I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups)

This issue came to light last week as I told my long-time landscaper that I would no longer use his services for one of my properties. Afterward, I told Petra that I had that horrible feeling of breaking up with a high school girlfriend who does not like what she’s hearing so she won’t give back your Letterman’s jacket and proceeds to throw a strawberry milkshake on your car (we’ll save that story for another day).

In the case of landscaper, he said things like:

  • I don’t know who this dream guy is that you think is going to be better than me.
  • How can you do this, I’ve always taken care of you like a brother.
  • I’m offended because I always give you a special price.

Oy vey, the guilt was piled on a think as cream cheese on a bagel at Sunday brunch with a bunch of Jews (my family). I suppose I should mention that we did not know each other before he started working for me, didn’t socialize or even speak other than to discuss the work on my properties.

Has this ever happened to you?

You call up your contractor to let them know you will no longer be needing their services and, instead of a professional conversation about why you’re making the choice, you feel like you’re having a breakup conversation with your girlfriend or a family argument with your brother?

I bring up this issue because you’re a service professional and I don’t want you to make the same mistake as my landscaper. Please consider the following two points.

One

Using the bonds of familial relations to guilt your client into feeling poorly about their decision to stop working with you while also creating a false argument to defend the real reason they are dissatisfied with your service, is not going to “save the sale.” Moreover, it’s an adolescent way of being.

Two

It’s OK to become friends with your clients, to have personal conversations and even socialize outside of your work together. However, when having conversations about projects, prices or the continuation or discontinuation of services, remember that you are not their friend, boyfriend or brother. You work for them. Pure and simple. If they are unhappy with your services, you have two choices. One, you can try to fix the problem or two, you graciously let them go. Either way, you’ll find ways to improve your services and will likely stay friends.

Here’s a third and bonus point: If you do work with friends or family, giving them special deals and perks and they decide to let you go, nonetheless, the same hold true. Never mention that you did special things for them. If you’re going to hold that over their head, you shouldn’t have done those “favors” in the first place.

I once heard my friend Ben say, “Don’t lend money to friends if it will be a financial hardship for you if they don’t pay you back.” His point was, the good deeds you do don’t always get repaid so do them because it pleases you to help, not because you require reciprocation. Otherwise the relationship will come undone. And, you might even end up with a milkshake covered car.

Now, since I’ve been treating you like a paying client, even though you’re not, and this post took me two hours to write, not to mention that I gave you that third and bonus point to boot, I expect you to share this post with everyone you know.  If you don’t, I’ll huff and I’ll puff and never write another post or book for you for as long as I live. So there!

72 thoughts on “I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups)

michaelport

Today’s post: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (and how to deal with client breakups) http://shar.es/HIv6S

Yolanda

I get the same type of high-school break up feeling when I fire a customer or decide not to work with someone who doesn’t have a referral.

Sometimes the responses are mean-spirited. A friend pointed out very clearly that the need to belong is a strong one. It is very “lizard-brain”.

But, excellent point… don’t let your “lizard-brain” take over.

Marcel_Perform

"I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups)" http://shar.es/HIvOn

scoremoresales

Service providers, PLEASE read this- valuable advice! (from my pal Michael Port)… http://fb.me/16LQIQg6k

Tim Brownson

I think the issue is that even though you stood firm Michael, some people would have buckled under the emotional blackmail and that’s why people do it.

100% agree though that it’s highly unprofessional to resort to lines like that. maybe if he’d said “Is there anything I could improve on that would help you reconsider?’ would have been a better approach.

Michael Port

That’s right. If he had said, “What’s working and what needs to be improved?,” listened intently and then said, “Michael, will you give me an opportunity to resolve this issue for you? Because, If you’re not fully satisfied by X date, you should definitely find someone else to work with b/c it would mean that I’m not delivering on what you need,” I would have done so.

In the post, I didn’t mention this but you might find it interesting. At one point, I said, “You know, I’m not comfortable with the tone of the conversation. It feels very confrontational to me. Can we try to change that?” He responded with, “C’mon, we’re like two guys at a bar going back and forth.” I responded, “No, in fact, we’re not two guys at a bar, we’re on the phone and we’re talking about a professional issue as a client and service provider.”

Sandy Fowler

Getting fired is never easy but it’s a great learning opportunity. Pleasantly acknowledging their right to leave then asking what is causing their move is a simple way to learn about your services and how they are being perceived, it’s also a way to find out if you can salvage the client or if you even want to. (Then if you don’t like what you hear you can go buy a milkshake:)

Thanks for the reminder.

2fishweb

Read this or be prepared to duck flying strawberry milkshakes. via @michaelport http://t.co/BCyB1By

caroljsroth

RT @michaelport: Today’s post: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (and how to deal with client breakups) http://shar.es/HIv6S

artfulgreen

RT @caroljsroth: RT @michaelport: Today’s post: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (and how to deal with client breakups) http://shar.es/HIv6S

artfulgreen

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/z955kmU

Bizzeness

RT @BobBurg: Excellent article by @michaelport on dealing w "Client Breakups." And, no "flying milkshakes" 🙂 http://bit.ly/pW9JxO

Bizzeness

RT @BobBurg: Excellent article by @michaelport on dealing w "Client Breakups." And, no "flying milkshakes" 🙂 http://bit.ly/pW9JxO

Bizzeness

RT @BobBurg: Excellent article by @michaelport on dealing w "Client Breakups." And, no "flying milkshakes" 🙂 http://bit.ly/pW9JxO

lisarobbinyoung

Great words from @michaelport: http://bit.ly/pW9JxO Guilt, breaking up with clients, and strawberry milkshakes. Love it.

Linda Ryan

I loved this post, both because I can relate to it (had to “fire” my accountant, because I needed a different/better one and oy vey! It went on for an hour. What I thought would be 5 minutes of awkward discomfort turned into an hour of pathetic-)and mostly because I love a good sense of humor and I SENSE that you have that Michael. ie, the last paragraph. OK, OK, I’ll repost it right now!

brendakforbes

RT @BobBurg: Excellent article by @michaelport on dealing w "Client Breakups." And, no "flying milkshakes" 🙂 http://bit.ly/pW9JxO

MsMin

Dealing with this right now – READ: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/71pOR0I

Emma

The other thing to remember especially if you are providing consultative services (“people stuff”), is that people change and grow over time, and just because someone reaches a point in their development when they need something else, does not mean that you don’t provide top-notch services for those in a given stage of their personal (or business) development.

Because you’re not trying to say that your service is right for everybody, forever (….are you? :P)

That said, I completely understand what is going on here, people trying to get their emotional needs met.

Another one to watch out for is the defensive persuasion “isn’t your health/business/whatever worth the investment?” or threats of what will happen to them if they don’t buy or continue to buy your services.

henrikoquist

Entertaining post on how not to behave when a client (or boss?) lets you go. http://fb.me/16LQIQg6k – by Michael Port via @scoremoresales

PhilGerb

Great reminder for consultants: I’m Not Your Boyfriend http://bit.ly/owEXad Thanks @michaelport

DHanchey

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/Bq7vYh3 Good advice from Michael Port…

DHanchey

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/Bq7vYh3 Good advice from Michael Port…

tshombe

@MichaelPort offers a great lesson on handling client breakups (whether you or them!): http://ow.ly/5YlnL

tshombe

@MichaelPort offers a great lesson on handling client breakups (whether you or them!): http://ow.ly/5YlnL

tshombe

@MichaelPort offers a great lesson on handling client breakups (whether you or them!): http://ow.ly/5YlnL

tshombe

@MichaelPort offers a great lesson on handling client breakups (whether you or them!): http://ow.ly/5YlnL

tshombe

@MichaelPort offers a great lesson on handling client breakups (whether you or them!): http://ow.ly/5YlnL

tshombe

@MichaelPort offers a great lesson on handling client breakups (whether you or them!): http://ow.ly/5YlnL

tshombe

@MichaelPort offers a great lesson on handling client breakups (whether you or them!): http://ow.ly/5YlnL

tshombe

@MichaelPort offers a great lesson on handling client breakups (whether you or them!): http://ow.ly/5YlnL

tshombe

@MichaelPort offers a great lesson on handling client breakups (whether you or them!): http://ow.ly/5YlnL

lkr

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

lkr

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

superdumb

RT @lkr: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

freckle_lips

RT @lkr: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

eco_mba

RT @lkr: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

lkr

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

superdumb

RT @lkr: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

freckle_lips

RT @lkr: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

eco_mba

RT @lkr: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

lkr

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

superdumb

RT @lkr: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

freckle_lips

RT @lkr: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

eco_mba

RT @lkr: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

CharlesMuamba

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/Z9uhFk4

CharlesMuamba

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/Z9uhFk4

CharlesMuamba

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/Z9uhFk4

CharlesMuamba

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/Z9uhFk4

Ed

2 hours? Really? Are you trying to make us feel guilty? 😉

Michael Port

Yes, yes, I am! 🙂

Ali4Coach

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/ldJ6t6J – Fascinating and enlightening post by @MichaelPort. –

Ali4Coach

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/ldJ6t6J – Fascinating and enlightening post by @MichaelPort. –

Ali4Coach

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/ldJ6t6J – Fascinating and enlightening post by @MichaelPort. –

Ali4Coach

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/ldJ6t6J – Fascinating and enlightening post by @MichaelPort. –

Ali4Coach

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/ldJ6t6J – Fascinating and enlightening post by @MichaelPort. –

Ali4Coach

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/ldJ6t6J – Fascinating and enlightening post by @MichaelPort. –

amazingpeople

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/h3JzLuT

amazingpeople

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/h3JzLuT

amazingpeople

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/h3JzLuT

amazingpeople

I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/h3JzLuT

eco_mba

RT @lkr: I’m Not Your Boyfriend (how to break up with clients) http://bit.ly/ndEAfA

Denise Duffield-Thomas

I love this article!

I had to ask an ex-client recently to stop contacting me (via text, Facebook, email and phone!) and she used the guilt approach plus “I thought we were friends”.

I won’t let it get to that point again – lesson learnt.

Cheers,
Denise DT

Beverly Boston

Some questions I ask myself before firing anyone and you could ask yourself are?

1. What is non-negotiable for you as to what a client/service professional can do?
2. Have you tried everything in your power to help/change your client/service professional, or help/change yourself?
3. Are they really the best person to you achieve your goals? Or in some cases, can you help them achieve theirs? Are you better off somewhere else? Is the client/service professional better off elsewhere and how can you find an alternative professional?
4. Have you clearly communicated the rules, the process, or your boundaries to the client/service professional?

If that is the case, then you have done all that you can do so then let the milk shakes fly!

DeniseDT

Love this, had this happen to me @michaelport I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/ZhRnYdP

DeniseDT

Love this, had this happen to me @michaelport I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/ZhRnYdP

tom_weaver

RT @DeniseDT: Love this, had this happen to me @michaelport I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/ZhRnYdP

tom_weaver

RT @DeniseDT: Love this, had this happen to me @michaelport I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/ZhRnYdP

tom_weaver

RT @DeniseDT: Love this, had this happen to me @michaelport I’m Not Your Boyfriend (And How to Deal with Client Breakups) http://t.co/ZhRnYdP

Gary Ruplinger

I have to wonder if that kind of guilt tripping has ever saved that guy from losing a client before or if he just does it because that’s the way it is.

I had a similar experience when switching insurance companies a few years back and it’s certainly not enjoyable when you’re given a guilt trip like that.

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