How do you know when “the customer is not right” for you?


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In sales, we often hear that “the customer is always right.” But this is not always true. Sometimes, especially in B2B sales, the customer is not always right for you. If you take yourself and your work seriously, you need clients who also take you and your work seriously. Unfortunately, being in business means that you will eventually come into contact with clients who do not.

In a perfect world, you would always know which clients aren’t the best fit for your services before you started working with them. In order to know how to best serve your client, or not serve them at all, you have to do some research. Go to their website, see what services or products they offer. Try and learn something about their clients/customers. Ask questions about their expectations and deadlines. If a client has an unrealistic goal in mind, let them know, and let them know if you can address it in a different way. Your screening process should be thorough.

Are they asking for services or solutions that you can’t deliver? Obviously, you shouldn’t move forward on this opportunity. You want to do your best work at all times. If a client is asking for something you simply do not do, let them know, and point them in the right direction if, you can.

Is the client cooperative? Are they willing to take your suggestions? Your job as a sales person and product expert is to direct the client and educate the client about their options to the best of your abilities. A stubborn client will think that they know everything, including how to do your job. But if a client already knows everything, why do they need you? You don’t want to work with someone who isn’t willing to accept your guidance and advice. Clients come to you for your expertise, and they should be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. If you’re in the early stages of a sales conversation and the client is already sounding overly skeptical, this could be a bad sign.

Is the client unreliable? If a client often misses meetings or doesn’t return emails and phone calls, it is clear that they don’t respect you or your time. Working with them will be a chore to the very end, and an unreliable client may turn into a demanding client. A demanding client sets hasty deadlines and calls too much. They may want things that you just can’t provide. Your brand depends on you to always be able to do your best work. You can’t do that if you’re rushing to jump through hoops set by an unreasonable client – and many of these buyers turn out to cost more money, in terms of lost time and missed opportunities, than they’re worth.

Finally, go with your gut. Do you just have a feeling that this client may not be right for your business? Do they seem untrustworthy? Are they making big promises with no evidence to back it up? Do they seem like they just really aren’t a “serious buyer” who knows the reality of what it takes to buy and implement the solution that you’re selling? Investigate why you feel that way. No red flags, even ones you don’t quite have a reason for, should be ignored.

Unfortunately, the customer is not always right. If a client has been searching and searching for someone to take on their project, replace their existing vendor or implement a new system and they haven’t found the right fit, then maybe the client is the problem. Don’t let money outweigh the hardships of working with difficult people. Taking on new clients should be calculated, and as easy as possible. A difficult client is seldom worth the trouble. If you’re getting too many red flags about a new prospective client, it might be best to end the conversation and spend your energy on clients who are really worth your time.

Al Davidson
Al Davidson is the founder of Strategic Sales & Marketing, a "leading light" among lead generation companies, delivering B2B lead generation and b2b appointment setting services for clients ranging from local small businesses to the Fortune 100. Since 1989, the company's sales agents have generated over 7 million sales leads, and created millions of dollars for clients.


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