How to Identify A Toxic Client Relationship

Likely, at some point in your sales career, you’ve had a tough client with whom you had trouble connecting. But, there are also customer relationships that are downright toxic–and they can be a major drain on you and your resources. So, how do you differentiate between a run-​of-​the-​mill difficult client and one that is toxic? Graham Onak, in an article for Business2Community, shares a few tell-​tale signs (a couple of which are below), he gives advice on how to nip the problems in the bud before they get too out of control.

  • You have tons of email drafts left unsent. If you find that the client is the (non) recipient of several unsent emails, there may be a problem. Whether it’s anxiety over being misunderstood, indecisiveness over how to even address him or her, or worry over the type of response you will receive, there is apparently a deep feeling of uncertainty in relation to the client.
  • Everything is a 24/​7‑three-​alarm emergency. This client is always having emergencies—and calling you. “Their project is on fire, all the time,” writes Onak. “Instead of calling 911, they call you. Sometimes, they call you names. You’re constantly shifting tasks instead of completing them. And it’s affecting your life.”
  • Their name on caller ID makes your heart stop. Another sign of a toxic relationship is dread and avoidance of speaking with the client. If seeing their name pop up on caller ID makes you hesitate before answering, or even avoid picking up the phone, your relationship is likely unhealthy.

If you can identify with any of these, it’s important you take action to boost the health of your relationship before it damages your productivity and mental well-being.

Not sure where to even start? “Make a list of reasons your client is upsetting you and start tackling them,” he suggests.”If they never seem to respect your time, don’t accept their meeting invitation right away. Ask to reschedule for a different time. Push back. It’s not “bad service” if giving in constantly will make you disgruntled and offer…bad service.”

And remember, it’s always ok to say “no.” Establishing clear boundaries will prevent toxic relationships from getting worse and taking an even greater toll.

Jessica Helinski

Jessica Helinski

Jessica is a senior research analyst for SalesFuel focusing on selling to SMB decision makers. She also reports on sales and presentation tips for SalesFuel and Media Sales Today. Jessica is a graduate of Ohio University.