The Clients You Don’t Want

Good morning – and a very happy New Year from the blog. I hope 2016 is a brilliant year for you – and hopefully there’ll be a few ideas in the next 50 posts and around 35,000 words that will help.

I looked back at how I started the first posts of 2015 and 2014. Maybe I missed my calling as a foreign exchange trader… ‘The rouble has just about reached parity with the chocolate coin,’ I wrote last year. And sure enough it dropped 26% last year thanks to tumbling oil and commodities prices.

But it’s the first post of 2014 that’s more relevant this morning. Here’s what I wrote two years ago:

So may I once again commend to you a business practice that is traditionally held to be unthinkable, but which is nearly always profitable; not as painful as you thought it was going to be and which will definitely have you saying, ‘why didn’t I do that ages ago?’

Sack some of your clients/customers. [You will have] clients who cause you grief: who don’t pay on time: who make unreasonable demands: who simply don’t bring any joy into your life.

Let me return to that theme. All of us will be under time pressure this year: however much we plan, however much we delegate, whatever productivity app we install on our phone, we’re going to be short of time. And we all know that buried away in our client or customer banks are plenty of clients we could politely describe as ‘indecisive.’

Sooner or later I have to say, “I think you’d be a great fit for TAB York. I think you’ve a lot to gain from it. Shall we go ahead?” Or words to that effect. At that point there are four possible responses.

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. Not right now but come back to me in three months
  4. Let me think about it a bit longer

1 is great. 2 I can live with. 3 is fine – and has given me some of my best Board members. 4 is the worst possible response. A long, drawn-out ‘maybe’ is no good to anyone.

So as you start 2016, mentally run through your clients – and if ‘Mr Indecisive’ is there, ask yourself a simple question. “Wouldn’t I be better spending my time on someone else?”

But sadly, Mr Indecisive isn’t alone. He has some colleagues. Unfortunately, you’ll recognise them all-too-well.

Mr. No-Power

Years ago my first sales manager took me to one side. “You need to talk to the MAN, Ed,” he said. “What man?” I naively asked. “The person with the Means, the Authority and the Need.”

…And that fundamental still applies. Someone must need what you’re offering, have the means to pay for it and above all, the authority to make a decision. If they don’t, you’ll simply end up jumping through hoops to inflate their ego.

Mr. Sceptic

We’ve all seen the cartoon of the machine gun salesman being sent away with the words, ‘I’m too busy’ ringing in his ears.


Maybe the modern equivalent is ‘What’s the ROI?’ All too often it’s a question asked by people who won’t – or can’t – make a decision to give themselves the illusion of knowledge.

“So what’s the average ROI on joining The Alternative Board?”

I’m sorry, I have no idea. What’s the average ROI on seeing more of your children? What’s the average ROI on finally feeling in control of your life and your business? Sceptics sometimes ask me what the ROI is on this blog. Sure, I can point to clients who have probably come to me as a result of the blog: but the anecdotal evidence – comments, engagement, reputation, influence – is far, far more important than the analytical.

Mr Overthinker

Yes, you’ve got to weigh up the pros and cons. Yes, you need to take advice and yes, you may need to run it past your colleagues on the TAB board. But eventually you need to make a decision: ‘paralysis by analysis’ may be a cliché, but like all clichés it contains a large grain of truth. Decisions need to be taken: not analysed indefinitely.

So there they are. The indecisive, the powerless, the sceptic and the overthinker. Four clients who will take up far more of your time than they should. Four characters you should be wary of in 2016. And four behaviour traits that I – and everyone round the TAB table – will make sure you don’t copy in the coming year.


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