Don’t Take On Wrong-Fit Clients

Jul 15, 2020 / By Bill Cates, CSP, CPAE
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Tactfully turning down prospects who don’t fit your business isn’t just what’s best for you, your profitability, and your mental health—it’s also best for the prospect. Here’s how to identify when someone isn’t a good fit for your practice and how to turn down the business in a professional manner.

If someone isn’t right for your business, you’re probably not the right advisor for them. Agree? It’s important to create win-win situations.

But what about when a valued client refers someone to you who is not the kind of person you can best serve? You may have to turn them away.

What I’m about to share with you might take a little bit of courage, certainly a little bit of discipline, and a mindset of abundance. To guide you here, we will borrow a term from Star Trek; the prime directive is, “What is best for the prospect?” and “What is best for the referring client?”

And if you come from that perspective, you’re usually going to do the right thing for yourself when it comes to choosing only those who are a right fit for your business.

Close family members

I think that if someone refers you to a very close family member—like a parent to child, child to parent, perhaps a sister, brother…then maybe you take on that business as part of expanding the household and the overall relationship.

But beyond that, you better think twice. “Are you the right person to serve this prospect? Will they take your business in the direction you want it to go and allow you to do the kinds of things you like to do?” If not, it’s a wrong fit and you don’t want to take them on.

The key is qualifying

It’s always a great idea to teach your referral sources, clients, and centers of influence who you serve the best—who your practice or your business is geared to serve the best—so they know who to send your way. And with that said, they still won’t always send the right people your way, and maybe sometimes they really don’t know the financial specifics for the person they refer to you.

You may receive a phone call or an email from a prospect saying, “George said I should talk to you.” or “Laura said you did a great job for her. I would like to talk to you.”

Don’t get too excited yet. Maybe they’re not a great match for your business.

The first thing you want to do is qualify. You can respond, “That’s great. I appreciate that. I know I’m not the right advisor for everyone.” or “I know my business model isn’t suited for everyone, so let’s talk, let’s see if it makes sense to meet.”

If you’re reaching out to someone a client has introduced, you can say, “Let’s set up a quick phone call to see if it makes sense for us to have a continued conversation.”

In the conversation, you describe a little bit about what you do, how you do it, and who you do it for. You want to give some parameters around money. It could be assets. It could be income. It could be other criteria. Usually, if that person doesn’t fit into your criteria, they will qualify themselves out—meaning they will know that it’s not the perfect match.

Have an alternative for them

If you have someone you can refer a wrong-fit prospect to, it’s easier to say, “No.” If you have a junior advisor or someone else that you trust to do a great job for them, you can introduce the prospect to them. You might say, “You know, I am not the right person for you, but I do have an associate who is perfectly suited for your situation. May I make that connection for you? It’s important that you’re working with the right person.”

Or, if your firm has a call center, you can send the prospect there. In this way, the prospect gets the help they need and you don’t take on a wrong-fit client.

Keep the referrer in the loop

Even if someone is referred to you by your best client, you still want to qualify; you want to see if it’s the right match. And if it’s not, you want to gently turn that business down or refer it to someone else.

Then—this is important—immediately get on the phone with the referral source and say, “Hey, Bob, I really appreciate that introduction to Laura. We spoke and I realized the timing wasn’t right for me to be working with her.”

And then you could say, “And I did introduce her to an associate who is perfectly suited for her situation.” That’s about it. Do not reveal any proprietary information. And it’s true, the timing wasn’t right, regardless of the situation, right?

Later, when you’re having a conversation with that referral source, perhaps down the road at a review meeting, you can talk to them a little bit more about the people you serve the best, those for whom your processes are best suited. But do not do that right away, in relationship to that referral you just turned down.

Courage, discipline and abundance thinking

As I mentioned, this takes a little bit of courage. If you haven’t handled wrong-fit referrals up to this point, it takes discipline to just make sure to remember to qualify.

If you always consider what’s actually best for this other person, it will likely be best for you as well.

Bill Cates, president of Referral Coach International, works with financial professionals who want to build their practices by fully mastering the referral process and tapping into the lifetime value of their clients. You can connect with him on LinkedIn. Bill is offering Horsesmouth readers his latest Strategic Guide that focuses on the important topic of cloning your best clients, which you can get here.

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