How to Turn Down Business Clients, Professionally
By Holly Reisem Hanna
Have you ever worked with a difficult client? I know I have worked with my fair share of difficult and impossible to please customers (I waited tables all through out college). The beauty of owning your own business is that you get to choose with whom you work with. There are numerous reasons why one would turn away business; lack of time, clash of personalities, ethics, outside their realm of expertise, too little pay… In fact in his book, The 4 – Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss explains how once he dropped his nightmare clients his revenue started to increase!
For me it’s not so much working with difficult clients, but because the work-at-home realm is so littered with scams, that I often have to turn away business because I don’t feel comfortable promoting the opportunity presented. This is something that I definitely do not enjoy doing, but over the past year I have gained a lot of experience in turning down business clients. Whatever the reason, there is fine art to turning away clients and customers professionally.
Here are a few tips and strategies I’ve learned along the way.
Act Quickly. Making the decision as quickly as possible allows time for the client to search for alternative solutions and shows them a certain level of respect. Dragging out the decision could turn into an angry client who gives you and your business poor lip service.
Short & Sweet. When turning down a client it is best practice to be polite, prompt and to the point. A simple and direct statement should suffice. If this is a desirable client, see if you can refer them to another trusted source, they will appreciate your willingness to assist them.
Offer Explanations When Asked. If a client asks the question, “Why won’t you take me on as a client” explain why you won’t be able to assist them. Remember to be polite and as delicate as possible, many people will take this rejection personally.
Always Remain Professional. If a client starts to step over the line and starts name calling or acting unprofessional, as tempting as it may be, never engage in this sort of behavior, just cut off communication. You never want to burn any bridges or add any fuel to the fire.
Suggest an Alternative. If possible offer alternatives, this is not only helpful to the client, but it leaves them with the feeling that you tried to help them.
Have you had to turn down a client? How did you handle the situation?