Should I “Fire” My Customer?


In my role as an Outsourced VP of Sales, I work with clients and their sales teams on how to improve sales.  Surprisingly, I find there seems to be a surplus of sales teams that struggle with wanting to literally close every deal and win every customer – every time.

As a best sales practice, great sales teams will not fall prey to this habit.  Instead, great sales teams will evaluate their current and new customers with the following perspective:  There are some clients you may WANT your competition to have.

Before you start thinking about engaging in your sales process with a new client, here are some things to always keep in mind.

  • Some customers will always be very “High Maintenance.”  I’m sure you’ve heard (and even seen) this before.  These are the customers that want everything – evaluations, demos, multiple proposals, loaners, etc.  In both pre and post sales situations, these are also prospects and customers that push the “fire alarm” button for the sales team and cause an escalation on every topic.  Agreed dates for deliverables are always pushed up to an “emergency” status with unrealistic due dates.  These customers may not even be a good fit for your solution or technology – which fuels the fire.  Also, these customers often don’t listen to your team’s support and also have difficulty applying your solution.  In the end, the account qualification step in selling this account may not have been vetted fully.  That said, it’s a huge drain on your time and also your ability to scale/grow sales. So . . . will this client be better served by your competitor?
  • Reduced Pricing = Poor Margins.  Taking the step to True Sales Excellence requires that you also maintain acceptable margins and pricing to support the growth of your business and sales.  You (and your sales team) need to know what your “walk-away” price point and margin percentage is on the sale/proposal.  Again, if there is not a qualified match on your solution pricing for the customer – is it really a good match for scaling your business?  Low margins and low pricing will not allow you to effectively scale as a sales strategy for all clients. So . . . is this a client your competition should sell/support?
  • Poor Payment History.  What about the customers that are always LATE in their payments/terms?  In some instances, I’ve seen customers avoid my client’s finance team and sales team who are contacting them for late payments and AR aging issues.  We’ve all seen this before, right? So . . . is this a client your competition should chase every month/quarter for late payments?

What are we really saying here?  I am not suggesting you “fire” every account or start critically looking at all your customers.  However, I am suggesting that (as part of your account qualification process) – you ask yourself this:  Would I like to see my competition shackled with some of the problem customers mentioned above?  The answer is . . . YES!

If you don’t win every deal, then so be it, but I truly believe there are a number of customers that you don’t want to win.  Let your competition win these clients and be shackled by high maintenance, poor payment and AR issues, poor solution fit and unrealistic expectations.

Remember – when you see these signs in your sales process – it really might be time to consider “firing” the client or prospect and give them your competitor’s contact information.  Maybe “off boarding” the client is a more professional term . . .

Good Selling!