Knowing When To Say Goodbye – Terminating a Client

Probably one of the most difficult things to do in client servicing and consulting is terminating a client.  This is difficult for several reasons – not the least of which is that they generate revenue for your business. In situations where the relationship is toxic the separation is easy, but what happens when the reasons are more subtle?  For example they happily pay for your advice but never execute on it?  Or the client always seem to be planning assignments, but pulls the work at the last minute or stops half way through a project?  These types of clients can wreck havoc on your staffing and resource management.  Here are a few suggestions to handle clients that do not benefit your business plans 

  1. Schedule an account review to discuss the issues surrounding the account.  (This is a good activity to do quarterly regardless of how well the account is doing).  Discuss what is working, what is not and what goals there are for the account for the next 3 to 6 months.
  2. Bill the client for every minute you spend on the account.  Many of us are a little conservative in how we bill.  With difficult clients, it’s important to show the cost of the time they waste – and what could be done with it if better spent.
  3. Renegotiate your contract.  Maybe there is a price where the business relationship makes sense.
  4. Replace your agency/self with a person better suited for the business.  Maybe you can refer an associate to the client and extricate yourself from the situation.
  5. Aggressively pursue new business so there is no impact when you quit the client.
  6. (Last resort) Suck it up and take it

It’s been my experience that only option 1 really preserves the relationship and the revenue we need to operate.  It is also the most client friendly option.  However, if client behavior does not change, start searching for new business and when the time comes; end the relationship on a professional manner.  The world is a pretty small place.

Happy Marketing!


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