While attending a recent broker-dealer conference, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of financial advisors in a relaxed, pub-like atmosphere. Just like in a fraternity, imbibing a few adult beverages among friends often leads to some interesting and entertaining conversation!
It started with one advisor complaining about a pain-in-the-butt client. As the other reps chimed in with their own client-from-hell stories, I asked a simple question: “Why don’t you just get rid of them?” What they told me is that there are some clients you just can’t fire. In one case, the painful client was the son of the advisor’s best client. In another, the thorn in the side was the president of the biggest bank in town, not to mention responsible for some very good referrals. It’s tough to whack the hand that feeds you.
Now, these reps weren’t worried that their livelihood would be affected if they lost these clients. What they didn’t like was how it would look if they asked the client to go elsewhere. “Wouldn’t it be great,” I asked, “if you could get your client to think it was his own idea to leave?” It was then, in a smoke-filled bar, after three scotches, that the idea for a Client Depreciation dinner was born.
You’ve heard of the Client Appreciation dinner, of course, where you thank your clients for all their business. The purpose of spending the big bucks for the roast beef buffet is to give your clients the illusion that they are very important to you. The purpose of the Client Depreciation dinner is to get your worst clients to leave you — to join the competition and make somebody else’s life miserable.
If you’re not quite sure how to go about setting up your own seminar, here are some suggestions:
Pick the right location. Every community has at least one eating establishment where no one in their right mind would go. Ideally, your restaurant will have recently had a salmonella or e-coli outbreak.
Don’t send invitations. Have your assistant call your undesirables about 15 minutes before your dinner is to start. Nothing says you mean nothing to me more than a last-minute invitation.
Select the proper food and beverages. You definitely want a cash bar here. For appetizers, have the restaurant staff prepare two mostly empty appetizer trays. The trays should be set out 10 minutes before any guests arrive. Some half-eaten cocktail shrimp along the edges of the platter is a nice finishing touch. And when the guests ask for more, instruct the waiter to say this is all you paid for.