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When to say no to new business

October 1, 2005 -  By

If your company is dependent on larger sales from fewer customers, then you could put yourself at financial risk by taking on the wrong customer. One of the most common mistakes that landscape company owners make is to accept money from anyone who is willing to pay for their product or service — even if the customer is not the ideal fit for their business. Whether you’re a startup or a large corporation, taking on a new customer who doesn’t match your ideal customer profile can be a big mistake. Here are seven situations that indicate you should say no to new business:

1. Your gut instinct says no. Your gut instinct, or intuition, is the most powerful weapon you own that is usually correct … even if it isn’t always a logical thought. Don’t ignore the nagging feeling something isn’t right. When you hear that little voice inside telling you to turn away the new business, you should follow it.

Here’s a common scenario that raises the gut instinct red flag: You’re sitting in a new business meeting and everything on the surface seems to be going well but you can’t ignore a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. You can’t put your finger on it but you know something just isn’t right and you feel you’re not seeing the whole truth. Then your head gets in the way. Your rational voice talks you out of those feelings and instead you dismiss your instincts as ridiculous so you take on the new customer. Ultimately that customer doesn’t pay the bills or makes unreasonable demands that take away any profits you could make on the deal.

Sometimes there doesn’t have to even be a logical explanation why you don’t trust the situation. Just remember that if you get that inner message, don’t let financial greed talk you out of your first impression. Whether you’re a business owner, a sales professional or a corporate executive, your gut instinct is the best resource you have.

2. The customer does not appreciate the value of your service. While some people make decisions based upon price, the most profitable business for your company will be from customers who appreciate the value of what you offer. Value could include your expertise, credibility, service, knowledge, reliability and guarantee. Anybody who selects your company based on price alone views you as a commodity, not a valued service. A disloyal customer who is more concerned with price rather than value will readily switch to any competitor who will undercut your price.

3. The customer expects you to invest time and resources into pursuing their business without any financial commitment on their end. Anyone who is just shopping around and is looking for free advice is not going to be a good customer. Determine how much time and energy you’re willing to spend for free before you ask the prospective customer to make a commitment. Giving away products or services for free before the prospect makes any financial commitment diminishes the value of your company. It also raises the level of what they expect you to deliver beyond what you would normally offer for a specific price because they have already received something from you for free.

4. The customer does not treat you in a courteous or professional manner. Profitable business is based on strong relationships between you and your customer. This doesn’t mean your customer has to be your best friend, but your best customers will be those who respect and value your professionalism. Anybody who constantly questions your recommendations, nit-picks at your pricing or questions your credibility or judgment, is not interested in developing a long-term relationship with your business. There is no opportunity for trust here. The customer is clearly showing he doesn’t value your business or want to establish a long-term relationship.

5. The customer asks for products or services you don’t provide. There are times when customers will approach your business and request additional products or services you don’t already provide. They value your relationship and ask you if you would be willing to venture out into new opportunities. If this new opportunity is a stretch on your capital resources or your existing operational structure, or it is not congruent with the mission of your company, it’s best to decline this business. Before you instantly accept a new challenge, make sure it will not stretch your resources and develop into more headaches than successes for your company.

6. The customer’s requests are too large for your operation. If a client approaches you to provide something that stretches beyond your current capabilities to produce, consider the cost to expand your operations versus the profit potential. Take into account any new capital expenditures, additional employees, training expenses, material costs and the opportunity costs of other business lost while you are meeting the needs of this new customer. Controlled growth for your company is more manageable and typically more profitable than a large increase in business within a short time frame if you’re not set up to manage that quick growth.

7. The customer does not share the same values as you. The right customer for you is someone who shares your values. It will be very apparent by the manner in which the customer treats you if you share these common values. Don’t lose sight of your company’s mission, even if it means turning down potential business. When you compromise your values to pick up new business it will not result in profitable business for your company in the long run.


Debbie Bermont is president of Source Communications, a marketing consulting firm, and author of Outrageous Business Growth – The Fast Track To Explosive Sales In Any Economy. Debbie is a leading expert on helping businesses reduce their marketing costs and accelerating their sales growth. For more information go to or call 619/291-6951.

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