When you’re starting a business journey, it makes sense to provide services to any kind of customer, including the bad ones.
Don’t get me wrong. That’s how it’s supposed to be to get enough experience to determine what’s good and bad for your business and understand what your limits are.
I wish I had someone who could have told me this when I started, but it took me a few painful and frustrating years to realize that there are no such things as the right customers. If there are, it’s an endangered species.
Now, to me, the predominant species seems to be bad customers, which are way more concerned about their own skin than for investing in real value or building long-term and win-win business relationships.
You may wonder, what could go wrong when working for bad customers?
The answer is “EVERYTHING”, and here is a pretty good list I borrowed from the article: 10 Ways to Identify (and Lose) Bad Customers by Alina Benny to give you an idea of what to expect when working for bad customers.
- Don’t Pay On-Time (Or Ever)
- Don’t Pay Enough (Or Don’t Want To Pay)
- Have Unclear or Changing Demands
- Want ALL the Attention
- Aren’t Available
- Aren’t Honest
- Are Abusive or Threaten Your Staff
- Make Unreasonable Demands
- Complain to Anyone Who Will Listen
- Don’t Listen to You
It’s sad but the reality is that most of your customers will be just like that, or worse.
For whatever reason, customers can become more of your opponents, rather than your allies, which means that working for them may turn into a constant battle to fight for a few dimes.
So, let me be clear about this:
You should never go to battle without weapons.
That’s the main reason I’ve prepared these 8 must-follow rules to foresee bad customers and keep your business alive.
I hope you find them useful.
The first rule: Never get blinded by the glitters.
The first huge mistake we make when we see what looks like a “big” business opportunity ahead of us is to get emotionally excited and attached to it.
You may have heard the proverb “all that glitters is not gold”, which is stated to have been first used by William Shakespeare in his famous play, The Merchant of Venice, 1595.
If you make the mistake of getting blinded by the glitters, what you’re actually doing is letting your guard down, and telling your opponents they can take advantage of you anytime.
Keeping a cool head will help you make better decisions and keep you out of trouble.
The second rule: Expect to die, but prepare to survive.
In business, you always need to be mentally ready to manage every situation, including unforeseen events and unexpected customers.
Ironically, these are the type of cases you’ll have to deal with most of the time, and engaging without being prepared can lead you straight to an ambush.
Believe me. There is nothing more embarrassing than arriving at the first sales meeting with a potential customer, and realizing that the meeting room is full of spectators.
Although the way of doing business varies from customer to customer, you should never take it personally. At the end of the day, it’s not about you. It’s just business.
Instead, train your mind to be able to handle any kind of situation, from dealing with disrespectful customers to working and making decisions under pressure.
If you can’t keep eye-contact, if your voice breaks, if your stomach hurts, or if you start making risky decisions just to spoil or calm down a bad customer, you’re still not mentally prepared.
Does this sound familiar?
If so, learn how to become emotionally intelligent, read the body language, work under stress, increase your value, negotiate better, communicate assertively, and act confident even when everything is falling apart.
It doesn’t matter what happens. Never show your weakness. Always show strength.
The third rule: Never underestimate your opponents.
The business world is a decision-making game that can suddenly turn into a war as soon as money comes into play. Both sides have something to protect and fight for.
Within the battlefield, you will face two kinds of opponents: those who don’t have any idea about what they’re looking for, and the worthy ones who are stronger and smarter than you.
Whichever opponent you find on the way, be tolerant, honest, and don’t underestimate.
It’s fine not to show them mercy, but even the worst opponents deserve your respect.
The fourth rule: Track your opponent's position while they sleep.
Business opportunities come in many ways. In my experience, the worst ones happen when you’re not expecting or looking for them. It almost feels like receiving spam.
What you should know is that behind those opportunities, there is someone who usually needs something urgent and cheap. Oh, and with high quality.
If this opportunity comes from friends, colleagues, partners, or other customers, make sure you ask them as many questions as possible about it. Try to go backward and find out why they are looking for support.
Even if they can’t provide much detail, never, ever miss getting the potential customers’ contact information: full name, business name, website, and e-mail address.
That’s vital if you want to predict what’s coming.
The fifth rule: Spy on your opponents and their followers.
Although nowadays it’s known as stalking, it’s time to spy on your opponents and their followers.
At this point, understanding as much as possible about who you’re going to deal with is A MUST.
So, first thing first.
Log out from Linkedin. Then, google your contact’s full name + the name of the company. In this case, Google usually displays the Linkedin profile first.
Now, check everything you want to know about them, including interests, mutual connections, and providers.
- Do your opponents have other social media channels?
- What does Glassdoor display about them?
- What do your opponents like to post about?
- What’s the tone of their replies to comments? Is it soft, strong, assertive, mean?
- How much you want to research and prepare for battle will depend on you.
The sixth rule: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Guess who understands your opponents better than you?
In this rule, make sure to do in-depth research about your potential customer’s service providers because their work can tell you a lot about both sides.
- Who are they?
- Are they still working together?
- Are they connected on Linkedin and other social media platforms?
- Do they have any reviews? What do they say?
- Do they have partners?
- Are those partners worth considering for future opportunities?
One of the fastest ways to get an idea about the type of potential customers you’re going to deal with is just by looking at their corporate branding elements and website.
If they know how real value works, they will have compelling elements. If not, you will immediately understand that they may not be willing to pay for quality.
The seventh rule: Engage with confidence.
Now that you know more about who you’re going to deal with, it’s time to engage. This time with weapons, and with confidence.
Contact your opponents and find out what they want by listening to their needs.
If they try to get to your pricing level before sharing their request and listening to what you can offer, you should take that as a warning.
- Don’t be afraid of using the word NO and being assertive.
- Don’t be afraid of sharing that you always expect to grow together with your customers.
- Don’t be afraid of expressing that they need to invest if they want to try to achieve the expected results.
Use whatever resources possible to assertively set your opponents on the right track. If they feel attacked or hurt by you, they may be more useful at managing their own ego instead of a business.
The eighth rule: Declare your terms for battle.
If you accept the challenge of going to battle with your opponent, set and declare the terms that will “protect” your business.
For this you must make sure:
- To prepare your proposal in detail. Don’t leave any cracks because those can be used against you at any time, especially when it's time to charge them.
- To protect your profits beyond your standards.
- To get more value from them, if you confirmed that they will be challenging.
- To define (and clarify) penalty clauses. The penalty clauses are great to detect those opponents you’ll struggle the most with in the future.
- To get more people involved when declaring and signing the terms. Don’t engage until you get legal proof that they have accepted and understood your terms.
However, if your customer is a very bad one, no matter what you do, or have as proof, they simply won’t care.
Things to keep in mind:
- Doing business is a survival game, where only the strongest and the smartest will remain.
- No matter what you do, a bad customer will always be a bad customer. Never take it personally.
- The consequences of bad customers can seriously hurt your business if you look at it from a long-term perspective.
- Never blame your bad customers. You made the choice to work with them in the first place.
- Bad customers can also learn. Educate them assertively.
- Not only employees, but bad customers can be fired too.
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to subscribe if you liked this post, or comment below if you have any questions. I’ll be happy to answer them.