Not every client is a good fit for your firm. What is the key thing you look for when deciding whether or not you want to work with a particular company or client?
These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. YEC has also launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Cost of Support
It’s OK if a client is demanding, but their demands are within your wheelhouse. It’s alarm bells when their demands are outside of your scope, because that client will likely cost too much to support. It’s easy to get into the trap of wanting to grow sales and take on as many clients as possible, but you’ll soon realize it’s an unsustainable approach.
2. Company Culture
We weren’t the number one inbound agency in the world, but we were number two. As such, we got a lot of companies wanting to work with us and had to develop a way to decide who we would turn away and who we would accept as new clients. It always boiled down to this question: “Would I work for their company?” If the answer was no, we turned them down, no matter how much money they had. Never regretted it.
3. Ease of Sales Process
If a company is difficult to deal with during the sales process, they will likely be an even bigger pain once they are paying. While not always the case, I have also found that the longer the sales process, the more likely they’re more trouble than they’re worth. I also like to ask why they left their current vendor, if applicable. It usually gives me an idea of what their expectations are.
I have to plan around every new hire as if they were a new member of my family. Because of this, I determine whether or not I can work with them for a long period of time by evaluating their personality and how it relates to mine. Individuals with too strong of a personality can become tiresome or toxic, and people with too weak of a personality can be frustrating. There needs to be a sweet spot.
5. Consensus and Full Understanding of Deliverables
There’s no problem with up-selling services that we don’t offer in our suite of products, but a client has requested. If we can do it for them, we usually do. The number one deciding factor is whether the client is comfortable with our deliverables and understands the KPIs thereof. Before getting into a contract with a client, we want them to understand the full schedule that their project(s) might entail, and how we’ll set about delivering. If there is a delay in answering, or there’s no answer, we usually choose to move on and take on other clients instead. Following up on an offer that we’ve made opens us up to clients who might want to haggle us down from our already competitive pricing, and that’s just not worth our time.
6. Managed Expectations
As a marketing agency, it is crucial that we manage expectations from the start. We need to ensure that the client’s idea of good results and the timeline for achieving them are aligned with ours, and be realistic about what we can actually deliver and when. Establishing this during the onboarding process helps keep everyone on the same page.
7. Degree of Difficulty
We enjoy taking on the most difficult of projects, but in assessing whether or not we want to work with a particular client or company, we draw the line at working with difficult people. Life is too short to spend it getting driven crazy by someone who is impossible to please. Focus your time, energy and efforts on those who will add positivity, not zap it.
8. Value Sharing
Our company has fired clients on a number of occasions. We have found over time that focusing on the wrong clients becomes more expensive than the value in keeping them. These bad customers always share a similar quality: They don’t share our same values. Does this customer think and behave like you do? Would you enjoy meeting them for lunch? If the values aren’t aligned it’s not a good fit.
9. When in Doubt, Trust Your Gut
There’s not necessarily a key thing or attribute to look for when vetting a company or client, more importantly, you need to trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right for whatever reason, a work agreement was switched at the last moment, or needs changed without prior notice, or even a large variety of other less than positive scenarios, you might want to step away before the relationship becomes more damaging to your business.