SALES

8 Customers You Should Avoid

These irritating customers are usually more bother than they're worth.
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Most of the time, customers (and prospective customers) are great. However, there are eight types of customer that are usually more bother than they're worth. Here they are, along with some advice for coping with them.

1. The Lookee-Loo

They are "interested" in your company's offerings but have no intention of buying from you... or anyone else.

Your best defense: In your initial meeting, determine the prospect's financial result of NOT buying. If that number is small, politely move on.

2. The Surpriser

They seem to negotiate in good faith but, just after you've made an agreement they demand a huge discount "or the deal is off."

Your best defense: Just say no. The customer will respect you for holding firm. If the deal disappears, it was never real in the first place.

3. The Freeloader

They demand you write a detailed proposal, then use your proposal to extract concessions from their current vendor.

Your best defense: Never write a substantive proposal without extracting a promise that you can personally present your findings to top decision-maker.

4. The Brick Wall

No matter how much you try, they won't provide you with the information you need to discover whether or not you can help them.

Your best defense: Throw the ball back into their court by asking: "So, how exactly can I help you?" If they don't have an answer, shrug and move on.

5. The Enabler

They tolerate unethical behavior from your competitors and expect you and your firm to be similarly "flexible."

Your best defense: Never do business with any company or person who asks you to do something unethical or illegal.

6. The Invisible Man

They confirm appointments to meet with you but are "called away on important business" when the meeting is supposed to occur.

Your best defense: If it happens once, no big deal. Twice, still no big deal. One more time, assume it's intentional and move on.

7. The Poseur

They claim to have full authority to buy, but actually play a minor role (if any) in the decision-making process.

Your best defense: Keep the poseur involved as you increase your list of contacts at the customer site.

8. The Job Seeker

They pretend that their company is in the market for your offering but are actually trying to build job-hunting contacts in your industry.

Your best defense: Provide your best advice to the job seeker then determine who else (if anybody) you should be talking with.

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Last updated: May 6, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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