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Empower Your Sales Team to Say “No” to Problem Clients

Anna Anderson May Influencer
June 17, 2022 at 8:00 a.m.

RCS Influencer Anna Anderson says that pressuring your sales team to keep working with bad clients can present more problems in the future. 

Editor’s note: The following consists of a conversation between RCS Multi-media Manager Megan Ellsworth, and Art Unlimited CEO Anna Anderson. You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript below. 

Megan Ellsworth: Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the RoofersCoffeeShop Influencer Responses. This is for the month of May. And my name is Megan Ellsworth and here today, I'm with Anna Anderson. Hi Anna. 

Anna Anderson: Hi. It's great to be here. 

Megan Ellsworth: So good to have you back, Art Unlimited. I'm really excited to hear what you have to say about this month's question, which is all about firing a client that is bad for your business. So this month's question is how do you fire a client that is bad for your business and how do you do it? What's the scoop that you have for us? 

Anna Anderson: Whenever you've been in business, you've probably had to walk through this. And I always challenge our team to look at what was the root cause. How do we solve the root problem? I think the first thing to identify when you are dealing with a bad client is should that client have ever been accepted as a customer to begin with? Was the sales process truly analyzing what a good customer looks like? And did they have the ability to say no in the sales process not a good fit for us? 

There's a lot of pressure on sales team members to acquire absolutely every deal possible to achieve the sales goals on a monthly or quarterly, annual basis. So I would say empower your sales team to say no. And that a no is better than a yes and causes problems down the funnel. So that's the first thing that I look at when we're talking about firing a client is how did this customer not get filtered in the sales process? 

Was there a turning point that either we as a company could have solved in the onboarding or just experience within the company, or was it actually the problem existed with the customer prior to joining our business? And that is something the sales team should have been empowered to be able to say no to. 

Megan Ellsworth: Wow, I did not even think about that actually, that aspect of it. And that's so powerful and I love how you're always talking about giving a sense of power to your employees to have the ability to say, "Hey, I don't think this is the right fit." I love that you guys do that. That is so awesome. That's such a good point. Continue. This is great. 

Anna Anderson: So I have personally stories where I will have somebody and for a variety of reasons they might not be a good fit for us. Great customer, just not the right match at where we're at as a business. And so sometimes I'm like, "It's a no, hands down. I know you're not a good customer," but then also it might be just a no, because we're not a good solutions provider for them. So it's twofold. 

And any business that you're running, that will be the case. But then the next phase I look at is this customer, did you set clear expectations of what could be delivered and do they as a customer recognize what those expectations are, and are those expectations documented and signed off? So many times we get caught up in the romance of the sale and the abilities that we're going to deliver absolutely everything, sky is the limit. 

And in reality, we need to set clear expectations, achievable results, make sure everyone is on the same page. And to some point like even we go now, "Oh man, is it a little redundant?" But no, it's not because we need to make sure that that is part of the scope of work within any contract. And that also gives you the ability when maybe that customer somehow got through the sales process and they looked like a dream customer, they fit all your criteria, they are in the pipeline, you're doing that job, that install, whatever it might be. 

And all of a sudden, the bottom falls out and you're like, "Oh my goodness, how did we get this customer with half the roof open?" And now they simply, "I don't know how we're going to finish the job." Been there, done that. And what I find is those expectations, the documentation is critical to ensuring that you can save your bacon quite literally with that project. 

Megan Ellsworth: Wow, very well said. I love how you really emphasize like honesty with yourself, the customer and like your employees, your co-workers. What's the best fit here? I think that's so important and something that I think we all need to be reminded of like, "Is this something that I just can't take on? Am I biting off more than I can chew?" 

So being honest with yourself and then ultimately with the customer, I think that's so brilliant and such a good reminder. Any last kind of words of advice for maybe a contractor that has to step back from a project or fire a client that it's not working with? 

Anna Anderson: I think it's important to have open, honest conversations and just be real. Say, "Hey, you know what? It's not working out for me. It's not working out for you. You're frustrated, I'm frustrated. We need to make sure that you achieve the success and what does success look like for you once?" That is clearly defined, you can match that to the expectations say, "Hey, this is what success looks like for you. We clearly define huge expectations, not within the same scope. How do we part ways and still ensure that your success is achieved and we can part ways in a healthy manner?" 

For some people that's not always possible, but yet I find when you're open and honest and have your customers' best interests, first and foremost, for the most part they then say, "You know what? You're right. I can tell that you are really trying to work on making a clear resolution." And it usually turns out okay." 

You're always going to have those problem children and understanding that it's okay to say no, it's okay to let a customer go, but doing it in healthy way and loving them. Sometimes it takes a lot of work, but stepping away, breathing deep, maybe not responding right away to that fiery communication that came through. Or asking somebody to assist you in that process. Like by all means, take advantage of those kind of clarity moments, support in the communication. But it's okay to say we just can't work together. 

Megan Ellsworth: Well said. Absolutely. So true. And I think a very needed reminder for a lot of people, especially coming out of this weird time where everything was kind of shutdown and you were kind of forced to say no, and now everyone wants to say yes, yes, yes. It's a good reminder to be reminded that it's okay to say no and sometimes you really need to say no so. 

Anna Anderson: 100%. 

Megan Ellsworth: Excellent. Well said, Anna. I so look forward to hearing what you have to say next month. Thank you so much for today. 

Anna Anderson: Awesome. Hey, thanks so much for having me. 

Megan Ellsworth: Great. We'll see you next time. And this has been the Influencer Response with RoofersCoffeeShop. 

Anna Anderson is the CEO of Art Unlimited. See her full bio here. 

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