Just like have the wrong employees on your team, the wrong clients can hurt your business and create a lifestyle you don't enjoy. So, how can you attract the clients you want, avoid nightmare customers, and have a fulfilling and satisfying business life? Here are seven tips to get you started.
When we launched our businesses, many of us accepted every customer opportunity. This "low hanging fruit" allowed us to pay our employees, bills, and maybe even have some left over for a salary. But as you grow your business, you need to walk away from your worst customers. You know the type: They haggle on every invoice, they may abuse you and your staff, and you can never satisfy them.
Here are seven ways to begin finding the right customers:
1. Do your homework – Before you even commit to a meeting or initial interview it is very important for you to do your homework about the prospect you are going to see. Research their firm on the web, check your local Chamber of Commerce or Better Business Bureau to see if there is anything posted about them. Find out what community involvement they have, ask your friends in the industry, or check out the local yellow pages.
2. History – What happens if they are a new business or a startup? Entrepreneurs and business owners are always on the move, check the history of the principals or management team of the firm. Research their past corporations that the Management team has been involvement with, interview former employees or team members of the past corporations, discuss with industry experts and other companies on their experiences with the previous management team.
3. Ask Questions – During the initial meeting ask some very basic questions. Remember in the initial meeting you are not there to find solutions to their problems, you are there to qualify the opportunity for your business. Ask questions like:
- “Why did you and your last provider part ways?”
- “If the existing provider changed one thing what would that be?”
- “Who was the past provider”
- "How do you value technology”
4. Financial Check - It is critical to do your financial research. The one thing that I have learned in business is to have a simple financial questionnaire prepared. This could be a client application form that the prospect needs to return prior to doing business with you. Tip: Always look for a complete form, if it is not complete you need to dig deeper to what the prospect maybe hiding.
5. Establish Qualifying Criteria – Setup a score card system to qualify your prospects or qualifying criteria and then be firm with what it takes to become a client of your corporation. Never make exceptions, special circumstances, variables or one off cases. You must be firm when determining the clients that you want in your business. If you waffle on this, you will immediately loss the trust of your staff and team.
6. Stick to your guns – Never jeopardize your values! When your company has come up with best practices and other standard ways of doing business, stick to it. Do not change the way you do business once you have proven it to be successful. Yes you must tweak things from time to time, however, don’t change what you do to win the business of a new prospect. If they are serious about working with you they will understand why you making recommendations based on your proven solutions and best practices.
7. Business on handshakes doesn’t mean anything – Business can no longer be done on a handshake. As much of this hurts me to state this, it is true. The days of a person’s word are long gone. Get everything in writing. IT agreements, purchase orders and other forms of written confirmation and approval are a must in today’s world. Don’t allow yourself to be caught in a “they said/we said” debate. You will always end up with the shortest straw.
“The customer is always right, not every customer is right for us” stated Vlad Mazek of Orlando’s Ownwebnow in his blog on March 30, 2008. This is so true; there is nothing wrong with stating that the customer is always right when you have the right customers in your business. Do you homework up front and qualify everyone that you want to do business with so you limit the bad apples down the road.
Contributing blogger Stuart Crawford provides mentoring services to Microsoft Small Business Specialists across the world. His third book on Goal Setting is now released at http://www.goalsettingforitprofessionals.com. Join his free monthly IT Professional conference calls at http://www.freeitmarketingseminar.com.