Working With The Right Customers: No Magic Wand Required


The following article was written by Steve Pons, vice president – national sales, at Accolade Promotion Group (APG), a division of Golf Town Canada Inc. Congratulations! You've just been handed a magic wand. You can use the wand to do anything you want for your business, but there's a catch...

The wand is SINGLE USE. And it can't just drop $1B in your bank account.

So? What would it be?

  • Infinite capital to invest in your business?
  • Magically transform your team to be the top-performing group in any industry EVER?
  • Invent the next hottest product that sees Apple-style rabid demand?

All good options. But I would argue that getting the right customers that fit your business is probably the single greatest impact you can have on the success of your company.

We all know those customers we love... The ones that are reasonable and fair. Work in a collaborative manner when issues arise. Share a mutual trust that means they don't ask you to justify your product quotes but also understand that you'd never jam them with an unreasonable margin.

I can't emphasize it enough: These customers are GREAT. We all want them, and hopefully we all have them.

But how many of us get to choose our customers? Or more importantly, how many of us have the courage to turn down or fire customers that are toxic to our business?

The often quoted Seth Godin talks extensively about this courage in his books and on his blog. As he rightly states, all too often we tolerate a lopsided relationship and contort ourselves to sustain this strained connection to the point where we cannot spend more time taking care of our GREAT customers.


I know that good customers are the ones that sometimes push us out of our comfort zone and challenge us to grow. Perhaps we look at these tough relationships as a test of our ability to overcome a client that is just trying to push us?

I know that good customers are often under pressure to meet sometime impossible demands and budgetary constraints. Maybe in our efforts to be a better resource for them we are simply shouldering some of that displaced stress?

Nah, I don't buy it. You just know in your gut that sometimes it just doesn't feel right.

So why do we tolerate the broken relationship? The main reason I can think of is our fear of losing that revenue.

Nowadays, no one likes to turn away business. Heck, I'm sure some of you reading this now are saying, "Send them my way Steve!" And that's fine. Everyone is different. That's why I started this post asking, "What kind of customers do you want?"

Three industry veterans that I’m proud to call friends and partners—Jamie Mair, Juli Sinnett and Kevin Phoenix—did something I admired when they started their company SwervePoint in 2003. They decided up front that they wanted to work with clients they liked that liked them in return. It’s an easy thing to say, but it’s a tough thing to stick to. I adopted one of the ways they ensure they’re still meeting this governing objective: “Whiteboarding” the business.

If you had to start all over from scratch today, what would you do? What would your people do? More to the point: who would you like to work with? What clients would you clone if you could? By asking yourself and your team these questions, you’re able to see if you’re still on course.

Experimenting with different acquisition channels and trying to develop business outside your core area of strength can often be good. But knowing both what type of customer you are good at servicing as well as what kind of customer you like to work with can not only make you more successful but also provide a more fulfilling and rewarding experience.

Do you agree that people should have a customer "type?” Should you ever turn away a customer? Is the risk of lost revenue potential too great? Can a business be successful ONLY working with customers they like who like them in return?

I'd love to know your thoughts. Leave a comment below to keep the discussion going.