationships. lol . I can see most of the time NO creates a big disaster there. 😀

  24. This is something I struggle with as I hate the word “no”
    Neil | Butterfield recently posted..Thyroid Disease: Treatment options

  25. Sara says:

    The hard part is deciding on what is too much for you to take. When does it become worse for your company to keep them? I cannot answer this for anyone else, but I will think of it myself. Thank you for writing this; hopefully it will be the kick in the pants someone needs!
    Sara recently posted..The Best Climbing Plants For Wooden Arbors

  26. Saying “no” in order to avoid or prevent the escalation of the company-client relationship going sour might be the best approach. Especially if the industry you belong to is a small one.
    Johann@small business grants and loans recently posted..Australians Can Now Apply For a New Small Business Loan From the Government