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  • Brett Zalaski

When & How to Break Up with a Client


Engaging ghost accounts was a topic that was handled early on with the website...and has continued to be a topic of interest for those who write in to the site. Here's a recent note:

How do I know when to break up with a client? It is 3 call-backs? 4-call-backs? What's your recommended number?


My answer may initially disappoint...but bear with me. In my opinion, there is no set number. Every client is different...and I wasn't on the phone with you when the call happened. Will I have more patience for a client who gave me a specific reason to talk to their friends vs. a vague one? Absolutely. Will I have more patience for a suite lease sale vs. a partial plan sale? Absolutely.


Here's my rule of thumb, as many who have seen my training will know, if you are looking at the name of someone you used to have hope for as a client, and now you hate the sight of their name, it's time to break up with them. I genuinely believe your hatred for them is every sales instinct your body has learned telling you the right answer. It's why young sales reps chase more frequently...they haven't suffered the unending damage of chasing ghost accounts.


Once your body has given you that signal, it's time to leave that break up note. There are a few things that I believe need to be included in the breakup:

  • Humor: Remind them that you are a human. See if they haven't moved since the last unbelievable play your team had and hadn't unfroze yet. Asking & giving strangers money is stressful...humor is a natural stress reducer.

  • Let them know that 'no' is ok: Let them know that any answer is better than a bad answer. They are ghosting you because they liked you and don't want to tell you 'no'...but any answer from them is a good one. With a further objection, you have a chance for the sale. If they re-engage to say 'no', you are at least back on speaking terms.

  • Remind them you're a resource: I'm a big fan of 'I'm a resource, I don't want to be a nuisance.' When you break up with them, let them know that you want to be there the next time they need a resource at the team. Don't end this just by breaking up with them...give them a reason to come back to you when they're ready. Stay in touch with them via a monthly email and develop your own personal database. Make sure you ask them first...but there is far more value in a 'not for now' than a 'no'.


The quote on the right is one that I found spot on in this context...and pretty hilarious. We keep picking...and picking...and picking at these prospects (wounds in the quote), and often times we drive them away (we make it worse). Yet we want that relationship to heal and become healthy. That comes with first identifying when it becomes a problem. Then it's important to put some distance with that person in a way that is humorous, thoughtful, and beneficial to the client (heal the wound). Ghost accounts are going to happen. It's when & how you deal with them that lets them become a client with you in the future.