I’ve seen this a bit recently. This idea that there are good and bad customers. That there are customers we should divorce because that would be better for everybody.

Let’s unpack this idea a little.

We live in the real world so companies are going to sell to customers who are not a perfect fit. This is not an either or proposition, it’s a continuum, all the way from ideal customers to “we have next to no chance to add value here” customers.

Ideal fit customers are obviously best, OK fit customers are just that, OK. As an implementation team inheriting an OK fit customer your job is to make that OK fit as good as possible without gifting them a messy, unmaintainable or broken solution.

Say no to what you can’t do, focus on what you can do, do it as well as possible. Be firm, don’t contort yourself or your solution under pressure. Create opportunities to have constructive conversations with the product team and the good/OK fit customers. How might we plug some of these gaps to benefit both parties? This is one way to show them you care and have a plan.

Poor fit customers are where the real problem lies. At this point you’ve already let the customer down once. Just by selling to them when you know, and usually you do know, that you should not have done so.

So mentally characterising them as difficult, or bad (rather than poor fit), or we should divorce these customers is the worst way to think about them. Recognise by doing this you are shifting the responsibility for the predicament these customers find themselves in onto the customer and away from where it belongs, the vendor.

And tempting as it might be to suggest the customer “should have known better” don’t do that either. The responsibility for selling to bad fit customers belongs with, and only with, the vendor. As does the responsibility for making it right.

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