A-list clients are the dream. They bring in the type of work that satisfies you the most, they’re reasonable, they understand the value that you bring to their finances, and they bring in the level of revenue that will help you build both the firm and the life of your dreams.
However, it can be a bit of a trick to know for sure that you’re not signing on with D-listers in A-listers’ clothing. You might have to go through quite a bit of misery before you come to realise that a new client was not what you were hoping.
It’s not just about wish-fulfilment – poor client selection can lead to having to chase for dues, having to waste time constantly querying for information, and so on. These client vices can have a real impact on your firm’s income.
In addition, you’ll end up having to endure the uncomfortable situation of telling a client that you no longer want to want to work with them. For some of you out there this might not be that big a deal, but for others, this is pure social agony.
That’s why we’d like to suggest that you integrate a system for partnering with new clients. You would do your due diligence when hiring a new team member, when bringing in a partner from outside, when looking at outsourcing companies, etc. Clients are just as important as any of these other factors, and yet very few firms apply the same level of screening process.
Let’s take a look at some points you might consider going through when you’re checking out whether or not you want to work with a new client.
1. Where do they come from?
Potential clients that are referred by your existing A-list clients get bonus points. Like breeds like, so A-listers are more likely to refer other future A-listers more than any other source.
At the other end of the scale, be wary of potential clients referred by your existing D-list clients. You’re looking to get rid of D-listers, so you’re probably not going to find too many clients in this pool that are worth the trouble.
Somewhere in the middle are the potential clients that found you via your website, seminars, or other forms of marketing. When you first meet them they are both A-listers and D-listers at the same time until you can investigate further.
2. Do they understand the value that you offer?
Does the prospect keep coming back to price? If so, there’s a very good chance that they’re not going to be a good fit. A focus on price means that they don’t understand that you’re going to be in the trenches helping them build their business or personal finances – you’re not a gristmill compliance firm. But to people like this, it will never matter how much benefit you bring to their bottom line, they’re always going to feel like they’re being ripped off.
3. Do they have a clear idea about your process?
Hopefully the person that made the referral explained how you work. If not, take time to explain your workflow a bit. The reason you do this is to make it clear that due dates are not flexible – you need the client’s full file of information by this or that date and not a day later because that is how you work best to add value to their finances.
Clients that keep messing up your schedule are clients that cost you money. Having to scramble after a client to get their information can potentially also cost them money in penalties. So make sure they understand the situation before you sign them on.
Also explain that you will be having scheduled face-to-face meetings with the client on a yearly or monthly schedule. These are important because you insist on your clients knowing their numbers and you want them to have an opportunity to try out new ideas on you (e.g. they’re thinking of raising prices, or expanding, increasing their marketing, etc.)
This also has the side benefit of having a yearly or monthly reminder that you’re on their team, working hard for them, always making an effort to improve their numbers. This, in turn, is how referrals are born.
You’re going to want to set a minimum level of work that you’re willing to do for a client. If they want less than that then you’d be happy to recommend them to another firm. Sure, this other firm doesn’t have your own firm’s track record, but they’ll get the job done.
This is where service packages can be your friend. You can set a package with the minimum number of services that you offer to a particular kind of client (say a new business owner package, or a personal finances package). If they’re not interested, or they want you to break up the package, then you have an indication that you’re not going to be making enough money off of them to make it worth your time.
Packages also work as automatic up-sellers. Yes, the starter package looks good, but the next package up the tier has Services D, E, and F for only a little bit more and they sure seem like the kinds of services that would really help a new business owner get some extra bang from their business bucks.
If services D, E, and F don’t put much more of a strain on your workload, then you’re now bringing in extra income from the client with minimal extra work on your end.
5. Do you like them?
Decide where your threshold is for dealing with surly clients. It will depend on your situation and your pain tolerance levels, but at some point clients, who check all the other boxes, may just make you too miserable to be worth it.
The ultimate goal of this system is to switch your mindset around. You’re no longer a firm that is interviewed by clients; you’re now a firm that interviews prospective clients to see if you’ll allow them access to all of the value that you bring to your existing treasured clientele.