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How to Walk Away from Bad Business

walk away from bad business

What Should You Do When Customers Have Unrealistic Expectations?

In the middle of 1999, I was a regional sales manager for a manufacturing company, covering most of the eastern US and Canada.  My boss, Scott, decided to join me on the road one week in the Philadelphia area.  Although the anchor of the trip was a significant demo we performed for my region’s largest customer, Scott decided to do a few sales calls later in the week with me – and I’m still benefiting from his attendance because of this one statement he made …

I was leading a product demo with our sales engineer for a tool and die shop in southern New Jersey.  Our competition had been there already, and it was now our turn.  Well, our competition had set unrealistic expectations that we couldn’t meet (nor could they).

While my sales engineer and I were trying to win the argument, Scott jumped into the conversation with one simple statement:

“I’m sorry everyone, but we’re not going to be able to meet your expectations and I’d hate to ask you to continue to invest more of your time with us today, so we’ll pack up and go.  However, I strongly suggest that you confirm that whoever you choose can meet these expectations.” 

But it was the very last part that did it for me: “Don’t get me wrong, we still want to work with you, but we only take on work in which we can excel.”

I knew we should walk away from the business, but I didn’t know how.  Walking away from business can be insulting to customers.  Sales people usually do it by acting superior – “We only work with companies that already have a budget” – or by being unresponsive – “I just won’t return their calls and they’ll pick the other guys”.  Neither one of these techniques are good for anyone.  Your goal should be to avoid a bad customer but give them the opportunity to turn into a good customer in the future and want to call you because of your honesty.

This simple template works every time, and it’s the right thing to do: “We can’t meet your expectations – Make sure the other guys can – We want to work with you.”

By the way, I never received a call from that tool and die shop in the future. I also didn’t invest dozens of hours trying to win bad business either. But I have won many sales opportunities by using this template, and I also sleep pretty well at night.


This article was first published by our partners at Vector Firm, and has been republished with their express permission.

Read the original article here – How to Walk Away from Bad Business…And Turn it into Future Good Business

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