Over my many years of selling to and servicing customers small and large, I have identified patterns in customer behavior that indicate they will be more difficult to work with than you bargained.

7 such signs include:

1 – Won’t Sign a Contract

Contracts are in place to protect both parties. Be wary of a customer who wants to start a project or make a purchase without signing some type of agreement.

You can’t rent a hotel room or purchase a bar of soap with your credit card without signing – why should your relationship with your customers be any different?

2 – Push Your Schedule

You know how long it takes to get your product or your service delivered. A customer that waits until the last minute to engage you is not prepared and will often try to push your schedule.

Even if you share the negative impacts of doing so, I find that few of these customers remember. Rushing only creates problems and disagreements later.

3 – Talk About Another Vendor

Be wary of the customer that continues to reference another vendor they worked with that provides a similar service – especially if they tell you how much they like their work. You need to find out why they aren’t working together any longer. This sign is often an indicator of problems with payments or unstated expectations and can be a harbinger for issues you will have later in your relationship.

A trick Dan Jourdan shared on my show is “Ask your customer what they like about their current provider”.  He shares that human nature will naturally make them tell you what they don’t like.

4 – Say “Well, You Are the Expert”

True they have hired you for your expertise, but this phrase is used to shirk their responsibility and is often followed with “but this is how I would do it” or complete withdrawal from participating in the work at hand.

Be sure to get a clear understanding of their concerns and agree to a move forward plan to avoid this trap.

5 -Refuse a Standing Meeting

A customer that refuses a standing meeting is establishing the ability to say at a future time “I don’t know what’s going on”.  It’s a similar excuse to “You are the expert”.

I recently decided to part ways with a long-term customer because I broke this very rule.  My team was doing a great job, but the lack of participation from the client led to a misunderstanding and an irreparable break down in the relationship.

6 – Insist on Full Delivery Before Payment

Milestones should be established so that both parties are protected. A customer that won’t pay anything until all work is done (or insists on retaining raw work product along the way) doesn’t trust and isn’t trustworthy.  Make sure that at the very least your sunk costs are covered and the money is in the bank before handing over the final work product.

And most importantly:

7 – Your Gut Tells You No

Always trust your gut – in hiring employees, to the direction of your company, to the feeling you get when you first meet with a customer.   If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it.  Whether selling a customer a service or a product, think down the road to how the relationship will end.  Will the end result help you and your company achieve the success you crave?

BONUS TIP:

Ask for a Discount – Just this One Time.

In my experience, not all customers that get a discount will end up being a bad fit, but it is very difficult, if not impossible, to move a customer to a different price once you have provided that initial discount.  This is a classic ask from your sales team to “sign that big customer”.