Ideal Client or Toxic Weed? It's Up to You!

Education & Training with Accelerated Performance Coaching

RosesEven if you are not a gardener, you know that there is a difference between roses and weeds, between lovely flowering shrubs and nasty, prickly invasive bushes. In your real estate garden, are there more flowers than weeds? Are you working with ideal clients or are there some of the toxic kind that suck up your time, energy, and money?

Every real estate professional has weeds. They’re the clients that cause you headaches and simply cannot be pleased, no matter what you do. As the Master Gardener of your business you have two choices: you can try to train and cultivate your weeds, perhaps at the expense of your other plants, or you can pull or transplant them.

Most real estate agents have weed clients at the start. After all, when you first got into the business, you likely took on almost every client who was breathing. You pursued clients who were not loyal, or honest, or respectful. Some were, frankly, nuts. This seemed like a great strategy in the beginning, but you ended up with a database full of “crazies,” then wondered why you hated prospecting or calling your past clients. Maybe you’re still up to your knees in these real estate weeds.

Weedy clients take up space that could be dedicated to more profitable and rewarding clients, but they also add tremendous stress to your life. This stress decreases your effectiveness with your more valuable clients, with your staff and, very importantly, with your family and friends. Learning how to recognize and get rid of toxic clients is one of the topics in The Real Estate Game that always stirs up a lot of conversation. So how do you get rid of them?

Pulling weeds

Take Control

You need to decide what kind of business you want. You can’t be all things to all people, but you can design, define, and control your business.

  • You need to know how to describe your business, your expectations, and your standards to your colleagues and to your clients. The better you get at describing your business, the more your business will look like what you’re describing.
  • You need to be able to describe and communicate your role and responsibilities in the agent-client relationship as well as the client’s role and responsibilities. It is up to you to tell them how they can be a better client for you. If you don’t communicate these standards, you only have yourself to blame for a garden full of weeds. If you haven’t communicated well, start now.
  • You need to know how to say “Thanks, but no thanks.” When someone offers you a referral that’s way outside your business model, it’s better to say no than to serve the customer poorly.
  • You need to cultivate a community of real estate professionals with whom you can exchange referrals. One person's weed is another one’s rose.

Flowering gardenWhen you plant a garden, you don't just start digging anywhere. You plan it first. Same with your real estate business.

  • You must create space for what you want, and that means choosing not to work with people who are not your ideal clients.
  • You must take responsibility for what you create. If you have clients who seemed to fit your criteria at first but turn out to be toxic, you must act.
  • You get what you expect and what your standards allow. When we have high standards and high ethics, we attract people who are like us. When we lower our personal standards because we are desperate for money or business, we attract people who attempt to manipulate us and take advantage of us. Raise your standards!
  • You must assert your boundaries. You won't have the garden or the business you planned for unless you make sure that your clients understand your standards and abide by them. Flowers are encouraged and nurtured; weeds are removed.

Two Choices for the Weeds

Suppose you've finally recognized that a client is a weed. You’ve explained your expectations and you continue to be defeated in your efforts to please them. It’s time for action. I call this the “shape up or ship out” conversation.

  1. Shape Up: Rise to meet your expectations and become a desirable “A” client.
  2. Ship Out: Not meet your expectations and accept your referral to another Realtor.

The best part of this process is that the client makes the decision. If they don’t feel that they can or want to meet your expectations, they choose to fire themselves!

When you take charge of your business garden, you will feel better, enjoy higher self esteem and confidence, attract better, more coachable people who are willing to pay you want you are worth, have time to work with more people who fit your "Ideal Client" criteria, have less stress, enjoy better health, have more fun, and receive better referrals. In other words, you will have the kind of business and life that is rewarding and energizing.

Formal garden

It happens to all of us at one time or another – toxic people sneak into our client base. It's up to you to set your standards and make sure that both you and your clients live up to them. To help you get you started, click here to get my new guide, "How to Find Your Ideal Clients (and Keep Toxic People Out of Your Business)"

How is your business garden? Do you have roses or weeds? I'd love to hear how you deal with toxic clients, and how you find and nurture your ideal clients.



Patti Kouri, Accelerated Performance Coaching
Helping You Through Self-Made Limitations! 


AND...don’t forget to register for my Free “Getting Listings Priced Right” Teleclass, coming up on Tuesday, July 20th.

You’ll get lots more tips (and real world examples) for dealing with potential “toxic client” listing prospects, and much more including:

  • How to get past the seller's "smoke screen of excuses"…
  • The roadblocks standing in your way of getting listings priced right from the start…
  • How to get a price reduction from the seller…
  • How to coach a seller to a successful sale through proper pricing…
  • What you can do and say to lead the seller to the right pricing strategy…
  • The best time/way to ask for a reduction…

And much more!

After this Teleclass is over, it will be one of my new $47 products for real estate professionals. Register today, and you get to attend for free!

Just enter your name and email address below. As the Teleclass date gets closer, you’ll get free access details by email.




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Show All Comments
Wanda Kubat-Nerdin - Wanda Can!
Prado Real Estate South - St. George, UT
So Utah Residential, Referral & Relocation REALTOR

Patti, I refer the weeds out, as they are testy, unpredictable and at times very noxious! That way I can make time for the clients that know what they want and are determined to get to the end result. Great post!

Jul 09, 2010 06:09 AM #1
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Patti, you're so right about this one.  I think some weeds can turn into beautiful flowers, but the ones that make you itch?  You need to grab the RoundUp!

Jul 09, 2010 06:09 AM #2
Richard Green
U.S. Cybertek, Inc. - Houston, MO

Awesome post! Realtors tend to think that once they have taken on a client they are stuck with them to the bitter end, and that they must take a client if one comes along. But it's just not true! If you can't stand the person to start with, don't take them on as a client. And if you have a client that it driving you crazy, get rid of them! Being a little bit picky in the beginning can save you from tons of stress and hard feelings later. ;)

Jul 09, 2010 06:13 AM #3
Janet Sebile
Coldwell Banker Apex, Realtors - Rowlett, TX

Great thoughts.  It's hard to implement these when you first start your business but when you really sit and consider how much happier and successful you'll be when you get rid of the weeds, it makes the going through much easier and rewarding.


Jul 09, 2010 06:46 AM #4
Charlene Randle-Clayton

Hi Patti,

This reminds me of the nursery rhyme with the line ".... how does your garden grow?"   By asking the right questions when interviewing a client in the office [CITO] or over the phone, we save time, money and anxiety by choosing the clients who are right for us.  By having high standards and not lowering them, will lead us and keep us on the path to success!  Although it may be awkward to "release a toxic client, [if someone turns out to be one after the fact],  a little short term pain [releasing them] for long term gain is so worth it!  Thanks Patti for all that you do.



Jul 09, 2010 07:56 AM #5
Coach Patti Kouri
Accelerated Performance Coaching - Chatsworth, CA

Glad you all liked the post.  Hope to see you all at my teleclass on July 20.  Ciao for now!  Coach Patti

Jul 10, 2010 08:49 AM #6
Lizette Fitzpatrick
Lizette Realty - Lexington KY - Richmond KY - Lexington, KY
Lizette Realty,Lexington KY MLS - Kentucky Homes -

This is so true! I'm extremely selective these days. Also don't mind refering out clients I don't want to take.

Jul 10, 2010 03:12 PM #7
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD
Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs

Great post. Thanks for sharing.

 Blooming for home buyers.

Jul 11, 2010 12:51 AM #8
Peggy Chirico
Prudential CT Realty - Manchester, CT
REALTOR® 860-748-8900, Hartford & Tolland County Real Estate

I agree. "Weeds" suck all the energy out of you so you have little left for the "flowers" - I used to work with weeds til I realized this. Now life is so much better.

Jul 11, 2010 01:43 AM #9
Don Sabinske
Don Sabinske, Sabinske & Associates Inc. - Zimmerman, MN
Sabinske & Associates Inc.

Weedy clients get the hoe.  Out.  Go make someone else itch.  And maybe put a "b" in front of that.

Jul 11, 2010 02:28 AM #10
Fernando Herboso - Broker for Maxus Realty Group
Maxus Realty Group - Broker 301-246-0001 - Gaithersburg, MD
301-246-0001 Serving Maryland, DC and Northern VA

Excellent analogy for such an important part of being a Realtor and maintain your sanity

Jul 12, 2010 12:35 AM #11

Great article and comments. The worst nightmare I have to contend with are the clients who make requests for favors and "discounts" after you have found them the perfect deal. I had one who wanted other realtors to bid on who would write the offer when I would not kickback several thousand dollars!

Jul 12, 2010 11:13 AM #12
Mike Wong
Keller Williams Realty Southwest - Sugar Land, TX
Realtor: Commercial, Residential, Leasing, Invest

Thanks Patti! I just spent the weekend updating files, and reorganizing my clients into a priority list. I used 3 spreadsheets: 30-60 days, 3-6 months, eventually. I guess the "eventually" should have been the "weeds" list.  

Jul 12, 2010 12:53 PM #13
Coach Patti Kouri
Accelerated Performance Coaching - Chatsworth, CA

OMG Chuck!  I am given you permission to weed out anyone that doesn't understand the word 'NO'.   

Mike, Eventually's  become a weed you let them take your time as if they were highly motivated.   

I saw a very funny bumper sticker MANY years ago, that said "If you are not going to buy a home from me today, get out of my car!"   Not that we should be that blunt (or maybe we should) but for certain should have that high of a standard. 

Good luck everyone.  

Coach Patti Kouri

Jul 13, 2010 09:50 AM #14
Kathleen Frawley
Keller Williams 916 730-4404 Elk Grove, Wilton, Folsom, Sacramento - Wilton, CA
South County Sacramento, 916 730 4404

Great Read! I just fired my first weed client ever.  I have a huge sense of relief.

Sep 22, 2010 07:55 AM #15
That's not just the best aneswr. It's the bestest answer!
Aug 22, 2011 03:09 AM #16
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