We’ve mentioned that you can choose your clients, that you can pick who you work with, and that this selection process can be extremely beneficial to you, your clients, and your business. But how do you go about qualifying potential clients? Some companies use a gatekeeper to keep out the crazy, some companies have a more rigorous contact form on their website, and some companies simply refuse to do business with anyone outside of their bottom line price. All of these things make it a bit easier to ensure that your time isn’t wasted as much – there are still going to be a few shall we say, interesting phone calls here and there – but how do you make sure you are working with who you want to work with?
Dating Potential Clients
In essence, you are looking to build a relationship with these folks: a relationship with few hangups, one that is mutually beneficial, one that will be long term. If this sounds like trying to find an ideal life-partner, then you are close. Here are a few points to keep in mind when you are speaking to potential clients:
- They are a good fit
- Negotiations run smoothly
- They are knowledgeable and require little hand holding
- They like you for your expertise
- You help make them better
- They aren’t necessarily playing with their own vested money
- You get along
- You can see working with them in the long term
- They have more and consistent work for you
- Their work brings in money
Communication is Key
Again, this sounds a bit like dating advice, but communication is essential for a lasting relationship. If you are not capable of communicating clearly and effectively in the first couple conversations, then chances are not good that these issues will clear up. Similarly, if during the negotiations of the proposal there are lots of hang ups and niggling issues or they are inflexible about more than a few things, the chances that communication flows effortlessly in the future is slim.
Negotiations can be a real test: when money is involved and laid out clearly stress levels can be high. There are two extremes to watch out for in negotiations: people who don’t ask any questions, and people who ask a lot of the wrong questions.
The folks that ask no questions, in our experience, tend to ask questions or make demands too late into your working relationship. Some of these people will mask their lack of understanding by not saying anything, and then, and only after pen meets paper, do they raise concerns or ask questions about the process or want to negotiate. This is one of the more frustrating relationships because they are now contractually bound to you.
The folks that ask too many questions, and by this we mean too many of the wrong questions, or are overtly suspicious of your company and its processes are not going to stop asking questions or being suspicious. A lot of the time, these folks are going to try to haggle over every price point and ask questions surrounding why they should have to pay for X or Y. This is a recipe for frustration for a long, long time.
It’s a Match
If only it was always easy to find awesome clients and you didn’t have to go out searching or qualifying everyone you do business with. Word of mouth referrals are a great way to circumvent some of this, but word of mouth is a limited network. When you start looking for new clients, the above bullet points will be helpful in vetting them quickly and easily.