Over the past two weeks, I’ve written about how we allow clients and prospects to mistreat us and shared my seven steps to a having well-trained client. During that time, I’ve read well over a hundred comments from web designers and developers eager to share their experiences. While some didn’t have a problem saying “no” to clients who pushed the boundaries, others found themselves caving into unreasonable demands, agreeing to do additional work free of charge, or waiting indefinitely to receive payment because of clients who never sent content. Many feel justifiably mistreated or abused.
Yet, focusing exclusively on how frustrating or upsetting this is only serves to keep you victimized. If things are to change, you first must take responsibility for allowing clients treat you this way, and then take the necessary action steps to stop it. After all, if you continue doing what you’ve always done, and you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always got. Here are some actionable steps you can put in place tomorrow that will change your situation immediately.
Action Step #1: Attempt to “Disqualify” Prospects Early-On
What this Solves:
Wasting time with prospects aren’t serious, have no budget, or expect a lot of work for minimal money
It happens all the time. You get a hot lead or a referral, so you pick up the phone, set an appointment, then drive across town to meet him … only to find out he’s not so hot after all.
My top pet peeve is ‘prospects’ who want to talk web design with me for what seems like hours on end but don’t actually have a budget. I don’t mind talking about how I do things or advising people without a budget how to get a good web presence for free. What I don’t like is prospects who tell me they want me to create them the best website possible, perfectly tailored to their business, and are then shocked that I want to charge them more than the price of a pizza. If the whole process is over quickly then it’s no big loss, but those who need to make sure you understand their whole vision for their business before they get to the bit where they don’t want to pay, those people waste time and energy I don’t have to spare. – Richard Coates, owner of web firm Anatomy of Restlessness
Save yourself that 45 minute drive and a fruitless two hour meeting by having a preliminary telephone conversation first, to determine if there’s even a reason to meet.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but actively attempt to “disqualify” him as a potential client by looking for show-stoppers—reasons why you can’t do business together. What qualifies as a show-stopper? Discovering the prospect thinks $300 is a lot of money for a website when your base price starts at five times that amount. Or someone who pretends to be a buyer but only wants a price quote to reassure themselves that their current developer isn’t overcharging. I can go on and on.
Ask Probing Questions to Uncover Needs and Wants
You need to have a sales process in place, one that includes asking the right questions. I have a list of questions I ask during the initial phone conversation, and a set of more detailed ones for the face-to-face meeting. One of those initial questions is:
“A basic site starts at $XXXX. Are you prepared to spend that much?”
Follow me on Twitter and I’ll send you my free guide, 27.5 Must-Ask Questions for Consultative Selling.
When it comes to selling your services, there are two things you can’t overcome: ignorance and poverty. A preliminary phone conversation should weed out both, so by the time you actually meet with the prospect, you’ll already know what he’s trying to accomplish, and that he wants it, needs it, and can afford it.
Inquiring about both want and need may seem redundant, but they’re not the same thing. He may want it, but he may not need it badly enough to be willing to pay a fair price for it. He may need it, but not want the type of solution you provide. Or, he can need it and want it, but if he can’t pay for it … well, we both know how that’s going to end.
I’ve found that a preliminary conversation before a face-to-face meeting helps get the process “over quickly.” Remember, if you’re going to lose, lose early. Once you do actually meet, continue looking for show-stoppers. Once all of these have been eliminated, there’s no reason not to do business together, is there?
Yes, it really is that simple.
Next week: Action Step #2: How to stop giving away too much free information
This is Part 3 of the series Putting a Stop to Abusive Client Behavior:
- Stop Client Abuse of Web Designers Now!
- Stop the Abuse! 7 Steps to a Well-Trained Client
- Stop Wasting Time with Prospects Who Aren’t Serious
- Stop Giving Away So Much Free Information!
- Stop Writing Proposals to Win Business
- Stop Doing the Same Things and Expecting Different Results
- Stop Waiting to Get Paid! How to Collect Even when Your Client Delays
- Stop Getting Walked on and Set Some Boundaries Already
- Stop the Slippery Slope of Scope Creep
- Stop Making Endless Design Changes
- Stopping Abusive Clients: The Complete Process
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.