How Sales Managers Can Best Handle Client Terminations


Sales professionals spend innumerable hours attempting to obtain customers; unfortunately, there are also times when it is not only appropriate, but necessary, to sever relations with a problem client.

An all-inclusive list of infractions is not practical, but it is possible to cite the most common examples of client misconduct. If a customer has engaged in one or more of the following, for instance, the relationship might have to be terminated. The client has

1) initiated or participated in criminal activity

2) engaged in inappropriate or reckless behavior

3) subjected a member of the sales team to verbal abuse

4) made demands that are outside the scope of contractual obligations

It is impossible to foresee every circumstance, but there are means by which sales organizations can avoid such unpleasantness, and protect themselves on those occasions when transgressions do occur.

First and foremost, always get agreements in writing. Contracts should be unambiguous, fair and equitable to both parties, and include benchmarks that can be measured easily. When expectations and assessment tools are clear on each side of the table, the likelihood of misunderstandings is greatly diminished. Serious firms also retain the services of a few good lawyers.

But what about the individual sales professional who, during a conversation with a client, is subjected to inappropriate behavior, or becomes uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation?

She should, first of all, defuse the situation by maintaining proper etiquette and decorum, and then politely, professionally excuse herself. She should then immediately contact her sales manager, and communicate to her exactly what happened: what the client said or did that made her uncomfortable. She should neither withhold information nor embellish events.

The sales rep must be careful not to share mere perceptions or feelings; the client’s deeds must be portrayed as objectively as possible. There are, potentially, legal ramifications involved with her depiction of events.

Because individual perspectives vary, the sales manager may choose to accompany her representative when the client is called on again. Or, the manager may choose to pursue some other avenue of company protocol. It is important to remember that the client “belongs” to the firm; not to the individual sales rep. Consequently, decisions about what, if any, action will be taken in regard to the client rightly belong to management.

A firm’s reputation is a valuable asset, and it must not be sullied by unbecoming alliances.

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