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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Determining when it's time to say no to a client

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This story appears in the July 2000 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine.

When I started my consulting business out of my drafty basement, with no money and no clients, the idea that I would not want certain customers bordered on blasphemy. But what I soon discovered is that there are accounts that are, quite simply, not worth the effort. As your business grows, you will need to make some hard decisions about "breaking up" with a client or even passing on a company's business at the outset.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not advocating that you start severing relationships willy-nilly-after all, we love our clients, don't we? But all of us have limited resources, and we need to focus on those accounts that are clearly profitable while gently turning away marginal or unprofitable customers. Optimally, your sales process should prevent you from getting into sticky situations in the first place, but when you need to take a hard look at a relationship and its worth, you'll need some snappy evaluation tools.

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