Not All Customers Are Created Equal

When you first start your business, you’ll be excited, and you’ll be even more so when you get your first order from your first client.  You’ll think, “Yes! I’m on my way!”

You’ll be enthusiastic for every client you get and every sale you make.  But eventually, you may start to realize that not every customer is the same.  You may even find that some are not worth working with at all.

Some people are never satisfied.  You can deliver exactly as promised and they won’t be happy; in fact, they may be noticeably unhappy.  You can over-deliver and they still won’t be happy.  If you know in your heart that you fulfilled your end of the agreement, then do not let this get to you; they are just unhappy, dishonest people.  Being unhappy with the final product is part of their modus operandi.  It’s not you.  It’s them.  On the other hand, if you took short cuts and cut corners, then they may actually have a reason to be unhappy.

Some people want huge discounts upfront with a promise of becoming a return client in the future.  This is just part of their strategy; they have no desire of ever becoming a return customer.  Instead, they will go onto the next person and ask them for a big discount in return for placing huge orders in the future.  This person goes from business to business trying to get discounts.  It’s how they operate.  Avoid them.  Now if you want to give discounts to return customers with a history of place orders with you, that’s an entirely different story, and there’s nothing wrong with that if it helps foster a good business relationship.

Some people will nickel and dime you to death.  They’ll spend an hour negotiating with you over $5.  Now this one needs a little clarification.  If you sell something that costs $30, then that $5 may be significant.  In that case, they’re basically asking for a > 10% discount.  Negotiate accordingly.  But some people will spend an hour arguing with you over $5 on a $5,000 transaction.  Use your own discretion.

Still other people have no shame.  They’ll ask you up front for proprietary secrets or data on your other customers.  If these people are this shady before you even do business with them, imagine how shady they will be when money is on the line.  Avoid.

As you gain experience, you will start to get a sense for the people that might not be worth the hassle to work with.  It’s hard to turn down business, but remember that time spent on a problem customer is time that you aren’t spending working on your business.

When you are first starting out, and also during slow times, you may start to feel a bit desperate for business.  You might be more willing to give people discounts that you wouldn’t otherwise give.  Remember that many businesses follows the 80/20 rule.  Eighty percent of your business will come from 20% of your customers.  It’s probably ok to turn away the ones who are going to be difficult to work with.