When I started my coaching practice I believed that I could coach anyone. My marketing wasn’t targeted. Taking a few clients that were “wrong” for me cured me of that. I began to define my “perfect client” and then started to notice flags that told me that someone didn’t fit my definition.
Have you ever had a premonition that someone wouldn’t be a good client for you? Today the person I hired to paint my house dropped by to pick up his check. He asked me about a neighbor to whom he had given a quote. He said, “She seems like a nice lady but something is telling me she’ll be a problem.”
He went on to say that she wanted a guarantee that the paint wouldn’t peel. He said with all the plants around her house and her irrigation system he didn’t feel comfortable doing that. Although he would like the work and was confident in his ability to do a great job for her, he decided to pass on the job.
Bob has owned his own painting business for 25 years and really knows who his “perfect customer” is. He sees warning signs that tell him when the work will cost him more than he will make.
Large businesses often take all customers as long as they believe they have the ability to pay. They don’t use a screening method. I remember thinking while I was at AT&T that some customers were more of a headache than they were worth.
One customer I remember started her weekend early on Friday afternoon and came back to her office after lunch inebriated. In that condition everything annoyed her so she would start calling us for immediate service on her equipment or adjustments on her bill. She knew all the numbers to call (including the president of the company!). If she didn’t get attention she called the person’s boss. She sounded pretty normal on the phone so she was taken very seriously. She consistently drained resources.
Do you get an inkling that a prospective client will be a problem? What are the warning signs? I know for example that people who believe they know everything and never make a mistake are not good clients for me. I listen for that when I talk to potential clients.
Also if someone comes to me for a marriage issue, I know that is not my area of expertise. I could coach the person but because I don’t work in this area much it takes me longer to get up to speed on it. Better to refer that client to someone else and to find the lawyers and other professionals that I have a specific business development program for and experience in coaching. It is more profitable for me and more satisfying for my clients.
One exercise I do with my clients is to ask them to rate their current clients as A, B, C and D clients. They come up with their own criteria for A (the dream client), B (the dream client in training) C (the average client) and D (the client from hell). The goal is to find a way to have only A and B clients in their practice.
Can you see that getting rid of C and D clients would give you extra time to work with the clients you enjoy? By doing this you aren’t wasting precious time trying to please someone who needs lots of special attention.
Think too about the kind of referrals you will get from C and D clients. We attract people to us that are very much like us so C and D clients probably will refer C and D clients.
If you want to have a thriving practice with clients you enjoy working with the first step is to get very clear about your “perfect client”. What makes him/her perfect and then what tells you that the prospect sitting in front of you or the one on the phone is that perfect client?
1. Read Attracting Perfect Customers by Stacey Hall and Jan Brogneiz
2. What are your criteria for A, B, C and D clients?
3. Classify your current and past clients as A, B, C and D clients. What did you learn from the exercise?
4. Can you create a script with several questions for your staff to use so that you don’t have to talk to any potential client that is clearly not an A or B client? Do you have a list of other attorneys, doctors, painters etc that they can refer the C and D clients to?