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Clients to Avoid.

Clients to Avoid.

Every company should be choosing its clients.

Here are some of the clients to avoid if you want your company to achieve at the highest level.

Some of the prospects who contact you should not become clients. They are potential clients to avoid. In a world where everyone seems prepared to sell their soul for a few coins, integrity is rarer and rarer. 

Here is a list of clients to avoid, and why. Top 5 reasons to turn away potential clients

1. Clients to Avoid: Those who place Price over Value.

We have all heard the insult “S/he knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Alas it is not just an idle insult, for many people it is their reality, or a version of it is. Here is the most common version: “S/he does not understand value, and as a poor substitute uses price to judge it.”

Conventionally the public sector selects the lowest cost provider, while giving lip service to “value considerations.” While at the same time they complain that they can’t get top quality teams or people to bid for the contracts. Those facts are entirely connected, and directly causative.

It is amazingly easy to identify the kind of customers nobody wants, those who can judge price but are incapable or unwilling to assess value. It would be wise sift out such undesirable prospects early in the negotiation process, if you are serious about adding value.

2. Clients to Avoid: Those who focus on Task rather than Outcome

If you are in the business of adding outstanding value, you know that there are suppliers who are willing to do “on the cheap.” You know there are many people who are willing to tick boxes without achieving what was intended. You have seen people and companies that have hit the target but completely missed the point. “Motions have been gone through.”

Some suppliers are entirely happy to have such customers. They know that charges can be levied for box-ticking. They are happy to go through the motions and charge their clients for it.

Over the decades I have noticed that “going through the motions companies” tend to hire “going through the motions suppliers.”

If you are in the business of genuinely adding value, such an approach will be repulsive to you, a hell on earth nightmare; clients to avoid.

3. Clients to Avoid: Those who place Politics above Performance

Politics can both aid and assassinate performance.

Politics to get people working together, led by a leader who is focused on performance, can achieve results where, without it, nothing would happen. Identifying such a political culture in an organisation is essential if you are going to spend your time adding value, rather than covering your back.

By contrast, in other organisations, it is desirable to have eyes in the back of your head to avoid the hourly back stabbings.

Again some suppliers are entirely happy to “serve” such companies.


There is no risk of being held to account for failing to deliver, because everyone is so busy politicking that very little needs to be delivered, and even if it is, everyone and their dog will have claimed credit for it before you have finished the job. If blame in such environments is allocated, it is always dropped at the door of those easiest to blame. If you are the most recently recruited supplier, you will do!

Do you want to bring your best work to such an environment?
Would it be possible to deliver your best in such an environment?

No and no.

It would be wise sift out such undesirable prospects early in the negotiation process, if you believe performance should be the master of politics.

4. Clients to Avoid: The Un-helpables.

Top class leaders and companies spend their days, months, years, decades, immersed in trying to get things done. They have normally become world-class in their field. Most of us couldn’t live long enough to acquire their skill and understanding of their industry. Serving such clients is an honour. 

However, some prospects high in expertise are un-helpable.

Some people have become so expert, and have been so expert for so long, that they have become un-helpable. They are unable to accept that other people who have spent their lives developing techniques in different areas of expertise could have anything to add to their vast array of knowledge.

It would be wise sift out such undesirable prospects early in the negotiation process, they are clients to avoid.

By contrast, great clients are willing to learn from anyone, that is one of the many reasons they have become so skilled. 

5. Clients to Avoid. Those with Prohibitive Buying Process Costs

Many organisations, especially those in the public sector, have such convoluted and contrived, buying processes, that the amount of time that is required to even get to the point of being on the short list as a supplier, is simply not worth it.

Why not worth it? The time you spend jumping through entirely wasteful hoops, like some performing dog, is time that you could have started, concluded, and delivered great results for multiple clients.

And that is true for maybe all 40 of the organisations that pitch for the contract.

What massive waste on such a massive scale!

Imagine: 40 companies all spending vast amounts of time and money pitching for a contract. All in the name of saving a penny or two for the public purse! ALL of the pitching organisations could have used that time to add value elsewhere, and paid tax on their profits, tax worth hundreds if not thousands of times the pennies that were “saved” by the wasteful process.

The word farcical doesn’t even come close to how wasteful such scenarios are. And they are taking place on a massive scale right across the world every minute of every day. Imagine what all those people could be doing to add value, instead of pitching for a contract that is going the lowest bidder, to save a public sector organisation 1% of costs.

What kinds of suppliers would be prepared to accept such wasteful practices?

Those who

     are unaware of how to make judgements on how to use their time wisely. 

     have no other options.

     are happy to enter a high compliance, low initiative environment.

Do you think those are the characteristics of high performers?  Are those the behaviours of people who achieve at the highest level?  No.  In fact, they are the opposite.

Such processes attract and retain the bottom end of the market players. And that brings us full circle: what kinds of organisations or people set up such processes?

Those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Sadly it goes further. In trying to get a few pennies off the price, massive value for the rest of society is destroyed. Many potential suppliers waste huge amounts of money. In some cases the losses to all the suppliers is many times greater than the entire value of the contract. They are clients to avoid! In everyone’s interests.

It might be wise to decline to work with organisations suffering the afflictions listed above.

Selecting clients is an under-rated skill. Choosing prospects for whom you can add massive value is essential to securing the order.

Equally essential is selecting clients who value what you do, who want you to succeed, who want you to become better and better at what you do. In everyone’s interest.

One of the wisest ways to obtain the clients that you want, it to know the clients to avoid.

Do you have a system to identify clients to avoid? It might be worth designing such a system.

For more information contact Dr Nigel MacLennan.