Turning away some potential business customers is not only smart, it’s necessary for your business to thrive. It’s kind of a radical idea, especially when so many sales trainings teach you to go after every prospect and never take no for an answer. “If the person can fog a mirror, he’s a potential customer” and “Don’t quit until you get a Yes!” were phrases I often heard in my former male-dominated corporate life. Based on personal experience, I feel that advice couldn’t be more wrong and the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by companies on market research seem to support my opinion.
Growing a business is tough work, and as an entrepreneur or small business, you may be tempted to try to throw a wide net and capture as many customers as possible, regardless of whether they match your Ideal Customer profile or not. Not only will you waste a lot of money marketing to people who will never be interested in what you have to offer, failing to turn away some customers can spell trouble for your profitability and business’ survival, especially if what you’re selling is based on a personal brand. If your product line is mainly live events, workshops, courses, retreats or coaching programs, you need pay special attention to the type of customers you’re wooing and accepting as clients.
While creating and managing Harv Eker’s exclusive retreat program, I learned many insightful lessons about marketing, customer relations and profitability. I’ve outlined below five reasons why turning away some customers will actually help you make more money, stress less and thrive in your business niche.
#1: You avoid the many headaches that come from a customer with buyer’s remorse.
After reading the preceding section, I know some of you instantly thought, “Well, it’s not my business to turn away a potential customer. If they want to purchase my products or buy a ticket to my event and can come up with the cash, then so be it.” I once thought that, too… But, do you know what happens when you sell programs and products to people who aren’t a good fit for them? Buyer’s remorse! And along with it comes a whole host of other problems, like a powerful feeling of desperation to quickly recoup the money spent buying the program, requests for refunds, poor opinions of you and your products and those hard-to-remove negative online reviews.
Bob Musial of StreetSmart Business Development describes how cognitive dissonance can turn a formerly happy customer into a customer service headache in his article 7 Tips to Eliminate Buyer’s Remorse and outlines several steps you can take to reduce the chances of a customer coming down with a bad case of buyer’s remorse. By ensuring that you’re marketing to the right audience for your products, you can reduce the chance of attracting customers who either truly won’t benefit or simply feel they aren’t benefitting from the solutions you offer. Even Ideal Customers can have buyer’s remorse for a whole host of reasons and by following the steps Musial outlines in his article, you can help improve your chances of retaining a good customer.
#2: You keep the “bad apples” out of your barrel
If you’re running small group premium programs (i.e., highly profitable programs with a high tuition cost), you need to emphasize quality customers over quantity. Use an in-depth application and interview process to screen out potentially disruptive participants, as well as add to the perceived value of your program. The old adage about one bad apple spoiling the whole bunch couldn’t be truer when it comes to premium programs and in particular live, in-person, high-end small group events. You may be tempted to use a quick and easy process for screening for Ideal Customers… Please don’t be! When you’ve put your heart, soul and money into creating an amazing, empowering, transformative Enlightened Event that your clients are paying top dollar to attend, you can’t afford to have a Negative Nancy or Complaining Clark in your group. Their negative energy will not only ruin your enjoyment of the event, it will ruin everyone else’s, too. Please commit this to memory:
If you're considering creating live event-based Powerful Programs and Products, particularly high-dollar Enlightened Events, you must have a process in place that screens out potential disruptive customers and encourages your ideal clients to self-select and enroll. Erin E. Flynn describes her process for How to Stop Working with Bad Clients in five basic categories: initial questions, set expectations, see if you jive, watch for red flags and be honest with yourself. Check it out… it’s a great starting point to get your thoughts flowing about creating your own interview and application process.
#3: You can maintain your ethical standards and integrity.
I personally interviewed everyone who wanted into Harv’s retreat program… and that was after they’d already completed an extensive written application. Sometimes I rejected an applicant based on certain personality quirks I felt would be disruptive to the group (see reason #2), but sometimes loyal fans were turned away for purely financial reasons. It would have been irresponsible and out of integrity with what the program stood for to let certain people pay $20,000 for an event when I knew (based on the application and interview) they simply couldn’t afford it.
You may be surprised to learn that some people get so desperate for solutions to their problems that they will do some really crazy and irresponsible things, like take out a home mortgage loan or raid their retirement savings to pay for a program they think will be their saving grace. In my opinion, it is highly unethical to knowingly encouraging prospects or customers to engage in financially risky behavior just to make a sale.
Johnny B. Truant’s article on CopyBlogger.com about Ethical Selling talks about “selectively dissuading” certain prospects and I couldn’t agree more. Missing out on a sale in order to protect and benefit a potential buyer, who you know from gathered information isn’t a good fit for your product, allows you to sleep peacefully at night and benefits your business in the long run. In order for your live event programs and business to thrive, you must to learn how to successfully set up your own application and interview process, screen for customers who are a great fit and reject those who aren’t a good fit with grace.
#4: You avoid people with “me-focused” priorities.
Aside from the ethical issues of knowingly accepting payment from someone who can’t afford it, do you really want to bring that kind of desperate energy into your group where the person is focused on me, me, me… like, ”How can I benefit, how can I recoup my investment NOW?” No! Of course you don’t! A person feeling desperation, buyer’s remorse and financial stress will detract from your message and the overall experience you’ve worked so hard to create, whether you’re leading seminars and retreats or online mastermind groups.
Turning down potential customers isn’t an easy task, particularly if those folks you’re selectively dissuading are (a) people who can afford your product but who you don’t want as customers, (b) influencers who are used to getting what they want, or (c) truly loyal Raving Fans whose good customer relationships you want to maintain, but it’s an essential skill that must be developed. You can start by modeling others. Take a look at what the top trainers and experts in your field are doing. Aside from structuring their marketing to attract self-selecting Ideal Customers, I can tell you that in the personal growth and business development fields, the top trainers from Harv Eker to Anthony Robbins use an application process for their premium programs. That’s because it works.
Additionally, you must examine how you are approaching the sales process. Is it with feelings of desperation or with delivering value the main priority? I’m a huge Bob Burg fan and highly recommend reading his book The Go-Giver: A little Story About a Powerful Business Idea. It’s an engaging read and contains valuable information about how to find success by approaching business with an attitude of giving first.
#5: You are able to create a safe and comfortable learning environment.
I’ll be honest, live programs like small group retreats can get really intense. Intimate, personal information is often shared and everyone has to feel comfortable and safe bearing their souls, if that’s where it goes. What your clients get from your live events and group-centered online programs will depend as much on the interactions they have with the other participants as it will with what you teach them.
When it comes to top-of-the-sales-funnel live event programs, your goal should be to assemble a group of people committed to learning, growing and supporting one another through the journey you’ll take together and who can comfortably afford it. By screening for the most Ideal Customers for Harv Eker’s retreat program, I was able to pull together groups of people who supported each other through deep processes and incredible transformations, engendered close friendships that remain today and who became life-long Raving Fans.
By focusing on your Ideal Customers and selectively dissuading those who are not a great fit, you can more easily build a thriving business happily serving a community of loyal Raving Fans.
Please share your thoughts and opinions in the comments!
Do you use an interview and application process for your programs? If so, what successes and challenges have you had?
What strategies are you using to find and connect with your Ideal Customers?
If you found this post helpful, please share it with your friends and subscribe to receive weekly business insights, strategies for growing your own community of Raving Fans and resources that empower you to thrive.