Get “RID” of the Undecided: How to Qualify Potential Clients

Magnifying GlassA critical part of building a successful business is identifying what makes a client good for you, and being able to measure potential clients against that baseline. While your ideal client criteria will likely be unique to you, there are some important factors that are universal when it comes to deciding if a prospect would make a good client.

If you don’t spend the necessary time analyzing these elements, you may find yourself being dragged along with no commitment, spending time following up with little potential, or just wasting your time on a client who is neither a good fit for you nor able to make the necessary operational and budgetary decisions to make the work even happen.

Gauge the Client’s RID

RID stands for Readiness, Interest and Decision-Making Power — the core factors of qualifying a prospect. Here is what you should look for in analyzing these elements in a potential client:

  • Readiness: Many times, clients start looking for contractors very early in the process. While this is usually a great thing because it shows that they are serious about the work and finding the right person to get it done, it could also mean the project itself is a long, long way off. It’s up to you how much time you want to put into the planning and if you feel it’s a viable opportunity. But it never hurts to get a feel for how ready they are to get started, so be sure to get a timeline for the project and when they expect to launch, etc. Then you can make an educated decision on how to proceed.
  • Interest: Is the client price-shopping or are they seriously interested in what you have to offer? This is usually pretty easy to measure – i.e., if a client’s main concern is your rates, and your services, availability and experience come second.
  • Decision-Making Power: Is the person contacting you the one who will make the decision about who the work is awarded to? If not, they may simply be an information-gatherer, so you’ll probably want to limit your time invested. While you certainly want to be forthcoming with information in order to be advanced to the next stage of the selection process, it’s in your best interest to arrange one-on-one meetings with the person who is making the decision in order to ask the questions you need to get answers to in order to determine if this might be a good fit.

If the potential client doesn’t demonstrate ALL of these factors, they are probably not going to turn into a paying client any time soon, so it may be time to steer clear.

Other Criteria

If the potential client passes the RID test, start to probe the secondary factors that will help you tell if a prospect is qualified:

  • Discuss Their Needs: Make sure you understand what they need done and that you are the right person to do it.
  • Talk Money: Don’t wait until the contract stage to discuss your rates. If you outline your rates up front and they balk immediately, it might be time to move on.
  • Run a Check: It never hurts to do some of your own research into the client and their company to make sure there are no skeletons hidden in the closet. Google them, check the Better Business Bureau and keep your ear to the ground for feedback from other contractors they may have worked with.

Use these factors as a tool to measure a client’s potential, but at the end of the day, the best thing you can do is just go with your gut. Usually your first impression is very telling and as long as you don’t ignore any glaring red flags, your instinct will probably lead you in the right direction.

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Image credit: Benis Arapovic

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  • http://www.andrew-brundle.com andrew-bkk

    This is a good post. From experience, I definitely agree that it’s best to get fees and deposits clarified as early as possible.

    If possible, overcharge a little and see what the client does. If they try to negotiate then they’re serious; if they don’t, they were probably never going to buy.

    It’s also important to assess their level of understanding, and it’s sometimes necessary to probe quite a lot in order to establish this.

  • http://www.thelanternjack.com/ John

    Thank you! You often write very interesting articles. You improved my mood.

  • Thomas norden

    I think it is of value to ser if there is budget.