Aug 6, 2010

Sorry, I don’t want your business

It’s hard to turn away business. I know. I’ve been there. It never feels right to turn someone away, and tell them you can’t help them. But you have to. Not every customer is the right customer. Saying “no” is one of the most important jobs of a leader.

It is so much easier to grow your business and build your brand when you focus on the right customers. These are the accounts that value your products and services, and appreciate what your firm does for them. They’re also the customers that talk about your business, and deliver quality referrals. The more you work with the right customers, the easier it is.

Who are your best customers?

Take an inventory of your customers, and group them into A, B and C accounts. A accounts are your best and most profitable customers. B accounts are your average or typical customers. And C accounts are those customers that just don’t seem to fit with your business, your values or your products.

As you look at your A and C customers, consider the qualities of each group. What makes your A customers the best? Are they your largest accounts? Are they the most profitable? Do you have a unique relationship with them? What qualities make them ideal for your business?

Now consider your C customers. Why do you struggle with these accounts? Are they too small? Too large? Or are they just a pain in the ass?

Finally, what would happen if you only worked with companies that fit into the ideal customer mold? What would that mean for your business?

I am willing to bet your business would improve if you stopped working with C customers, and focused on bringing on more A accounts. This may cause some short term pain as you walk away from the C accounts’ revenue, but imagine what you could do with the added time and resources.

Define your barriers to entry

One of the best decisions we made at LEAPJob was to define our minimum customer requirements. We took the time to clearly understand what type of customers fit and don’t fit us.

Defining your barriers to entry is very liberating. You end up working with the right customers, and eliminate the headaches of pleasing customers that just can’t be pleased. It’s win-win, because you focus on accounts that want and need what you offer.

Barriers to entry also make the sales cycle smoother. If a customer doesn’t fit one of the minimum requirements, let them know and move on. You don’t have to negotiate, make up special pricing, customize your services or anything else. You don’t have to make round pegs fit into square holes. More often than not customers will appreciate your candor. Letting them know you’re not a good fit saves them time, and they can find someone else that better suits their needs.

Your barriers define your brand

The more you understand why some customers are great and others are not, the more self aware you will become. Great brands are built on a company’s strengths.

Additionally, barriers to entry force focus. When you define what kinds of accounts you won’t work with, you have to go out and bring on the right customers. That means getting your value proposition and services finely tuned to bring in more of those A accounts. That’s ok, because A customers fit you and you want them. Stop working with the C’s so you can specialize on the A’s.

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