How could there possible be 20 reasons to turn away B2B business!

Don’t we all want our companies to grow and flourish? Wouldn’t it be better if we accepted every possible revenue stream? Every job project or client?

It may seem backwards, but sometimes rejecting business can be one of the best decisions you make. At the same time, it could be a tough call—especially if you’re just starting out. But The New York Times reports that being picky about your clients early on can help your long-term success. Furthermore, Forbes discusses how rejecting business can actually be a strategy to make sales soar.

But how do you know which opportunities to pursue—and which to reject?

We identify 20 situations in which you should walk away from so-called opportunities. Like a romantic breakup, half the time “It’s not you, it’s me.” Half the time, it’s them.

businessman pointing finger at you

10 Reasons to Turn Away B2B Business:
It’s You.

First, we focus on 10 reasons to turn away business that have to do with you, your company, or your offerings.


The Job Is Too Small for Your Company.

Small projects could be defined as those that bring in little revenue, have little to no margin, and/or will never result in larger business deals or referrals. These projects can eat up resources, including time, equipment, and employees. They’re simply a distraction.

Instead, create a network of referral partners. Be helpful to your clients and potential clients and generous with would-be competitors, refer those “too-small” leads or projects to a company that’s younger, smaller, or hungrier.


You Could Complete Many More Profitable Jobs in the Same Timeframe.

Similarly, turn away business that will eat up resources and prevent you from working on more profitable projects.

Again, you can refer these prospects to another company. If appropriate, you could also offer to do the work at a more lucrative price point for your business.

time and money on a balance


The Project Is Too Big for Your Company.

Projects or jobs that are too large for your business can be problematic in many ways.

Missed Deliverables and Tarnished Reputation

First, you may not be able to deliver results on time. If you can’t handle the work in a reasonable timeframe, turn it down.  Missing deliverables will not only upset your customer, but it will also tarnish your brand reputation and erase the potential for referrals.

This past week, I heard of two very different companies who rejected large projects. One was a solopreneur. The other was a mid-size manufacturing company. Both knew that they wouldn’t be able to satisfy their loyal customers if they delivered on this one giant project.

Overworked Employees

Second, you may be able to meet the deadline on a large job, but only if you overwork and mistreat your employees. Not a good option—especially with the cost of finding and onboarding good people.

Long-term Viability

A third problematic option is to focus only on the needs of that one customer. Time and again, companies have gotten that “one big client” that made them financially successful. Initially.

But with all their “eggs in one basket,” the company ultimately failed.

The large client moves on to another supplier. Meanwhile, your company can’t replace the revenue. First, you end up laying off employees. Soon, your company can’t cover its debts and ends up shuttering its doors.


You’ll Lose Money.

If you have to offer a fire sale, the business isn’t worth it. You’re in the business to make money—or at least break even.

Keep in mind that “busy” is not synonymous with “profitable.”


You’re Underqualified.

If you don’t have the skills to do the job, turn it away. Otherwise, you’ll only end up delivering low-quality work (or not completing the project). Either way, you’ll harm your reputation. Moreover, don’t underestimate the power of your online reviews—or the people poised to write scathing 1-star evaluations of your company.

At the same time, you might ask, “Is there a demand in the marketplace for a product or service we don’t currently offer? And should we?”

If the offering makes sense for your business, you may choose to hire contractors or employees who are qualified for the work. Alternatively, you may seek additional training or buy new equipment that makes sense for the future of your business. Third, you may collaborate with a partner or refer work to them.

On the other hand, if the product or service doesn’t make sense for your company, just let it go. Or refer it to someone else.


You’re Understaffed.

If you’re understaffed, don’t take on more than you can handle. Currently, global staff shortages are commonplace. If you no longer have the staff to get the work done, don’t promise to do it.

If you do accept it, you’ll end up dissatisfying your customer or your employees. Or both.

That’s because, to achieve quality and meet deadlines, you’d have to overwork your existing employees. To respect your employees, either quality or timelines would suffer—upsetting your customers.

Don’t damage your brand buy taking on more work than you and your staff can handle.


You Lack Other Resources.

Maybe you don’t have the equipment, the machinery, the software, or some other resource you need to meet the deadline or deliver a quality product. Or even to DO the work. Don’t be tempted to overpromise. Better to give a realistic response than to take on too much.


You’re Too Busy or Have Too Many Current Obligations.

If you just don’t have the bandwidth, you have two choices. Either contract the work out to a trusted supplier or turn it away.


It’s Not the Focus of Your Business.

If you try to focus on what you don’t do best, you’ll deliver mediocre work at best. Furthermore, our company may appear “desperate.” Most important, you may be missing core opportunities where your business would really shine.


woman with nose growing from telling a lie like Pinocchio

You Have to Overpromise to Get the Sale.

“Overpromise” is a euphemism for “lie.” Just don’t do it.

10 Reasons to Turn Away B2B Business:
It’s Them.

Sometimes the reason to turn away business is all about the other guy. In other words, “It’s not me, it’s you.” Of course, you wouldn’t tell them that. You would need to find polite ways to turn away their business.

Here, we offer 10 reasons why the prospective (or current) B2B customer’s business should be turned away.


They Don’t Seem Able (or Willing) to Pay.

Arguably, the purpose of a business is to maximize profits while maintaining corporate social responsibility. At the very least, the purpose is not to LOSE money.

If a prospective client has poor credit or can’t demonstrate the ability to pay, don’t walk away. Run.


They Want You to Work for Free or at a Deep Discount.

Similarly, you may be asked to volunteer your services or products to nonprofits or others. Yes, pro bono work can be rewarding.

However, it’s a luxury some businesses simply can’t afford. Either turn away or limit the amount of pro bono work you do. These commitments can be time- and resource-suckers.

“Sally,” a good-hearted entrepreneur, recently mentioned this issue in an online forum. The nonprofits kept returning to her again and again—always expecting more for nothing.

If you do decide to volunteer, set clear boundaries. Communicate what you will and won’t do. Further, a percentage discount (rather than gratis) on the actual value of the product or service, may help minimize the abuse.

Relationships need to go both ways—even when it’s a good cause.

volunteer at an outdoor event


Potential Client (or Customer) Seems Difficult.

You know who they are.

They don’t trust you—or anyone for that matter. Or raise their voice in anger during meetings. They quibble about details. Or they flip-flop on what they want.

You will never be able to satisfy this customer.


That’s because the core of their dissatisfaction is within themselves.

What’s more, bringing negativity into your life and the lives of your employees is not worth it. No matter how much money they’re offering your company, respectfully decline.


 They Treat You (or Your Staff) Like Garbage.

Again, respect is a two-way street. Harassment, bullying, and name-calling don’t belong in the workplace. Stick up for yourself and your staff.

Cut ties as soon as you can, and run.


They’ve Had a Lot of _____ (You) in the Past.

Clio, a law practice resource, points out that it’s a red flag if a client has worked with many different lawyers. Although there are exceptions (e.g., switching doctors because of insurance coverage changes comes to mind), this is true across nearly all industries.

Consider why a company would hop from one vendor, supplier, manufacturer, or agency to another.

Loyal customers are valuable. By contrast, if you sense the customer is a jerk, shady, or always unhappy, he/she probably is.

They’ll always be shopping for a new one of whatever it is you do. Walk away.


The Customer Nickels and Dimes You for Everything.

If the customer quibbles over every penny, it can be quite frustrating. What’s more, it can reduce the perceived value of your product or service in the eyes of your customer—and even yourself. Know your value.

Choose the best pricing strategy for your product or service, and stick to it. Don’t accept less than you’re worth.


The Work Takes a Toll on Your Bottom Line.

This is the antithesis of the purpose of business. Don’t take a loss.

“Acme” built a free website for a homeowner’s association in the hopes of promised future referrals. The referrals never came, but the website updates did. Again, don’t diminish the value of what you do. 


They’re High Maintenance.

If the customer thinks that they own you, you’re in trouble. They may be critical or nitpicky—always wanting more. For example, maybe they want free help—just a few extras here and there—almost every day.

They rarely, if ever, express gratitude.

Although it’s great to add customer value, you don’t need to reduce the price of your services or your products to do that.

These high-maintenance customers are time suckers. They prevent you from working on other business and/or business opportunities.

Turn them away.


They Take a Toll on Your Emotional Well-Being.

Entrepreneurs often suffer more depression and anxiety according to an Inc. article. Consider some of the aforementioned negative characteristics of some prospects or customers:

  • Never paying you or not paying you enough
  • Devaluing you, your employees, your product, or your service
  • Criticizing or berating your work
  • Ignoring your advice
  • Being plain “difficult”
  • Bleeding you dry

Why bring this negativity into your life? No one needs it.

Instead, set boundaries where you charge clients fair prices for services or products. Communicate clearly. Help your customers understand expectations.

If specific customers destroy everything in their path, seek shelter from these human tornadoes. Decline future business.


They Want You to Do Something That Is Unethical or Illegal.

Don’t compromise your own values. Ever. Ultimately, you’re the one that has to look yourself in the mirror at the end of each day.



People want to do business with people they know, like and respect. First, be someone that YOU know, like, and respect.

Note: When you turn away business, be sure you are not breaking any federal, state, or local laws regarding discriminatory practices.

Nancy Burgess

Nancy Burgess is the owner of Nancy Burgess Strategic Marketing, a marketing consulting firm and online agency. In that role, she integrates her corporate success as a digital marketer along with her marketing agency experience in marketing communications and branding to help businesses prosper. Nancy's specialties are search engine optimization (SEO) and content creation. She graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, holds a master's degree, and also multiple marketing certificates from DePaul University's graduate school. She is a frequent presenter on SEO strategies and has worked in digital marketing since the late 1990s. As someone who can strategize AND execute, Nancy offers digital and traditional marketing services to SMBs. Agency value without agency fees. Along with SEO and content strategies, Nancy's agency offers website design, marketing automation, integrated marketing strategies, and branding to her clients.