Choose Your Friends, and Clients, Wisely
If you’re in the service industry, you may soon realize your need for client management. This may be something that does not come naturally to you, after all, you started in your business to utilize your professional trade, not manage people! But at some point, you take a breather and realize the business is taking more emotional and physical energy than you want to handle. Learning that you can choose your clients, as much as they choose you, can help you take control of your business and will make your life so much happier.
If you’re just starting out and don’t have a luxury of being super selective, it may need to wait until you build your book of business. But keep these tips in the back of your mind and implement as soon as you can or a little at a time.
Figure out what you want in a client, and more importantly, what you don’t
This is the first step to getting to your ideal client list. Most things work better with a plan – heck I make tiny to-do goal lists several times a week – and this is no different! Figure out what your target client looks like and then list out traits that client has for you to seek out. Similarly, list negative characteristics that you would prefer not be part of your world.
Then take it a step further and assign a grade A through D to each client characteristic, with A being the highest and D being the least desirable. It’s easy to focus first on money, but try to get down to non-financial traits that really drive a successful, low-stress business environment.
Some “A” client qualities could be:
· Respect for your time, and willing to pay for it
· Aligns with your business expertise
· Polite to you and your staff (ask the receptionist, they know who is difficult or sweet)
· Timely in providing information
· Pays on time, without regular complaints on the bill
· Sends referrals your way – a big one, you want good clients who send in their friends
· Speaks positively about you in public
· Low maintenance and understanding
Some “D” client qualities could be:
· High maintenance, demanding
· Complains regularly about the bill
· Pays late
· Expects regular extras for free (questions, upgrades, etc)
· Rude to you and your staff
· Doesn’t align with your expertise
· Wants you to take risky stances you’re uncomfortable with, shady business practices
· Waits until the last minute to provide information
B & C client qualities can be a sliding scale ranging from things you’ll put up with to things you won’t. This is your list; make it your own because you know what you need to be happy! Hang onto this client characteristic breakdown list, we’ll use it in a minute.
Take inventory of your client list
Depending on the size and type of your business, you may or may not want to invest in customer relationship management (CRM) software. CRM software can help manage client information, leads, marketing, and much more. However, if you’re smaller, most accounting and/or invoicing software will give you the ability to list your clients and give basic details and reports.
If you have the ability to sort the client list, do so in a way or ways that you find helpful such as revenue by client, invoice aging (how long they take to pay), gross profit percentage, and referrals given. What your software likely won’t do is sort by qualitative (vs. quantitative listed before) traits like low maintenance and polite, but make your own list of these because they are so very important. Again, every business is unique, so tailor your reports to get information that is meaningful to your goal (a good practice for any business report).
Assign each client a grade
This is the fun part! Clients are silently grading you all the time, why not do the same for your own sanity! Take the A through D client qualities listing you made, and the client reports you created, and assign each client a grade based on where they cumulatively fall. Again, with A clients being the best clients and D being the worst.
At the end of the day, you want the A & B clients. These are your people, your new priority, treat them well and retain them if you can. The C clients are on thin ice, you’ll give them a chance, for now, if you want to, but they can go if they don’t improve to an A or B in the future. D clients are the ones you probably will want to cut, if you can afford it, and for your mental and financial health you probably should. D clients are dragging you and your business down. You can let them down gently by telling them you don’t have capacity, it doesn’t and probably shouldn’t have to be anything dramatic that will leave a horrid taste in their mouth that will only turn into negative publicity for your business.
Now make sure that you’re working with a legal advisor if needed, especially if you have contractual obligations with people. This post is not meant to serve as anything more than casual opinion. Also, though these concepts in my post are my own thoughts from my own experiences, they aren’t brand new ideas and you can find books or business coaches to help you implement all or more of these types of strategies if you’d like more assistance.
Thinking more broadly on it, this doesn’t have to solely apply to client management, it could apply in your whole life! Maybe after this exercise you’ll identify some other relationships that aren’t working, and realize your value. You have a lot to offer, so make sure you’re surrounding yourself with good people who support you and know you’re just trying to do your best. And when it comes to goals in general…“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars!” – Oscar Wilde
Cheers to working on your dream client list, and in turn your dream life!