One Way to Sort the Ideal from the Unideal

I was reading an ezine recently where business owners were advised to offer a variety of ways for prospects to contact them.

The reasoning was that if prospects can’t reach you the way they prefer, they’ll call someone else.

And this might be good advice at a very general level if you are new in business and don’t have clients yet.

It might also be true if you are in a commoditized, project-driven business that requires a great deal of volume in order to be financially successful.  You aren’t in a position to turn anyone away when you’re in that kind of business and you are more or less forced to be at the whim and dictate of customer preferences.

But solopreneurs can be more choosy. In fact, their survival depends on being choosy about clients because a professional service business filled with unideal clients who negatively drain the solopreneur’s time and energy will take that business down faster than a cheetah felling an antelope.

If you’re in the business of administrative support (not project-based secretarial service), you don’t need to work with everyone in the world. It only takes a handful of ideal retainer clients to be financially successful.

So what I was thinking as I read the aforementioned advice was how I actually use limited communication methods as a way to weed out unideal clients.

For me, one characteristic of an ideal client is that they are very adept and comfortable with technology and particularly with communicating by email.

I’m not interested in taking phone calls all day from prospective clients, 99% of whom I will never work. I couldn’t even if I wanted to or I’d never have any time to get any work done.

Therefore, I have a very specific path set up for consulting with me.

When I hear from a prospective client who has completed the consultation form on my website, I know that there’s a 50/50 chance they’ve read a fair amount of information on my site. This is where I want them educated first about what I do and how I  help clients, and learn who I’m looking to work with and who benefits most from working with me, and they can weed themselves out if there’s not a fit.

When they complete my consultation request form, that also tells me this is someone who isn’t going to be a pain in the ass by sidestepping my processes and, thus, more likely to be the kind of client I can work with easily and happily.

I have no interest in clients who have been to my website, but call or email me instead of filling out my consult form. I know from past experience that those are the folks who are almost always going to be difficult to work with moving forward.

Is that a head-spinner for you?

It shocks a lot of people who have heard me say this before.

But you see, you don’t have to be at the mercy of the rest of the world.

How your business works and the clients you work with need to make you happy first. It’s not just about what clients what. It’s about what you both want and need from each other. There has to be a mutual fit for anything to work moving forward.

I realize a lot of new people who don’t have clients yet or who are still growing their practice will think this is crazy talk.

They are still in scarcity mindset so this won’t make sense to them at all.

But if you are further along in your practice, you probably relate a bit more to what I’m talking about. You’ve worked with more than your share of clients who turned out to be completely difficult and energy draining.

If you are looking to work with more ideal clients, the willingness to follow your protocols and not sidestep your processes is one of the telltale clues you can use to prequalify prospects and establish whether this might be someone you can work with well or not.

5 Responses

  1. Carolyn says:

    You are right on with this, Danielle. Very smart to ‘funnel’ and prequalify potential clients. Saves time and energy! I love systems that do more than one thing. 🙂

  2. I absolutely agree that you should choose your clients carefully. It saves time, effort, builds better relationships and great referrals to other ideal clients.

  3. Cathey says:

    Thanks, Danielle, for the advice. Your reasoning makes perfect sense and confirms the idea that I can’t be, and don’t wish to be, the choice for all prospects.

  4. Yelena says:

    Much like you, I limit the number of ways potential clients can contact me. I used to have my phone and fax # on my biz card and on my site. Now I only list my e-mail (plus ways to contact me on social networks). I did primarily because of my schedule – I’m only available to work on clients’ tasks in the evenings. So I try to manage my clients’ availability expectations from the start. They know that the best and fastest way to contact me is by e-mail. It also serves a second purpose – I can’t always record phone calls, but I save e-mails with questions, instructions, change requests, etc. for future reference.

  5. Pattie says:

    A great post with some excellent points. I wasted a lot of time and energy initially trying to make sure that the phone was answered immediately at any time of day in case it was a potential client. Then after a while I realised that in fact all the prospects that had turned into great clients had come to me online via my website. I’m now considering reserving my phone number to give only to bona fide clients, whilst pushing prospects towards only email enquiries. I think your post might have given me the kick I need to do this!

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