If you have followed me for a while then you will know that I talk a lot about vampire clients and why we don’t want them. But how do you get rid of the ones you’re currently working with – and when?
What is a Vampire Client?
In short, a vampire client is someone who overworks you, underpays you and leaves you bleeding at the neck.
Vampire clients do not value your work and constantly question you on price. They want to take as much as they can for as little as possible, and as a result they leave you drained and exhausted.
Working with vampire clients prevents you from obtaining time or financial freedom. This makes it very difficult to enjoy your work, and the stress these clients place you under impacts your personal life, too.
In order to build a freedom practice, you need to get rid of vampire clients and fill your practice with high quality clients who value you and pay you what you’re worth. But how exactly do you go about slaying a vampire?
1. Check Your Letter of Engagement
As nightmarish as vampire clients can be, you can’t just cut them off. The first thing you need to do is check your letter of engagement to make sure that there are no clauses that state you can’t get rid of a vampire client or cancel within a certain time frame. You may find that you are obligated to work with them for another six months, which is far from ideal but better than ruining your reputation by breaking promises.
2. Finish Existing Projects
You can’t leave a client hanging in the middle of a project, either. It’s important to see projects through to completion, or else you will quickly destroy your reputation. Unless you can move the client to another firm to continue the project seamlessly, you will have to finish what you started. You can still send the letter of disengagement, but make it clear that you will continue supporting the client until the project is finished.
3. Check Your Ego
This might sting a little, but it’s important to check that this decision isn’t about you and your bruised ego.
You’re only human. Every now and then, someone – often unintentionally – says something to annoy or offend us. Just because someone has pushed a button doesn’t mean that they are a vampire client who we need to get rid of.
Don’t sack clients in haste. Consider their behaviour throughout your entire working relationship.
- Do they make your team unhappy?
- Do they cause you stress that negatively impacts your relationships?
- Do they take up more time than they are worth, or end up costing you money?
- Or are you just offended due to a clash in values or a flyaway comment?
4. Put Them On Probation
If a vampire client represents too large of a percentage of your revenue to let go right now, you might want to consider putting them on probation.
You may find that having an honest conversation with your client about their behaviour and giving them a fair warning encourages them to change their ways.
Often, vampire clients don’t realise that they are bleeding you dry. If you calmly and politely explain to them how their behaviour is causing problems for you, they may well strive to do better.
Be very clear and specific about how you would like your client to improve. For example, if they frequently fail to show up to meetings, explain that you need them to show up to all future appointments for the next three months to avoid receiving your letter of disengagement. Remember to be polite rather than threatening, but remain firm.
Abraham Lincoln claimed that the best way to destroy your enemies is to make them your friends. In a similar vein, you can get rid of bad clients by turning them into good ones.
However, if the client fails or outright refuses to change their behaviour within a given time frame, you will then be well within your rights to end the relationship.
5. Send a Letter of Disengagement
If you have followed the above steps and are certain that it is time to get rid of a vampire client, then you need to write a succinct letter of disengagement.
This should be short, polite and emotionless. Don’t gush or apologise.
Explain to your client that your practice is moving in a new direction and that you will no longer be able to serve them in a way that is beneficial to them – not because you don’t like working with them. No matter how much pain a client has caused you, you do not want to leave a relationship on bad terms or walk away with egg on your face.
Show appreciation for the business the client has provided, and wish them well. Reframe the conversation to ensure that they understand this decision will prove beneficial to them.
You should also recommend that your client gets in touch with another firm who can provide them with what they need. It’s important that you recommend someone who will be able to cope with the client. Don’t just palm them off to a friend or close associate, as this could ruin your relationship.
After you have sent the letter of disengagement, follow up with a phone call. This is the scary bit, but it’s important to be professional and respectful, even as you sever ties.
Check in and make sure that the client has received the email and understand what is happening. Reassure them that you will do your best to be helpful whilst you disengage and will not leave them in the lurch.
The moment you decide to slay your vampire clients is pivotal for your accounting practice. When you free yourself of vampire clients, you are then able to replace them with “radiator” clients who fill you with warmth. When you have strong marketing and sales superpowers in place, you don’t need to lose sleep over the loss of revenue, either, because you know that you have a pipeline of new leads coming in every single week.