How to Avoid Cheap Clients, PART II

Andrew Neitlich
Andrew Neitlich

Great posts on Optimus Prime’s question about avoiding cheap clients.

In case you missed the comments, see:

Here are some additional thoughts, based on Optimus Prime’s posted response and self-diagnosis of the situation (e.g. he is perhaps perceived as a 23-year old whiz kid instead of a serious professional):

First, you get what you attract, based on how you speak, dress, express yourself, carry yourself, and the work you do. Put another way, the market is always right, and right now the market is sending you “cheap,” price-driven clients. To change what you are attracting, you need to overhaul your way of being. You need to reinvent yourself and your business.

Here are the key ways to do that:

1. Develop a powerful solution that is comprehensive and addresses your prospects’/clients’ top business issues. Start talking like someone who is more than a technical whiz kid, but also a business consultant.

2. Change your marketing message. Talk about your business in terms of business problems you solve, why you are unique, the benefits you provide, and proof (in terms of top tier clients you have worked with and the top tier solution you provided them; finesse this a bit if you have to).

3. Ask for referrals differently. Tell your clients what you are looking for and they type of work you want to do. Ask specific questions about “top tier” prospects that you think they might know.

4. Ask current clients for advice. Tell them you are concerned that you are being perceived as a 23-year old whiz kid, and want to be perceived differently. Ask them for advice on what they would do if they were in your shoes. Ask specific questions about your approach, work, first impressions, etc.

5. When you get referrals, cut off the price issue right up front. JMorrow’s reply to you was one way to do that. My script is different: “Mr. Prospect, I have one concern before we get going. Many people look at me and see a 23-year old kid, and think they are going to get a ridiculous price. I have to let you know up front that if you are looking for the lowest price, then I’m the wrong person. I provide high quality, comprehensive solutions, and do top tier work. If you care only about price and not quality, let me know now, so we don’t waste each other’s time.”

6. Videotape yourself — from dress to eye contact, voice tone, gestures, etc. — in a simulated client meeting. See for yourself the image you portray. Model yourself after someone who is getting top-tier clients, and change some of your behaviors and unintentional messages you might be conveying.

7. Get visible beyond referral sources. Find a way to speak, write, and do research about clients you perceive to be top tier. Make sure you have a powerful message for them that will convey what you need to convey to attract them.

8. Finally, be sure a cheap prospect really is cheap. I’ve worked with lots of people that I thought were cheap in the beginning. Once I proved my worth, they suddenly were willing to spend more. Sometimes you need to establish trust and a “beach head” first. It can be difficult to know who is really cheap and who is skeptical.

One other thought — Every consulting practice evolves over time. Many have to begin with “cheap” clients gradually move up the food chain. At that point, the top consultants gracefully “fire” old clients and begin delighting a new calibre of clients. This is a natural process, and takes patience (althought the steps above will accelerate the process).

Hope this helps…..