Often a hand goes up and asks me, “have you ever and how do you fire a client?”
Yes, and let me explain how.
When I get this question, I often know it is coming from someone who is generally a nice person who is not sure how to deliver tough news. Kudos to them for this quality. It is also coming from someone who likely has some “dead weight” on their client list. So what they are really saying is, “I am getting sucked into spending time on business and/or a relationship I really don’t think will pay off and hasn’t paid off.” More often than not, the client has more awareness around this challenge than we realize.
A few suggestions below:
Manage expectations: On the front end of the relationship, be clear about your expectations for the relationship and how you see it evolving. Communicate it in an early meeting. Set mutually agreed up milestones that both of you can use as a measure when evaluating the relationship. This allows you to create a foundation that you can refer back to as the relationship evolves.
Anticipate: Anticipation is key so that you can be prepared when a relationship changes and know how to respond. Respond when you first see the relationship change—whether it’s the client’s needs changing, their world changing or your world changing.
Understand the implications: Who does this relationship touch and what impact does terminating this relationship have on those people? Are my company and I prepared to deal with this?
Be them: Ask yourself a few questions: “What else is going on in their world?” “How can I best time this transition and/or conversation with them?”
Communicate: Not all things, but most things, can be solved through communication. Hopefully you have a built a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. So when you communicate, they hear you and you connect. Periodically have the guts to be vulnerable and ask, “how’s this going?”
If you think you might need to “trim the fat,” odds are you do. So, do it. It’s like the 22 year old who breaks up with someone he isn’t going to marry. Often better for both parties, because if you truly aren’t committed, the relationship won’t develop to greater levels of mutual support.