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3 Ways Toxic Clients Are Tanking Your Business and what you can do about it.

If I were to ask you to think about all of the clients you’ve had over the years, can you picture a few favorites?


To be clear, I’m talking about the kind of client who respects your expertise. Someone who is forthcoming about their needs. Someone who consistently pays on time. The kind of client who might get a little something extra from you, just for being awesome.


I’ll bet you’ve even said out loud, “Man, it would be so great to have 20 more clients like Dave. If we could just get a steady stream of “Daves” life would be so much easier.”


Can you picture your “Dave”?


As entrepreneurs and business owners, we are interested in making money, but it’s rarely the whole story. We want to serve our clients and serve them well. We want them to walk away from an interaction with our business and feel good about engaging with us. We want them to love us and we want to love them. We all want our Dave.


Unfortunately, we occasionally end up with another type of client.


Picture the clients you’ve had who are the living, breathing version of your personal nightmare. The kind of client who, when you look down at your phone and see a call, text or email from them, you roll your eyes, get tense in your shoulders, or you start contemplating the merits of day-drinking.


Can you picture this client? I’ll bet you can.


So why is it that we end up with some clients who make us react this way? It’s clear we can attract good clients. We’ve got Dave, right? Why do we continue to attract and retain needy, aggressive or nightmare clients?


We are collectively believing a false narrative. Bottom line: I think we’ve been tricked. We’ve been tricked into believing that we have to take them, because “Sales cures all ills.” Our minds constantly scream, “ALWAYS BE CLOSING.”


Without sales, all will be lost! Sales, like water, are necessary for life. Life of our business. Life of our bodies. But the wrong kind of sales, just like the wrong kind of water, can be toxic.


When you take on a high-stress/poor- fit client, does it give your team the opportunity to be super productive? Not likely. It’s far more likely that you are busy re-arranging systems, moving deadlines, and eating up precious bandwidth in your own business to accommodate them.


A poll conducted in 2017 by Entrepreneur magazine asked 500 entrepreneurs to name their biggest triggers for stress within their business. Managing difficult clients ranked #3 behind access to capital and time management.


Toxic clients are not just a part of doing business; they can actually be a bad business decision. Let’s explore a few of the ways a toxic client can tank your business.


You are less focused on DAVE. A demanding, time- consuming, poor- fit client eats up your focus and energy. When that happens, you have less time for DAVE. Dave is our great-fit, pays-on-time, trusts-your-expertise and potential referral source client and he is all but ignored because you’re tap dancing for the high stress client. You’re too busy greasing the squeaky wheel, that you forget that there are other wheels that need your attention.


They disrupt your business. How many times have you or your staff had to stop what they are doing in order to appease the demands of a nightmare client? When a client calls, has an urgent need that requires your team to move their priorities around to satisfy the urgency request. This may happen occasionally but should never be considered the norm. Toxic clients don’t consider the time it takes to deliver the request. They don’t honor timelines. They don’t respect your methods. They don’t acknowledge their role in the execution of the service.


They impact your ability to lead. High stress impacts relationships, decision making abilities, and time management. Can you recall a time, or several times, when you’ve snapped at a loyal employee because of a toxic client? Chances are, you are snapping at your employees because a client has snapped at you. This is not beneficial for any person, let alone an entrepreneur. These clients impact office morale and the faith your team has in their leader: you.


Fear not, fair readers. All is not lost. When you know better, you do better.


Processes in your business are what will help you scale. Having a process for executing your services is essential for your business to run properly. The same principal must be applied to client acquisition.

Designing a process for attracting, qualifying, and educating your prospects about what they can expect when interacting with your business is essential to your business as well.


Getting clients you love is not a “nice to have”; it is a must. It is a critical component to managing your time, reducing stress, and making more money. It is time to stop focusing only on how to get more clients. Getting more clients is only part of the story and only solves the immediate need. Getting more clients you love serves the immediate need AND will help you truly scale your business. You deserve to love your business. You deserve to hit your goals.


Make no mistake, your clients deserve great service. But, you must also remind yourself that your services deserve great clients.



Get more clients you love

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(c) Trish Saemann 2019

Charlotte, North Carolina

trish@trishsaemann.com