How accessible are you?
It is important in selling services to provide differing degrees of access to people based on how valuable they are to you.
Give the most access to your best clients, including response to emails and voice mail within 20 minutes, and perhaps even a dedicated phone line. They are your best source of current dollars, future work, and referrals. Treat them preferentially, and delight them with incredible service. I work with a bunch of web professionals, and generally am much less inclined to negotiate hard with those whom I know will get back to me and do the job. It is important for clients to feel special.
Give excellent access to prospects with pressing needs who have a high chance of hiring you. They are judging you now, knowing that how you respond to them during the selling process is a good indicator of how you’ll respond once you hire them. I’m working with one team now who was extremely responsive during the sales process, and continues to be responsive now. It’s a pleasure.
Also give top access to your best referral sources, the 20% that brings in 80% of your referrals.
As for the rest, you have to make some tough choices. I find that with “lousy” clients, the less accessible I am, the more they value me. I become scarce, and also let them know that I won’t put up with their garbage. It puts me on equal footing, and also limits the time I spend reacting to their crises.
The same is true for prospects who want free advice, much more so. I’m polite, but also say, “I have to prioritize my time for paying clients. If you’d like to move forward, I can make more time for you. But I’m not sure you have the budget or desire to hire me.”
Written down, the above sounds obvious. But I watch my marketing consulting clients, and how they spend their time. Fewer than you might expect are good at choosing and prioritizing how they spend their time, and how accessible they are.