Growth Spark previously wrote about Helping You Gauge Client Fit. In this article, we would like to expand on this topic, and recognize that the process of sales is much like any other business process, and as such, should be handled objectively. Do you think a Warehouse Manager circumvents the fulfillment process, expediting a ground-shipping order to overnight express just because they like the product purchased? Of course not.
As John Barrows, the sales trainer says, “Take the emotion out of it.” Sales can be a rollercoaster ride from the highs of excitement and optimism to the lows of disappointment and regret - if you allow it to be. But, if you let yourself get excited about a well-known brand and how that logo might look on your website, you may gloss over critical RED FLAGS, by getting emotionally attached.
Sales doesn’t need to be as unpredictable, if we are honest with ourselves about RED FLAGS, and we take emotion out of the sales process. By spending our time with the right prospects, we are creating more value -- for our clients and our company. Finding great clients - and not (only) exciting projects means you are making good business decisions with whom you spend your time.
Here are 3 RED FLAGS why a great project does not equal a great client.
1) Do they Respect the Process?
They seem gung-ho to hear your ideas, they have a sizable budget, and they may be very interested to get to the proposal stage. However, when it comes to softball questions like, “what are you trying to achieve” or “what are your project goals” their answers lack thought. Their answers don’t clearly indicate compelling business reasons to spend time, money, and effort on a multi-month engagement. As an ambassador of your company, your job is not just to drive revenue, but healthy revenue. If you set clear expectations of what you need to help the prospect, and they are unwilling or unable to engage with you and your team in a logical set of steps, it’s a huge RED FLAG. If it takes a month to respond with key data, maybe this isn’t their top priority? Maybe by not respecting your process, they are indicating they will not respect you during the project, as a paying client.
2) No Clear Requirements or Too Many Requirements
If softball questions like “what are your project goals” or “what are your project success criteria” return wishy-washy answers, remember that just like any business process, you cannot skip steps. Do not advance the sales process when you haven’t defined what they are trying to achieve. Be objective and tell yourself to stop or slow down.
Conversely, a laundry list of “must-haves” that sounds more like a wish list than key goals is also a RED FLAG. An example would be receiving an RFP from a small company, especially unsolicited. This is just an invitation to waste your time. At the very least, make sure you ask how many vendors received this RFP. If 10 RFPs were sent, you have a 10% chance to win, at best. Additionally, it might benefit you to understand the Project Leader’s background. If s/he has typically worked for larger companies or led larger teams, you might get a better understanding of their motivations.
3) The Client Does Not Bring “Matching Energy”
Explicit answers to all your questions in the first meeting is not mandatory, but an ideal client will bring matching energy. This means they will seem invested during the sales process. Ideally they will co-build the solution with you. This starts from the very beginning of the cycle, sharing details about their goals and challenges. No one knows their business better than they do. Only they can explain why this project is so critical and how they will measure a successful project. Project success requires a two-way street of open communication, collaboration, and a shared goal. Growth Spark gauges the seriousness of a potential client by giving them a little homework after the first meeting. Not dedicating the time to answer a few questions between meetings is a HUGE RED FLAG for how the relationship is going to progress. Even if unintentional, to set the expectation that you will expend your energy without the same in return, sets a bad precedent. This is the foundation for mutual respect, especially of your team’s (billable) resources, including Project Managers and Developers. You’re fooling yourself if you think the relationship will change when they become a paying client.When all's said and done, you are qualifying good clients as much as you are qualifying good projects. Long-term success is a function of your ability to select not just clients with money that will sign, but those that will end up being happy, reference-able customers. Those prospects that play ball with you (and those whom you don’t get emotional about because of their well-known logo), will drive not only revenue but profit and good references (and happy Project Managers and Developers).