Imagine how it would feel to be like Donald Trump and say, “You’re Fired!” to the customers or prospects who take more than they provide. Does the thought make you smile or create a panic of, “How would I continue to grow if I fire anyone?
The debate of “pruning” prospects or clients is relevant. A recent LinkedIn group discussion tackled this topic and the responses reviewed the merits and perils of ‘firing’ customers. Most people were in agreement that firing or pruning prospects and unhealthy customers is a necessary part of pipeline and account management.
I wholeheartedly agree that knowing when to end a non-profitable and energy sucking customer relationship is key to long-term success.
It’s hard because we are trained as professional sellers to look for more—more prospects; more from our current customers; more revenue; more, more, more.
Yet to get more, we may first need to prune and trim off the undesirable time wasters and relationship suckers.
My first customer pruning was painful! The customer always wanted more of my time, my services, my bandwidth, and wanted to pay for much less. Year after year this client became less profitable and finally I was in the negative for revenue versus time needed, effort given, and stress created in delivering what they wanted. Every year while I would reset expectations for the service plan levels and investment,. throughout the year they asked, or rather demanded, more than they had committed to.
Finally, I decided it was time to prune. We parted ways amicably and they continue to be a good reference.
It was freeing. The time, energy, and efforts that were no longer consumed by one demanding client allowed me to serve more! My profitability increased and my stress level decreased significantly.
What I’ve learned in 20 years of building new clients is that regular pruning is healthy, necessary, and possibly easier than you might imagine.
3 Tips to help you prune your customers and prospects:
- Determine the criteria for firing. A few thought starters: Amount of time vs. profitability, viability of future business, amount of effort/stress to serve them, geographic, ethic issues, or fit to your solution and future plans.
- Review your pipeline and account lists to identify the most likely to go and where they should go. Is there someone in your company who might better serve them (rookies have more time)? Should they be removed totally? Can the relationship be made more positive?
- Execute the conversation verbally. This is no time to send a “Dear John” letter. Practice saying how you will inform them.
Please note that I don’t want you to be fired, so confirm your plan with your sales manager first.
If you’ve ever gardened, you know it’s true. To achieve healthy growth and new sprouts, you need to prune first. So get out those shears and trim away!