Many powerful events are imprinted in my memory.
I mastered riding a bike with no training wheels when I was six.
I remember my airplane landing in the middle of a rare ice storm when my family moved to Houston when I was 11.
I remember the euphoria of the Texas Longhorns winning the 2005 National Football Championship. Hook ’em, Horns!
I also have a litany of terrible memories that have affected me greatly. One of these was a mistake I made by saying yes to a client who was a bad fit. I was having a slower business month and working hard on following up with past prospects. I developed a drip campaign to email past consultations who were a maybe. I also had my assistant follow up with phone calls. At the end of the campaign, I finally heard back from a prospective client, who was immediately ready to go. Yay, or so I thought.
In my practice, I have a series of three meetings to complete the estate plan I put into place. I had my assistant call to schedule all the meetings. Unfortunately, this proved to be unusually difficult as the client was very rude to my employee, even to the point of hanging up the phone. The client made it excessively difficult to schedule any meetings, thus causing delays and frustration for everyone involved in the process.
When we finally scheduled the meeting, the red flags continued. The client was extremely impatient and annoyed, and they didn’t want to waste time going through the particularities of their matter. They just wanted it done. We ended up having to have an additional meeting to get through the initial meeting, and that didn’t prove to be helpful at all.
The following meetings and follow-ups were more of the same. By the end of the matter, we struggled to find a time to execute the document. Suffice to say, the entire process was a nightmare. I have never had a more abusive, morale-defeating, and headache-inducing client before or since.
And I take full responsibility for the failure of this matter.
Why? Because I knew on that first consultation call that the client was a bad fit for my practice. I knew by the way they spoke to me that they were a person who wanted it their way or no way. They were a person who did not respect processes or procedures. I also could’ve ended the relationship when the client was rude to several members of my team, but I bought the readily available excuses, rather than support my team. And sadly, I did this because I thought I needed the revenue. Rather than spend the energy building my clientele in other ways and trusting the process, I decided to go with the immediate sale that ended up costing me so much in the end.
Today, it is much easier for me to see a bad-fit client upfront. It takes courage to turn down business — especially when things are slow — but it is worth it. Don’t take the case. Don’t say yes because the retainer is big. Trust yourself and pass on a potential costly headache.
Have you dealt with impossible clients? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iffy Ibekwe is an estate planning attorney and evangelist for intergenerational wealth transfer with effective wills and trusts. Iffy is a prolific speaker and she is writing her first book on culturally competent estate planning, available in 2024 (prayers up!). She graduated from The University of Texas School of Law and has practiced law for over 16 years. Iffy can be reached by email at email@example.com, on her website, and on Instagram at @iffyibekweesq.
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