4 tips for telling a client “You’re fired”

by James McClister


As we discussed in a recent article, making the decision to fire a client is a nuanced process. That is doubly true when you move to execute that decision.

Doing the actual firing may seem like the simpler part of the equation, but as a real estate agent you should never cut off avenues to potential business. And as counterintuitive as it may sound, a fired client could still be a potential spring of new business (we’re talking referrals).

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Come with recommendations – You won’t be representing the client anymore, but that doesn’t mean they won’t still want to buy or sell a home. Offer the client recommendations of other agents, whom you’ve discussed the situation with beforehand and who might be able to take on the client, to show them you care about meeting their needs and to assuage any ill will that may otherwise keep the buyer or seller from recommending you in the future.
  2. Do it face to face –  You should afford a fair bit of reverence to your client relationships, and maintain it even as the bad ones are ending. Professionalism is not a hat you wear, but rather a lifestyle you should adopt.
  3. Consider the timing – As bad as your client may be, it shouldn’t be your prerogative to escalate the situation anymore than it needs. Once you’ve made your decision to fire your buyer or seller, don’t spring it on them. Schedule a time to sit down with your client – a time when you won’t be stressed – and deliver the news in a calm and serious manner.
  4. Be honest – You’re not taking a sabbatical in Europe. You’re not switching careers. You’re firing your client. Never try to lie yourself out of an awkward situation, even if you think it would make the client feel better. Be mature, professional and honest. Explain to your client why the relationship isn’t working out; tell them that you’re ending it; and then wish them well. Of course, honesty has its limits, and in disclosing the truth it’s important to not go overboard in your language or tone (see No. 3). The ultimate goal is to do what’s right for your business, end the client relationship with minimal hurt feelings and (hopefully) retain a source of future referral business.

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