By: Sandy Saburn, CTIE

Let’s start with honesty: Firing a client is never easy – no matter what your profession is. However, it is sometimes necessary to preserve your sanity, and often it is good for the client too.

Rather than just giving you suggestions about what to say to fire a client, I’d like to give you some tips to help you avoid this situation altogether.

  1. Qualify, qualify, qualify
  2. Listen to your gut
  3. Don’t procrastinate
  4. Be honest – but not too honest
  5. Don’t let them talk you out of it

 

Qualify, qualify, qualify

As my grandmother used to say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” so let’s start with preventative measures. The best-case scenario is to not end up with a client that must be fired. In most of the cases I have seen over the years, the client being fired was a bad fit to begin with.

Start with your qualifying process. Do you do a good job of qualifying? Be honest. Do you ask a lot of open-ended questions to help you know the client and the client know you? You aren’t a vending machine where people just plug in a destination and dates and get a vacation. You are a consultant and service provider.

It is so easy – especially when you are busy – to get into “when/where/how much” mode and jump right into pricing. You must resist the temptation because it will come back to bite you.

Are you charging fees? Fees are a great way to weed out high-maintenance clients. It isn’t foolproof, but it does help.

 

Listen to your gut

Over the past 20+ years I have heard advisors say so many times, “I knew this client was going to be a headache”. Is this a self-fulfilling prophecy? Who knows, but what I do know is that you should listen to your gut. If your intuition is telling you that you shouldn’t work with a client – don’t!

Your intuition is incredibly powerful and will give you the guidance you need. Listen to it!

 

Don’t procrastinate

If you have a client and realize that you wish you didn’t have them, don’t wait to act. As soon as you know they aren’t a good fit for you – no matter the reason – fire them. In some cases, it might mean refunding the fee they paid, but your sanity is worth it! Give them their money back and send them on their way.

If the client is getting ready to travel or during travel, you may want to wait until they return. Once they do, you have two choices. Fire them so they don’t ever reach out to you again, or just hope they don’t reach out to you again but say nothing up front. Listen to your intuition on this one.

 

Be honest – but not too honest.

This is the point you need to know exactly what to say. First of all, it’s important to be honest, but don’t be too honest. There isn’t any need to attack someone or belittle them.

You can have the conversation in person, over the phone, via text, or over email. Just remember not to put anything in writing that you will regret later.

If there are reasons that you can include, it may be helpful to do so.

Here are some suggestions of things you can say to the client to get the point across. These are just suggestions, and you should come up with what works for you.

I appreciate your interest in working with me for your upcoming vacation. I will be happy to refer you to another advisor, but I don’t believe my area of specialty is the best fit for you.

Now that we have had a few conversations about the vacation you want planned, it seems that those plans are not a fit for what you’re looking for. I will be happy to refer you to another advisor who does specialize in this area.

Welcome home from Paris. I am glad the trip turned out well. When people return home, they are often ready to plan another vacation. When you are ready to plan another vacation, I will be happy to refer you to one of my colleagues that I believe will be a great match for you and your travel plans.

This next email is only for the most serious of offenders. This may be too much for some people. I am just sharing it as an example.

I am writing to let you know what I have processed a refund for your deposit in the amount of $500. I am not going to be able to assist you with any additional vacation planning. I am a skilled professional who brings a lot of value to my clients, and I expect to be treated as such. I choose not to work with people who don’t value my expertise and treat me professionally.

Each of these examples should give you some idea of what to say. While it is harder, I think it is best to share this with clients via phone. If you have a particularly abusive client, you may find it best to do it via email instead. Just be careful about what you put in writing.

 

Don’t let them talk you out of it

Once you have worked up the nerve to fire a client, do NOT allow them to talk you out of it. Many clients will immediately know what they did wrong and will promise to be better or behave differently in the future. Don’t fall for it! They may mean that, but will they be able to? Who knows? Just don’t take the chance.

Remember this: you are a professional and should always be treated as such. You should have clients who love and respect you and value your expertise. Don’t settle for those who don’t treat you well. It’s not worth it!