It’s OK To Fire A Client

AdvisorBlast – Quick Tips to Accelerate Your Practice

In this issue:  Cut unproductive, energy-sapping clients loose.


You're fired!" We're used to hearing that from Donald Trump's mouth, but we rarely imagine it coming from our own mouths, especially directed at a client. But far from being mean, callous and even seeming arrogant, saying "no" to continuing working with a tough client can be the kindest thing to do for both them and yourself.

Practically every advisor has clients they don't enjoy working with – people they wish they had jettisoned long ago for their inappropriate behavior, client relationships that are challenging at the best of times, or individuals who simply don't ever appreciate their advice or follow their instructions.

So why do we keep hanging on to these clients? From my coaching work, I've seen two primary reasons: 1) because clients' finances are such a personal matter, we think their emotional behavior, no matter how inappropriate, should be tolerated, and 2) they pay us.

It's Personal

Other professionals don't tolerate irrational, emotive, unproductive behavior from their clients. My teeth are personal, but if I go to my dentist, who is trained in aspects of dental health I know nothing about and is responsible for helping me in ways I can't help myself, yet refuse to open my mouth and simply want to talk about my own views on dental health, he's going to ask me to leave…and still bill me for wasting his time.

Or, if I go onto a Ford lot looking to buy a Prius and insist on talking to the sales agent about why I'm only prepared to drive a Prius, very quickly he'll politely but firmly tell me, "We sell Ford cars…the Toyota lot is a mile down the road."

Or, if I go to an attorney's office with no specific legal problem, but simply wish to bend her ear talking about court cases in the news, I'll soon be asked to leave.

So, what's behind holding on to our frustrating, time-wasting clients? Typically sticking with what we have, even if it's lousy, feels safer than making a change and risk not having anything at all. We'll tend to take a miserable certainty (fees from a client) over a potentially great, but uncertain future. Thinking about the time we may have to invest in finding a new client to replace one we let go can be scary, so it becomes a case of "better the devil you know…"

But that's not how it should be.

These types of clients are more of an expense than you realize. They take your time, which you can't get back; they take your focus, which could be spent on finding more appropriate clients or marketing (the business-building activity list is endless), and they sap your emotions, which leaves you spent. And, they've probably been incredibly rude to your sales assistant or others in your practice whom you highly value.

You don't have to put up with this. It's OK to say no and, if necessary, even to fire a client. (I assure you there are plenty of prospects out there who would make wonderful clients – so spend your time and energy on finding and developing relationships with them, rather than pouring it into dealing with clients who aren't a good fit.)

Say "So Long"

Be bold and take these steps to cull "bad" clients.

  1. Clarify to yourself and your staff who your ideal client is and specifically what he or she looks like.
  2. While many of your clients may not look like this, identify the ones who definitely don't look like this and who, in fact, work hard at being the opposite.
  3. The next time they behave inappropriately, simply and succinctly explain how you do business and what you expect from your clients (how your ideal client positively responds to your suggestions and advice). Clarify that since you're obviously not providing the service that this person is looking for, it would be best for them to find another advisor to work with.

They can find someone who is willing to provide what they want, hopefully making them happier, and you'll be able to focus on your work with people who appreciate what you do for them!

To building a better business!

Copyright Paul Kingsman 2012


As a motivational speaker and executive coach, Paul Kingsman helps financial services professionals successfully grow their businesses by taking practical daily steps to achieve outstanding long-term results. Combining his experiences as an Olympic medalist and his background as an advisor, Paul understands how to stay focused over the long haul, as well as the unique business challenges faced by advisors. Through his professional speaking and executive coaching he equips them to overcome distractions so they can get the money they need, the clients they want, and the time to do what they love.

To find out more about how Paul can equip you or your team to achieve outstanding results, visit or email him at


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