Pop Goes The Client

Dave Hecker
Dave Hecker

For the last month or so, I’ve been working with two particularly great prospects from our sales pipeline. Both potential clients are right in our target market and need substantial amounts of lucrative services, so we’ve been motivated to get them signed.

We had the usual exchange of e-mails, phone calls, and questions with both clients but in the end we signed one of the clients and decided to pass on the other. Simply put, one of the clients began to look less and less attractive as negotiations unfolded while the other proved to be easy to deal with in just about every way.

Both ‘Client A’ and ‘Client B’ both started out as strong prospects – established, substantial companies with good credit and lots of work. When we first sent out the contract, however, the differences became apparent.

Client A asked for some small and routine changes to the contract, mostly over the arbitration rules and some non-disclosure language. The changes were very reasonable so we were happy to comply. Meanwhile, Client B accepted all the terms of the contract but suddenly asked for a reduction on the hourly rate! This was a real shocker because the client had reacted positively to the exact same rate two weeks earlier. Not a good sign, and we respectfully refused the reduction.

Client A then asked us if we could assign them a dedicated QA manager out of our India group. We explained that this doesn’t fit our resource model, but Client A was persistent and we finally agreed that they would have a dedicated QA manager if, and only if, they maintained a minimum monthly spend on QA. This turned out to be a win-win for everyone, and we got on the phone to hash out any remaining points. Client A remained respectful and positive throughout, and we soon had a signed contract between our two companies.

If only Client B had such a good attitude. They became frustrated at our unwillingness to reduce the rate, despite the fact that we offered to throw in everything from hosting to more favorable payment terms. To make matters worse, our main contact at Client B suddenly handed us over to the President of the company who explained that our rate was ‘just too high’. It was quite clear that his intent was to use his executive skill to negotiate the deal, but all it really did was show me how rude and unsavvy he is. Client B was worth twice as much as Client A, but I was getting annoyed with them and we hadn’t even started working together– not a good sign.

Then came the moment when it was clear that our relationship with Client B was not to be: The President of Client B told me that he ‘might consider’ our rate if only our design work ‘popped off the page’ as much as his previous vendor. When I hear a client say that they need it to ‘pop’, I usually run for the door. Just for fun, I asked him what happened to that vendor and he said that they weren’t a good ‘fit’ anymore. I bet he’s been through a lot of vendors this year!

I respectfully explained that we probably wasn’t a ‘good fit’ either and thanked him for his time. What a relief! If there is a lesson here (besides to avoid clients who say ‘pop’) it’s that you get back what you give, and that good business is based on good, respectful relationships.