The Lesser-Had Conversation: Turning Down the Wrong Clients for Your Business

The Lesser-Had Conversation: Turning Down the Wrong Clients for Your Business

The Lesser-Had Conversation: Turning Down the Wrong Clients for Your Business

“You can’t please everyone, you’re not a jar of Nutella.’ 

It’s got to be a great article if it opens with a Nutella meme, right? 

If you’ve been following my content for a while, you know that one of my goals is to create more ‘free time.’ I’d like to spend less time working while still upholding exceptional standards of service, and growing business income. 

One big part of that puzzle is the ‘right-fit client.’ 

But the flip side of choosing to work only with your right-fit client is that you’ll often find yourself turning down the wrong-fit client – an equally important and delicate matter. 

My Right-Fit Client Now & Then

My right-fit client today is the High Net Worth (HNW) entrepreneur, who has an annual income upwards of US$ 10 million and a net worth upwards of US$ 100 million. This ideal client is from the Indian subcontinent, lives in the UAE, and is usually between 38-68 years old with a rare case where we will take on the patriarch of a business in his 70s or 80s. 

This right-fit client box has evolved over the years – it’s gotten smaller. My right-fit client list used to include High Earning executives too. These executives were typically C-suite executives with Fortune 500 companies or similar. 

But over time, we’ve taken the decision not to take on new clients in that category. This isn’t because the service proposition or the market segment became redundant in any way but for the simple reason that we’ve all got one rapidly depleting resource: 


Turning Down the Wrong-Fit Client 

As time started to become a more valuable resource, and we had more and more life-long client relationships to service, it became obvious to me that I’d have to take on lesser clients and get even more selective. 

As of now, we only take on 6-8 new clients every year, and they’re almost always right there in our right-fit client box. I do make exceptions for very specific individuals who tick every criterion on our right-fit client list except that they are High Earning C-suite executives rather than HNW entrepreneurs. 

So how do we go about turning down the wrong-fit client? 

It begins with educating our referral partners and existing clients on who we are looking to work with. I make it a point to let them know who the kind of clients are that we are looking for and might even put out specific requests to meet a particular individual in some cases. 

Next, I try and avoid a ‘Hard No’ decline. If someone in my network sends a client my way who isn’t an ideal fit for us, I usually refer this client onwards to another qualified advisor. 

Over the years, I’ve been pre-qualifying a small pool of reliable financial service professionals and advisors so that I have them at the ready when I do need to forward a potential client.

Does this always go smoothly? Not necessarily. 

Some people don’t like being turned down or passed on to someone else, but in the long run, most clients understand that we would have been doing them and us a disservice if we took them on without complete confidence that we could serve them well. 

Can I Invite You Home for Dinner with my Family? 

Over the years, as I’ve shared more and more about my right-fit client, I’ve been asked how exactly one can go about identifying their right-fit client. 

I think everyone’s going to have a different discovery process, but here’s how it went for me. 

Back when I was just getting started in the Life Insurance industry, my mentor had told me that I could choose right from the start who it was that I wanted to work with. I didn’t believe him: I thought he had that privilege because he had been in the industry for 30 years!

So, I approached all opportunities that came my way with a ‘Yes’ mindset. 

Over time, I had a very full client roster of clients with very different profiles, needs, and service requirements. So I made a list of my top 10 clients then, and I listed down all of the characteristics that made it a pleasure to work with them. I found that these people had a lot in common – both with me and with each other.

We had similar values, similar lifestyles, and interests and all of that helped to make these client relationships easier, longer-term, more profitable for them, and more profitable for us. 

Similarly, I made a list of my bottom 10 clients – clients with whom work seemed like drudgery. Those 10 clients had quite a bit in common too. 

Today the one question I have to confidently be able to answer before I take on a new client is this: Can I invite you home for dinner with my family?

If the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ – then they’re in! 

All in all, discovering who your right-fit client is and who you want to turn down might be something that evolves into sharp focus for you and your business over time. But deciding that you do want to build out this set of criteria is critical for business growth and scale. 

As you grow and time becomes a more valuable resource, you will want to invest it only with the right clients. 

So even if you’re not ready today to define exactly who this right-fit client is for you, get started making your ‘Top 10 clients and their characteristics list.’ 

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