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When It Is Okay To Fire A Customer

This is a question I am asked quite frequently.  My answer is simple…do you see a future with this client or are you holding on for no apparent reason you can think of?

When I first started in sales, I wanted to please every prospect and client as much as possible.  There wasn’t a task they gave me I wasn’t ready to act on.  Fly to Texas and help them install some cabling they purchased from another vendor?  Sure, I’ll be right there.  I thought this would ingratiate me enough that I would get the next contract.  I didn’t.  I’m not sure if I am getting the right Power Ranger for my son.  Don’t worry…I will find out for you and let you know.  (This one was tough because it was before the proliferation of data on the web and there wasn’t much about Power Rangers then so I had to fax it).  After four hours of research I completed the write-up, sent it and never heard from the prospect again. Still, the idealism of “always do what needs to be done” fueled me.

I finally learned my lesson from a prospect that would quarterly send me an excel sheet of printers he needed toners cartridges for.  He requested I look up the part numbers and send it back to him for ordering.  This was two days worth of work as there were many, many printers and each one had multiple sizes for each toner.  In the case of color printers, there were at least 8 different part numbers not counting the fuser and maintenance kits.

Exasperated because this would surely dampen my plans for the weekend, I confronted him in as diplomatic a fashion as I knew how.  I reminded him of how much work this is.  He replied by telling me how much he appreciated my help.  My concern always was that for all the work I did to compile the information he would then take the very same spreadsheet I gave him and email it to multiple vendors for the best price he can get.  As low as I had dropped my prices for the bid, I was never low enough and never won an item on the quote request.  So I asked for a tabulation to which he said that it would be better if I just kept on trying and eventually, he was sure, I would start winning some of it.

I thanked him for the opportunity and asked him to remove me from his vendor list.  I could tell I had caught him off guard by the audible gasp on the other end of the phone.  I proceeded to tell him that I would be happy to assist him, but for all the work I was doing, I deserved the complete order.  He said that wouldn’t be possible so I thanked him again and told him to call me if his vendor processes changed because the current process wasn’t cost-effective for me.  I never heard from him again.

What did it cost me?  Absolutely nothing.  I had never had a sale with him and it was obvious no amount of effort on my part was going to change that.  What did I gain?  At least one full day of work a quarter, and more importantly, the ability to more effectively allocate my time to the clients that had earned more of my attention.  I did what needed to be done.

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