How do you choose your client: Choosing Quality Over Quantity

At our law firm, I attend all initial client consultations with the managing member of our firm, Steven Blount.  I try to take notes on non-legal details like partner’s names, addresses and other administrative items that may assist the attorneys in serving the client.  As the potential clients discuss the issues in their business that brought them into our office, I am reminded of how many common themes present themselves as problems or questions to business owners.  These same issues tend to plague entrepreneurs of all ages, educational backgrounds, experience and business size.  One such issue that I often hear discussed in our conference room is, “What kind of customer should my business target?”

Sometimes, our potential client doesn’t directly ask this question in our consultation.  Rather, he talks about how his accounts receivable is so large, and most of his accounts are aged 90 days or more.  He complains about how difficult it is to make payroll, or manage expenses in the slower summer months.  Sometimes, the potential legal client is discussing how to manage a cumbersome and lengthy contract.  Other clients of ours have issues with customers who cannot be satisfied and who are constantly complaining, despite all efforts to address their concerns.  All of these questions truly stem from the same issue.

In business, we must carefully choose our customers.  When we advise a business owner to reconsider seeking out this huge account that they are trying to land, they wonder if we have lost our minds.  “This is a HUGE account!” “Everyone in town is trying to land this deal, and WE are the ones getting it!”  It may be a great account, but there are many factors to consider before deciding that it is the right account for your business.

 

Some things to consider when deciding what customers to target are:

  • How will the customer pay their bills? If they are currently using another vendor for the service you provide, how does their account stand.  Do they have good credit references?  A slow paying customer will cost you money in the long run.
  • How does the customer treat you and your staff? If a customer doesn’t treat your staff with respect, they are costing you money in lost productivity.  Unhappy employees do not work as efficiently as they do when they feel as if they are serving satisfied customers and employers. Do they show up for their appointments, or late cancel their appointments?  This is a very important consideration, because in business, time IS money, and that appointment time could have been used for other, income producing activities.  Customers should value your time as much as their own.
  • Does the customer have integrity? To some people, this may sound like an odd qualification for a customer.  But, think about it.  Do you want a customer with a lack of integrity or a bad reputation talking about your business all over town?  Consider who you would like your name or business name associated with long term.  Choose clients who you would like MORE of, and keep them happy.  They will tell their friends about your business, and chances are, their friends will be a lot like them.
  • Can I handle this account?  Bigger isn’t always better.  If you take on business that you are not yet ready for, you may not have the resources, employees or finances to complete the job.  This may result in an unhappy customer and a terrible advertisement by way of a bad review for years to come.
  • How is the relationship managed? Do you enjoy a great relationship with your client?  Is the communication open and positive or strained and negative?  Is there a contract between yourself and your client for the services that you provide?  Do you go over this contract together?  Do you feel that you both benefit from your relationship, or does it feel one-sided?  These are very important variables to consider when determining the quality of your client.  Communication is always key when there is a disagreement, because even with the best clients, disagreements can and will occur.  How these disagreements are handled can define the relationship in the future.

There are many more questions that you can and should ask yourself before taking on a new client.  As a business owner, consider drafting a list of questions to ask before you decide to take on any new client, or sign a new contract.  If they don’t meet your standards, let them be your competitor’s problem!

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Written by blountlaw