Eleven Questions for Evaluating Potential and Existing Clients

The wrong customers can poison the well and put your organization at risk. There are eleven questions that will help you evaluate potential and existing clients.

Sometimes things aren’t meant to be.

We’ve all been there… We’ve all met people sometimes in our lives and thought a relationship would work, only to find out after peeling back the layers that it probably wasn’t meant to be.

This happens at work all the time. But we often think of it only in terms of why the customer didn’t choose us, or why the customer broke up with us. Dumping a client is a bitter pill to swallow… It’s a blow to both our egos and our bottom line.

We rarely take into account the fact that we also have options in terms of continuing the relationship with an existing client, or even rejecting a new client. The truth is that not every prospect fits our business.

Sometimes it is as simple as being too expensive for the prospect, and in such cases, you may want to refer the prospect to another company. But in many cases, a potential customer can be detrimental to the business.

We become the customers we surround ourselves with

The formation of your customer base is important. It conveys a lot of information about your organization, and makes up your organization. Clients define the employees you need to hire, the partners you need to involve, and the work that will be performed. Customers contribute significantly to your organizational culture. I always thought that we became the people around us.

I also believe that we all have choices in choosing what is closest to us – our circle of influence. This applies to the business environment as well. We are an extension of our clients, and they are an extension of us. So selecting the right clients for our organization is essential to building the organization the leadership envisions.

Evaluate potential clients

There are several questions to consider when evaluating new clients and existing clients:

Is the customer mission aligned with your values?

This is a very important consideration. Oftentimes, we have had the opportunity to perform work for organizations that I fundamentally could not support. One example is tobacco lobbies. Several years ago, a pro-tobacco lobbyist wanted to hire us to do marketing and outreach. There was no way to accept this action.

As a mother, I work hard to educate our children about the dangers of smoking. I’m basically against everything this group is trying to achieve.

Do you think they can accomplish what they are trying to do?

We have potential clients who have contacted us to design and develop training programs to achieve goals we didn’t think were realistic. In a particular case, the money was very good, and I’m sure they found a company to do the work. But we haven’t seen the link between the client’s vision/goals and the training they want. It was just too much of a stretch. So we declined the business, not only because we couldn’t buy into it, but also because we thought it would set us up for failure.

Do customer needs match your competitive differentiators? (price, quality, speed, etc.)

No company can be all things to all people. Some customers are looking for the lowest price or the fastest delivery. In such cases, we are not identical. So we reject this kind of work.

Will the customer wreak havoc in your organization?

Some client organizations are very chaotic. While “managed chaos” can be productive, “unmanaged chaos” can be harmful. Customers who do not respect our processes, our employees or our culture will not be happy with our service.

Can the customer bear the costs of your service?

When we first launched 14 years ago, the low price was definitely one of the competitive factors. This is often the case with new companies because they do not have the overheads associated with growth. In addition, new companies are working to build their customer base, establishing their presence and credibility.

Mature companies follow a completely different business model, having moved from a price-oriented service to a value-oriented one. If the customer cannot afford our service, it is not a match from a short-term and long-term perspective.

Is this a one time customer? And if so, does it fit your business model?

For our business, one-time customers are not good investments. Many small businesses are trapped in the circle of working with one-time clients, forcing them to live a gypsy life … constantly moving from one client to another.

A lot of energy goes into gaining knowledge about the client and building the relationship. It’s the same level of energy for a one-time client or a repeat client. But with a one-time client, you won’t have extra work when the project is over.

Are the prospect’s requirements aligned with your core competency?

Like many companies, we’ve discovered business opportunities that look great on the surface, but once you start digging in, you’ll realize that there are many other companies out there that can do the job better than they can.

I don’t think a company can be all things to all customers. By sticking to your core competencies, small businesses have a chance to build a reputation for reliability and expertise in the areas where they really shine.

Is the client in an industry you currently support, or would you like to support?

Sometimes great work comes through in your sweet spot and in the industries you serve. And sometimes it comes work that you can do, but it’s in an industry you know nothing about. At this point, companies need to determine if they want to invest the money and resources needed to expand into the industry.

Re-evaluate existing clients

Some relationships with customers are supposed to last forever, others are not. As the business owner, it is important to be aware of any client who could put your organization or your credibility at risk.

I’m not suggesting that small businesses don’t honor their conventions. However, once the project is complete, the company needs to make a careful assessment of whether the client is a good fit for the company moving forward.

Does the customer respect or mistreat your employees?

We have had many cases over the years in which my employees have experienced abusive behavior. Even under stressful deadlines, this is not acceptable. Nothing hurts employee morale faster than abusive behavior.

Do you work with incompetent people?

There are few things as frustrating as working with someone who thinks they know too much and aren’t open to learning, when in fact they know so little. Not only is it frustrating. Dangerous to a successful outcome.

Are you ready to fail a project?

Sometimes a project is in jeopardy right from the start. When you see red flags, run before your relationships and reputation are ruined.

Companies work hard to build their reputation, provide quality service, and make a difference. The right clients enable you to achieve these goals. The wrong customers can poison the entire well and endanger the organization.

So choose wisely when evaluating potential and existing clients.

in a Sales equivalentJeb Blount gives you a complete guide to qualifying an effective client using its 9-Box Qualification Framework. Buy the book or take a test drive with 2 free chapters

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