Got the balls to fire your biker clients?
80 percent of our profits come from 20 percent of our clients. Yet we often give our worst, most debilitating and unprofitable clients our most intense attention and very best efforts. They’re rude, bullies, have outrageous expectations, treat our people terribly, ruin staff morale, disrupt the momentum we have on our important clients and inevitably complain about bills, even when we deliver great results!
I call them ‘bikers’. Here’s why, and here’s why you should fire them, TODAY.
It’s a great story, and a two minute read. But two minutes you’ll remember for as long as you work with clients. ‘Bikers’ will become a word you use in your agency. And if you ARE a client, and recognise any of these behaviours, then – please: stop and think. You’ll never get the best from your agencies if you’re a ‘biker’. Here’s the story…
You have a wonderful 16 year old daughter. You adore her. She is going out on her first big night out. You agree she’ll be home by 11 pm. At 11.30 pm – no sign of her. Your heart is beating faster. Midnight- and still no sign of her.
Then you hear the roar of a motorbike. You look through the curtains. Screaming up the drive is a Harley Davidson. Driving – a huge, tattooed, bearded, leather jacketed biker, swigging from a bottle of bourbon. Clinging onto the back, dress flying everywhere, your sweet baby girl!!! The bike races through the flower beds, up the front stairs, does a skiddy on the polished deck floor boards, dirt and smoke a plenty, screeches to a halt. The biker hops off, grabs your daughter in his arms and starts trying to …..(sorry- you get the picture…).
Now- do you open the door, embrace him warmly, and kiss him on both cheeks? Do you say: “Welcome dear old friend! I am so thrilled to see you getting intimate with my little darling daughter. Come on in. Please, sit in my favourite chair. Put your muddy boots up on the polished coffee table. Let me furnish you with a glass of Grange Hermitage and perhaps you’d enjoy one of my fine Cohiba Siglio VI cigars?”
NO! YOU DON’T. What you actually do is get out your shot gun, point it at the biker and you say, very firmly: “ENOUGH ALREADY! OUT OF HERE. VAMOOSE!!”
Do you have clients who treat you and your team appallingly?
They don’t involve you in their business. Keep you on the outer. They pitch out every project, or threaten to. Then they call up out of the blue. It’s always ‘urgent and mission critical.’ Give you a small project with big expectations and ridiculous deadlines. They demand your senior people work on it, are unco-operative during the process, rude, bullying, inconsistent, contradictory, expect you to jump through hoops. Your team burns the midnight oil. And when you’ve delivered a great outcome against all odds, these clients say nothing, except when they get the bill of course. Then they always complain. Push for a discount. Argue and bitch. Do you have clients like that?
And here’s the rub.
When they call, do you generally break out into a beaming smile and say: “Welcome, my dear, old friend! I am thrilled to see you. Come on in! Put your muddy feet up on my polished coffee table. Have a glass of my Grange Hermitage and perhaps I could tempt you with a fine Cohiba from my private collection?” You do, don’t you? Come on now- yes you do….admit it…
These are ‘Biker” clients. FIRE THEM!!!!!!
Have courage. Get out the shot gun. BANG! The moment you do, your staff will shout “HOOOOORAYYY!” The mood will lift, you can focus on your best clients, and you’ll have a better, happier, more effective and more profitable agency.
And Client Possum Readers- don’t become Bikers, and if you suspect your agency is being held back by Biker clients, please get on the phone and tell them to FIRE THEM NOW.
Remember- 80 percent of our profits come from 20 percent of our clients. Treat that 20% like kings and queens- and fire the bikers. Sometimes the ‘King/Queen’ clients can be challenging too. Of course they can. But when they are delivering significant profits or covering significant overhead, suck it in and work hard to build the partnership and improve the working relationship, ‘one tackle at a time.’
A thank you to Tom Bell, Chief Executive of Burson-Marsteller in the mid 1990s, for telling me that story. It’s been a valuable reality check ever since.
PS I am expecting a call from my lawyer shortly to fire me… BANG. He’s a bit slow and will now realise, at last, that I am a major biker. Dammit!