Yesterday, I posted about the importance of taking time to qualify every prospect that comes your way. This not only protects your time, but it also allows you to focus your time on potential clients who seem to be the best fit for your business.In this post, I’ll explore eight of the points you should include in your qualification process for potential clients. While your measures may change as you move through the different stages of your business, the overall process should remain the same. It should be the primary check that determines if a prospect is worth your time and energy or if it’s best to pass.
This process of analysis is a two-way street! As a potential client, you can use similar criteria to determine if a service provider is the right fit for you.
You are able to effectively communicate with each other.
This is the first factor because I consider it to be one of the most important. If you and the potential client have difficulty communicating from the get-go, chances are it will only get worse as the relationship progresses. On a related note, this is the time to get a feel for how your personalities mesh before committing to each other.
The prospect exhibits a need that aligns with what you do.
If a potential client comes to you looking for assistance building a custom CMS with extensive “homemade” functionality, and you’re a graphic designer, you are likely not the best fit for the client. Take time to get a clear idea of what the client needs so you can effectively determine how you match up with that need.
The project timeline fits your availability and is realistic.
Timing is an often-overlooked factor that should be taken into consideration. Don’t wait until all of the preliminary work is completed and you’re kicking off the official project to discover that the client wants the work done tomorrow. Ask about the timeline for the project during your first contact so you can plan accordingly and make sure your schedule will allow you to complete the work on time.
The prospect understands your rates and how you bill.
I like to give potential clients an idea of my rates right from the beginning so neither one of us wastes the other’s time if we’re light-years apart on the payment issue. Before investing significant time, it’s a good idea to share even a loose idea of what you charge, combined with an outline of how you expect to be paid (a portion upfront, by check or credit card, etc.).
All measures show that the prospect fits your criteria of an ideal client.
You should have an idea of the “perfect” client you aim to incorporate into your business. Having a client wish list can help you handpick your clients so you’re in position for developing long-term relationships. While you may be flexible in this, make sure the potential client passes enough of your criteria to make it worth your time.
The person you’re in contact with has decision-making power.
One way to waste time is by communicating with an assistant or secondary person at the company who doesn’t have decision-making power. While this person may initiate the conversation, if you aren’t in any contact with the person who will make the hiring decision, you may have a long road ahead.
The prospect is ready to make a decision.
Just as you need to know you are communicating with the decision-maker, you’ll also want to get a feel for where the prospect is in the process. Is he in the final stages of interviewing providers or is he just kicking some tires?
There are no other red flags being waved.
The last factor is based primarily on your gut — how does it feel? Do you have any other areas of concern that have the potential to come back and bite you later on? Have you Googled the prospect and found some questionable or worrisome information? Now is the time to listen to that little voice and heed the warnings.If a prospect doesn’t pass each of these tests, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot create a mutually beneficial relationship, but it can help you focus on pursuing the opportunities with the most potential.And if you decide to pass on a prospect because you simply feel it’s not a good match, refer him on to a colleague whom you feel can better meet his needs to create a positive situation for everyone.How do you determine if a prospect has the potential to become a good client for your business?Image credit: celiece