My clients range from wonderful to challenging. What are some tricks to trade the latter for the former?
What you consider wonderful and challenging depends on what you value in a client. Is it intellectual stimulation, socially productive work, or just a fast pay cycle? Regardless, the clients you have are a function of the clients you seek and cultivate. When you set your marketing and sales plan in motion, are you placing a high enough weight on those factors you value and excluding prospects (or evolving clients) who exemplify factors you don't like? Consultants are susceptible to the same blind spots when it comes to selecting clients as any other consumer - we sometimes ignore factors that would improve our decisions.
Perhaps one of the common blind spots is the assumptions on which we evaluate our current clients. for example, as advisors, we seek to serve the interests of our clients and assume their purposes, their approach and our role is all to the good. Unfortunately, the customer is not always right (for us). Are we pursuing a high fee client for one that causes us endless aggravation? Do we decide to enter into a relationship with an interesting engagement that results in our putting up with long hours? Have we stuck by a client whose speed of payment and intellectual challenge of the task long ago slowed to almost nothing? It might be time to reevaluate how we select (or at least pursue) our clients.Tip:
What may look like a dream customer to others may just not be right for you. Think about the 80/20 rule and identify that 20% of your business you would elect to get rid of if you had the chance. Be very clear about your evaluation protocol, including revenue, lifestyle, work environment, professional growth, etc. Now work hard to replace that bottom 20% and, when your task or engagements are at an end, find a colleague to refer those customers to. You can choose to replace the when that customer is not right for you. © 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA