Everyone wants to attract the ideal clients. But very few of us know how to identify them. And what's even more of an issue is that we don't know how to identify bad potential clients.
As a result, we waste a huge amount of time and energy in the marketing process. We spend too much time speaking to and meeting with prospects who either will never buy our services or, if they do, the experience and results will be disappointing.
So how do you quickly size-up prospective clients?
You divide them into eight types that distinguish their dominant approach to doing business. When you clearly see these types, you'll know how to proceed.
I learned the system of types outlined below from Jerry Vieira, of The QMP Group, at his very stimulating presentation today at the IMC (Institute of Management Consultants) Confab in Reno Nevada. I know you'll find it very useful.
Here's Jerry's "Approach to Business (ATB) Scale"
1. Stumps, or Stuck-in-the-Mud-People.
These are people with very limited points of view. They know what they know, and there they sit. They aren't interested in new ideas or changing the way they're doing things. (Problems? What problems?) As a result, they are very unlikely to buy professional services.
You will waste your time if you try to convince these people and educate them about your services. They may show some interest, but ultimately they really don't care. If they never ask a meaningful question or keep giving reasons why your ideas won't work, move on and don't bother following up.
These prospects are experts at stealing concepts and ideas. It's hard for them to admit others have a better idea than they do. So, with little compunction, they'll lift your ideas, pass them off as their own and never give you credit.
If you're meeting with a taker, they'll tend to grill you and take very god notes. They'll ask you to send articles, models and other materials. Beware if they ask you for a proposal too early in the process. Don't do it. They'll take your methodologies and get their cousin, Fred, to do the project using your approach.
3. BMMDI - "Boss-Made-Me-Do-It"
This is someone who has absolutely no stake in the business. They are talking with you to fulfill an obligation. If they end up buying, they won't really care if your services deliver or not. They'll never read your reports or give you useful feedback.
This is the third type to scope out early and avoid investing too much time and energy in the sales process. BMMDI's can be found in company's large or small. And if you offer coaching services, beware of prospects who were sent to you by a spouse!
They are just one step above the takers. They do not part with their money easily. They want the lowest price, the bare bones package, the minimum they can buy. And then they expect first-class service when they pay economy fares.
An opportunist may buy some services, but they will be high maintenance and take up big chunks of your time. If you decide to work with them, you need a very explicit written agreement with clear boundaries which you stick to unfailingly.
5. Don Quixotes
These prospects are dreamers. They imagine themselves as white knight saviors. If you're selling into a company, they are going to have trouble getting buy-in and support. If they are individuals, they will talk and meet forever to "blue sky it" but rarely get down to practical action steps.
Look out for prospects who have grandiose visions way beyond their level of experience and capacity. They want it all but can't get a simple project done on time and on budget. Fun to talk with perhaps, but not a lot of fun as clients.
OK, that's five types of prospects whom you want to avoid. If you connect with these types and recognize them, you'll save huge amounts of time and effort by moving on quickly. An initial meeting by phone and a few well-chosen questions will let you know if they fit into any of the above five types.
Next, Jerry went on to identify three desirable prospect types. When you recognize them, give yourself a green light to spend more time exploring how you might work together. They can all be good clients.
6. Terribly Troubled
These are prospects who really need your assistance. They have a problem, predicament or pain and are motivated to get it fixed. They are desperately seeking alternatives and will often make a quick decision.
They may be willing to spend a lot, but are often in a rush to get going; as a result they may not carefully evaluate the options. Work to slow down these prospects a bit. Assure them you can help fix the problem, but also spend some time exploring ideal outcomes that will take more time and care to implement.
7. Frustrated Drivers
These prospects are very interested in optimal results and will study alternatives intensively. They will commit quickly and spend what it takes, but will expect visible results sooner rather than later.
When speaking with these prospects, communicate about tangible results and clear courses of action. Offer well-documented case studies and proof that your approaches work. When they engage you, set well-defined benchmarks and measure progress regularly.
8. Sincerely Growth-Oriented
You might consider this your ideal kind of client. They are already doing things quite well but want to do things better. They have issues and challenges that are not seen as debilitating, but as areas to improve. They are motivated by excellence and growth.
These clients will engage in long-term work, look carefully at the best alternatives, and commit to achieving ultimate goals. Bring your absolute best to working with these clients, as they will reward you financially, emotionally and intellectually.
If you focus on identifying these final three types of prospects, you will start to find more of them. Put even more attention on attracting Type 8's by being a Type 8 yourself. Like attracts like.
Thanks to Jerry Vieira for letting me use his model (apologies for any distortions). I found the types in this model to be very true to my experience and a very useful guide to more effective marketing. Jerry can be found on the web at http://www.qmpassociates.com
The More Clients Bottom Line: Much wheel-spinning can be avoided in the marketing and prospecting process if you are aware of the warning signs of prospects who will squander your time and energy. Put your attention and focus on better prospects who are motivated to take real advantage of your expertise.
How do you identify your ideal prospects (and avoid the less-than-ideal)? Please share on the More Clients Blog.