Client Bullying

March 17, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Posted in Adrian Miller Sales Training, Adrian's Network, entrepreneurship, sales | 1 Comment

There’s been a lot of attention paid to the problem of bullying and, of course, most of the focus has been on children and teenagers.

We’ve heard the stories and experience outrage and bewilderment as to how and why this situation keeps occurring, and seemingly with more and more frequency. Parents and non-parents alike can feel the pain of the families going through this highly stressful experience.

But I’m going to address a different type of bullying. I don’t mean to compare them at all or imply that they are equal in the amount of pain and suffering that results from the bullying actions.

The bullying that I am referring to lies at the hands of “clients”.

Yes, client bullying.

It seems that this situation is also a bit more prevalent these days. The recession has caused pain, and clients are looking for ways to decrease their expenses and get the same services or products for less money.

They’re looking (or threatening to look) for the low cost provider, even when the client-service provider relationship has been good and the deliverables stellar.

And yes, they are asking, no demanding, that payment terms be extended.

This type of bullying wreaks havoc on small businesses, heck, most businesses who are trying to stay afloat themselves.

But when the client’s back is to the wall, they become the schoolyard bully and no amount of intervention really helps.

So, do you put up with it and potentially wind up losing money on the work that you execute? Or do you attempt to negotiate and find a middle ground AND if that doesn’t work, do you take your ball and exit the schoolyard leaving the bullies to find someone else to pick on.

Sometimes it is difficult to know what to do.

(Note: during the last 18-24 mos I have known many businesses knuckle under to the demands of the client bully. They are not happy BUT they have retained the business and some amount of positive cash flow.)


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  1. I’ve been in business — as a small business — for 19 years. And I just ran into this bullying thing from my formerly largest client two years ago. They essentially told me “I was lucky to have their business in these hard times” (though I did excellent work and they were very happy with me). But they demanded a 35% cut in my professional fee, and then on top of that, they were going to cut the number of professional projects they assign me per year by half. So it boiled down to an income-cut (for me) of 65%!!! I decided to tell them what they could afford to buy from me “given their new reduced budget” instead of getting bullied into having a fire-sale on my professional rates. I earned those rates, there were certainly competitive, and it isn’t a client’s place to rework a vendor’s fee structure. They were insulted apparently with my approach, because I refused to cut my rates. So I sent them a final letter, resigning representing them, and got a contract three months later from their largest competitor (a larger company). Glad I held my ground. Who do these bastards think they are?

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