“ Without a customer, there is no business ”, said Peter Drucker, one of the most influential authors of the last century as far as business matters are concerned. His ideas have shaped our style of doing business today.
Furthermore, the key to the success of any business is a satisfied customer. In his own words: “The most important thing to remember about any company is that there are no results within its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer.” Amen…
Now the hard part: Satisfying all customers is simply impossible unless you know how to choose the ideal customers and let the rest go. But how?
It is a three-step process:
.First, you have to establish principles that allow you to identify good customers
.Second, you have to evaluate potential customers using those principles.
.Third, you should send off customers who don’t meet that standard (remember the 80/20 principle ).
The process is quite simple, carrying it out, not so much…
Establish The Principles: What Is A Good Client?
You must start by deciding who your ideal client is, and what their qualities are. This is the beginning of everything, the basis of business success. Don’t think that because you don’t have a big company, this principle doesn’t apply to you.
Even if you are a sole proprietor, defining as precisely as possible who your ideal client is, and what are the qualities that make a good client for you, is essential. It will save you time, money, and frustration.
There are different parameters to consider and they will surely vary if it is about selling products or providing services.
Below I will list the ones that I think are the most important:
How big are the companies you enjoy working with? Do you prefer to work with small companies, family businesses, SMEs, or multinational companies? Feeling comfortable is essential.
What is the minimum budget that a project must have for you to be interested in? And if the budget is very tight but the client is strategic, are you still interested?
Would you accept to collect at the end of the project working without advances or intermediate payments? If not, what would your billing scheme look like? This point is crucial for entrepreneurs and professionals who work freelance.
For example, when I worked for advertising agencies, there were some whose payment period extended to several months, a situation that was unsustainable for me, and therefore I stopped working with those agencies.
Would you feel comfortable working with a client who does not have any technical knowledge about the job? Would it affect the quality of your project to work with a client who does not understand the technical requirements, and does not pay attention to development times and delivery dates?
Would you expect the client to provide the requirements and then wait for the results or would you prefer a client more committed to the process? So far, have the projects in which you worked together with the client had better or worse results than those projects in which there was no interaction with the client?
.Length of relationship
Are you interested in developing long-term clients or ending the project and never seeing them again? If you think that it would be best to have clients with whom you can maintain a long-term business relationship, then it is clear that you should aim for clients who have many projects to develop (and are in a position to carry them out!).
What kind of people do you feel most comfortable working with? There are people who are a pleasure to work with and others who are downright unpleasant. There are people who are very impatient, others constantly change their minds, and others have the ability to stress even the calmest of mortals. What is your endurance capacity?
Sometimes it is possible to know the personality of our potential client by asking other professionals you trust who have worked with him/her and have a preview of what awaits us.
Will working with this client mean the possibility of professional growth? To obtain more and better contacts? to access better projects in the future? To polish your current skills? to grow economically?
This evaluation is crucial to improve relationships with our clients and improve professionally. There may be other points to consider specific to your job. This list is just a start, your task is to analyze it, take what works for you, and enrich it with your own experience.
An interesting possibility is to use it to evaluate two or more projects. Suppose you have the possibility of developing two projects but you only have time for one, how would you choose it? Based on what criteria?
Then you can put together an Excel spreadsheet, putting these criteria in a column and each project in its own column; you assign a score to each principle (which one counts the most for you in a project?) and then you analyze each project, principle by principle.
At the end, you will have a score for each project.
A practical way to know if you have assigned the correct score to each principle is to analyze past clients or projects seen in this new light. In this way you will “finish your aim” and you will be in a better position to identify good customers (at least for you). How to avoid bad customers, we will deal with in another note.
Being able to define in advance which is the ideal client for our business is one of the keys to its success.