Identifying (Potentially) Difficult Customers
By: Greg Steinig, 3CX Vice President – Sales
People who have spent a certain amount of time selling to and servicing customers are very quickly able to identify certain patterns in customer behavior, indicating the ones more likely to be difficult to work with than others.
Below I’ve listed the most common warning signs that you’ve got a problematic customer on your hands.
Customers Who Emit a Bad Vibe
This sign is probably the most important one of all. We all know to trust our gut instinct, but so often we choose to ignore what we know to be true. Trust your instincts when making any business decision, whether it be hiring employees, the direction your company is taking, or the clients you work with. If it does not feel right, then it is not right!
Selling a product or service must not be at any cost: think ahead as to how you believe the relationship will end. Most customers are honest and sincere, so when your instincts say something is wrong, do not do it. It will not be worth it in the long run, and you know it!
Customers Who Refuse to Sign a Contract
Some customers fail to realize that contracts are designed to protect both parties. Be cautious when you have a customer who wants to make a purchase or commence a project but is hesitant to sign an agreement or contract. Let’s face it: these days you can’t purchase anything with your credit card without signing something, so customers must realize that their relationship with you is no different – it’s a business transaction.
Customers Who Try to Push Your Schedule
A customer who engages you at the last minute is already unprepared, and it is often these customers who try to push your schedule. You know full well how long it takes to deliver your service or product, so keep in mind that rushing simply creates future problems and disagreements.
Customers Who Talk about Other Vendors
Be wary of customers who refer to other vendors they worked with; vendors that provided a similar service and whose work they liked. Besides being very annoying having to listen to these comparisons, it is also a warning that you need to determine why this customer is no longer working with the other vendor. There could well be problems with unmet expectations or payment (or non-payment) which you should make yourself aware of before entering any business arrangement. It is believed that, if you ask a potential customer what they like about their current provider, human nature states they will tell you what they don’t like. An easy way of extracting information from a potential customer!
Customers Who Point Out That “You Are the Expert”
Yes, you may be the expert, but customers often use this phrase to pass-the-buck (so-to-speak) or to shirk their responsibility. After declaring that you are the expert, these customers often follow with “but I would do it this way”, or similar phrases. Alternatively, they completely withdraw from participating in the work at hand. To avoid this trap, make sure you have a clear understanding of their concerns right from the start.
Customers Who Refuse a Standing Meeting
Be cautious about customers who refuse a standing meeting because this leaves them free to say at a future time “I have no idea what’s going on”. Many business-client relationships fail due to the lack of client participation because when people fail to work together to achieve a goal, misunderstandings and disappointments are the logical end result.
Customers Who Refuse Payment Before Full Delivery
Some customers are extremely cautious and completely lacking in trust, and many refuse to pay anything until the entire project has been completed or delivered. Be very wary of this type of client because a person who is lacking in trust can often be untrustworthy. Milestones must be established and agreed upon to ensure that both parties are protected. At the very least your sunk costs must be covered, with the money safely in your bank before handing over a final work product.
Customers Who Ask for a Discount
I am leaving this tip till last because not all customers who ask for a discount are necessarily a bad fit for your business. However, keep in mind that it is almost impossible to move a customer who received an initial discount up to a different price level at a later date.
If you do not want difficult customers, don’t sell to difficult prospects. You have to hunt for the right prospects. Determine their value beyond dollars and their Customer Lifetime Value. If they are not going to be the right fit for you, just move on.
Greg Steinig is 3CX Vice President of Sales and is based in Tampa, FL.
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