One Tough Customer

Let’s see… Josh Doyle, imagine later today you’re going to find out you’re getting yet another monster listing. Dr Kristian, later today four new patients are going to walk into your office. And Josh Perlman, your staff checked the voicemail and office email and found three new patients making appointments. Jeff Weiskopf, unfortunately someone got hurt, but the good news is they’re coming to see you… Brett Semenetz, a restaurant needs new branded glass mugs and a school needs jerseys for all of its teams… Congratulations! You just got an email saying they’re going to move forward and hire you. Just send the paperwork.

I could keep going, and create a scenario for each of us… and I imagine that if what I was prognosticating would come true, there’s not a single one of us that wouldn’t be pleased with those kinds of outcomes.

We want more business. We want new opportunities to generate profit and help people.

We always want new clients and customers. Right?? Of course we do!

But what happens when that shiny new penny of an opportunity starts to tarnish? What happens when over time — days, months, years, sometimes as little as hours or even minutes — that exciting new customer or client (or even a long standing one or potential one) reveals a level of need, or a lack of partnership or intelligence, or worse, has found a sense of entitlement, and throws the value proposition out of whack…

What happens when clients or customers show up in that way that can really push our buttons?

Then what?

Depending on your business…

Do they stay? Or do you fire them?
Or, do you stay? Or do you GTF out of there?

Maybe you don’t have the luxury of making that call… maybe you just have to handle them… so then what…

Well, most of us are entrepreneurs and business owners, but for the sake of everyone, and the variety of our structured machines, let’s consider both options — to deal with them, or discard them.

First and foremost, it is crucial to remember that whatever bag of negativity they’ve decided to light on fire and drop on your doorstep has almost nothing to do with you, and almost entirely to do with them. More specifically, it’s generated by their automatic impulses or their gaps… their lacks — lack of ability or competence, lack of understanding or intelligence, lack of connection or agency or clear expression. A bouquet of unmet needs that it’s not your job to water. So if you would like to maintain the working relationship, without much added effort, do your best to just not take it personally.

However, if we are talking about a palpable level of discomfort, created by their words or behavior, it’s likely that they are stepping (or perhaps leaping) across one of your boundaries. If so, find a way to directly yet diplomatically shore it up. There is a difference between your service and kindness, and their entitlement. You are allowed to have your container, your zone of play, your standard. The less authority you may have in the dynamic, the more diplomacy you may need to employ. But ultimately the core message is a fair one. And it may even require some form of a request to be made.

Again, the above is predicated on a desire to maintain at least the business relationship.

But what if that’s not the intention or desire?

Fire them. I’m sure that if you have created a relationship… some form of partnership, that it may not be simple to disentangle. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the play.

Don’t throw good resources after bad. If it’s not right, do your best to cut your losses.

It is absolutely key to listen to yourself. And to trust yourself. And some will find that easier and some harder. But ultimately you need to do what’s best for you and your business.

We may attempt to be of service in the world to the highest extent we find possible. But when our fundamentals are challenged, we get to honor ourselves. And sometimes that means we walk away.

And whether it’s your inclination to keep that client and navigate, or to disengage from them, if ever the water seems too deep, tag out and call in back up. Sometimes we lose our ability to hear the other person. Or they are not able to hear us. Perhaps a colleague can be the one to remind them of the company policy, etc. and you can step aside, even if only temporarily. And if you’re a solo-preneur and there is no colleague, take a beat and take a swing from a different place. If you started staunchly serious and it didn’t work, maybe lighten up a bit. Or just pause and revisit in a few hours or a few days.

Lastly, if you know yourself to be the kind of person who has a high tolerance for this kind of thing, and ends up suffering at the hands of their own fear of speaking up and letting a relationship go, hear me now…

“Let go, or be dragged.”

While it can be prudent to conserve revenue and relationships under our roof, when you enter that space that doesn’t feel right… where a part of you really knows that it requires too high a sacrifice to keep the connection intact, allow natural motion to pull you apart.

There are plenty of other atoms to bond with.

Here’s to fantastic clients, patients, and customers! And here’s to those who whether they had a bad day, a bad week, or a bad childhood, need us now more than ever to bring our gifts and make a difference.

Fortunately, it’s one of the keys to conducting and expanding great business!

And for those of you who either need support or input around a current situation, or have an entertaining story about a nightmare client, Carey Davis — our Breakout Room topic creating extraordinaire — will be giving us a chance to discuss this further a little later.

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