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Guest post: Finding the customer who’s right

June 23, 2014 -  By

You’ve heard the expression, “The customer is always right.” This may be one of the most overused or misinterpreted statements in sales and customer service. Treating a customer with respect, going the extra mile and, even when it’s called for, taking a loss to maintain a good relationship is a sales and customer service reality. Yet I don’t believe the customer is always right. In fact, I think there are times when a prospect is not the right person to be your customer.

We know building rapport—getting to know a client’s needs, wants and preferences—is the right thing to do and a foundational step in the sales process. I’ve also found there are times when this step reveals something important that tells you a prospect isn’t a good fit for you or the service you offer. When this happens, you may want to take the opportunity to move on before you invest the time into qualifying. In other cases, a prospect may not like you or your style, which makes it a challenge to even get to the next step so you can effectively qualify them. In either case, you may decide to cut your losses and move along before you’ve gone too far because either this customer isn’t right for you or you’re not right for the customer.

Let’s consider what might happen when you’ve met someone with whom you connect, meaning you’re successful in putting them at ease and building a comfortable rapport. You naturally move on to learning more about how you might be of service to them when you find out that, even though you would love to have this person as a customer, you actually are not a good fit to perform the work they need or deliver the service they’re looking for. What then?

You can try to make them happy, knowing you’re likely to fall short, or you can practice true customer service and be honest about what you’ve discovered. Consider suggesting another company would be a better fit and would deliver better service for their needs. If you’re open to doing this, you may want to prepare by having a list of companies you feel good about recommending. If you intentionally develop relationships with other companies that work in your field—companies that you respect and can confidently recommend, but have significant differences in style or delivery—you’re doing the prospect and the other company a favor.

This style of “customer service” can be part of a strategic plan that has the potential to pay off when you find the customer isn’t right, or at least isn’t the right one for you. You can take the time you’ve spent in the first few steps of the sales process and leverage them in a different way, even if it’s not a new customer for you. You’re cutting your losses and building a great reputation in your market at the same time. The goodwill you create by doing the right thing will almost certainly come back around to bolster your business when your reputation precedes you with a great prospect that is the right customer for you.


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About the Author:

Leslie Boomer is an organizational health consultant with Pro-Motion Consulting. Reach her at

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