How to fire a client

Isn’t it great that every client is a joy to deal with?

No, I know, they’re not!

Sometimes people in sales we don’t get to choose their clients, but you actually get to! If you are new to the business, it’s important to know that not every client is going to be a good fit.

On the flip side, if you’ve been in the business for years (ahem, me!) and have a long client list, you probably know that not all of them are a good fit, are they? Remember, we cannot be everything to everyone, no matter how hard we try.

This is your business, and you must understand and prioritize what is best for it, and you. When it comes to clients, existing or new, take some time to evaluate if they’re a good fit.

Are they ‘time-wasters’: asking for everything and purchasing nothing, or worse, going straight to the supplier to purchase after you’ve given them all the information?

Are they taking so much of your time that the ROI isn’t worth it?

Are they constantly negotiating with you, changing plans, dates, destinations?

Take a minute to review a (good) year or two of all your clients’ bookings. How many clients from the lowest revenue stream does it take to equal that of the top 20 to 30%?

Having a lot of clients does not always mean a lot of revenue. Plus, I bet you are spending the most time with those that bring you the least revenue.

For new clients, introduce your service fees early in the conversation. This alone will give you insight into whether they’re a potential valuable client. (Yet another excellent reason to have service fees!)

If you don’t think it’s a good fit, there are a few diplomatic phrases you can use from the get-go:

1. “My fees are part of my service, and I don’t waive those.”

2. If you feel you can get it cheaper elsewhere that may be the best way for you to book.”

3. “I’m sorry but I don’t believe I’m the best person to help you with this. I may be able to recommend a different travel advisor you can work with.”

However, if this is an existing client you’ve been working with for some time and you’re sure it’s not in your bet interest to continue working with them, here are some stronger messages:

1. “I’m sorry, this just isn’t working for me anymore – it’s not a good fit.”  (You can have a back-up plan and pass the client along to a colleague by adding “…But I have a colleague whom I’ve brought up to speed and they’d be more than happy to work with you going forward.”)

2. “If we don’t find something that works for you within the next day, I’m afraid I’m going to have to give up this search.”

3. If they become abusive or rude, try, “This is not a conversation I am prepared to have.”

If all else fails, you may have your ‘manager’ step in on your behalf to advise the client that you did your best, but your company can be of no further assistance.

Yes, you may lose revenue, and even referrals, but it is more important to know your value, feel comfortable about your profession, and who you work with.

Sometimes firing a client can be the most rewarding thing you do all day!