“Five minutes into the call I knew this client was going to make my life miserable. The problem was, I already said ‘Yes.’”
Into every professional practice falls a little rain, or better said…walks in a nightmare client. You start losing sleep by a couple of hours every night, you keep thinking about her project during your lunch time, and you feel like your life has been taken over by this client.
What a nightmare! Didn’t we go into the business for ourselves to enjoy it? Do we not have the choice of who to work with? Of course, we do! The challenge is in recognizing a difficult client early enough to say “No.”
So how do you do that? First, determine what “difficult” means to you. It may mean different things to different people. For example, while some professionals will be happy to take a phone call from a client between 9 and 5, others may have a special time set aside for phone calls. While some business owners love getting detailed specifications for a project, others may feel trapped and limited in their creativity.
What is a difficult client
To help you decide what things may be important to you, here are some of the most common traits of difficult clients:
- They do not respect your time
- They tell you how to do your work
- They always check up on you
- They constantly change their mind about a project
- They knit pick over every detail
- They try to intimidate you into doing things you haven’t agreed to
- They treat you as if they’re the boss and you are the employee
- They have little respect for your expertise
- They call you at a non-scheduled time
- They frequently e-mail you with questions, which require long replies
- They ask you to throw in a few extras without offering to pay extra
- They keep reminding you how high your fees are
- They are frequently disappointed with your work
- They won’t pay on time, but ask you to continue working with them
- They frequently cancel or reschedule your meetings
- They believe they are your only client, and demand your full attention
You can complete this list by adding a few other traits that you find annoying or unacceptable in your business, or to your life style.
Red flags: Early warnings of a difficult client
Once you know what’s important to you, how do you look for signs that this may be a difficult client? First of all, listen to your intuition. It’s easy to ignore the red flags, especially if you’re hungry for business.
“Your gut is never wrong,” one IT consultant said. “Whenever I’ve ended up with a nightmare client, it’s because I didn’t listen to my instinct and I went for the zeroes.”
Listen to your instinct. Additionally, do your best to avoid clients that:
- Don’t want to sign a contract
- Are in a big hurry
- Are looking for the cheapest provider
- Are your friends and relatives
Create a profile of your ideal client, and check every prospect against it before taking them on. “This is crazy!” you may be thinking. “Won’t choosing clients so carefully cost me business?” Not really.
Usually, you will spend more time on a difficult client (time that you could spend prospecting, working with other clients, or simply taking a break), your mood and personal life may become affected by this project, and you may even end up not being paid at all!
Screen your prospects carefully, and instantly improve the quality of your business life.
Assessments – your best friend in screening clients
After reading this, you may be thinking that screening takes too much work and time. Bear with me, because this task has just become as easy as 1-2-3.
You can completely automate the screening process, by asking your prospects to complete an assessment before you take them on. If you’re satisfied with their answers, you know they’re probably your ideal client. If you’re not happy with the results of the assessment, then you should think hard before saying “Yes” to this prospect.
The questions you ask should include the things that are important to you as a business owner, and as a person. You may ask them about how they worked with professionals in the past, what their style of communication is, how much time they plan to devote to this project, what their deadline is, how committed they are to completing it, and so on. Refer to your ideal client profile when putting together a list of questions.
The fact that they’re willing to spend time answering an extensive list of questions already shows that this is a serious prospect, and helps you weed out as many “time-wasters” as possible.
So how do you actually automate the screening process? Very simple. You can use AssessmentGenerator2.com, a tool that allows you to create your own forms and assessments, and have them on your web site within minutes. Whenever you get a new prospect, send them a link to your online assessment and ask them to complete it before your first call.
AssessmentGenerator does not require you to know any HTML or install any scripts. Simply enter your questions and the e-mail address, where you want to receive completed assessments, and it’s ready to be added to your site.
You can also create self-scoring assessments, where you and your prospect can see a score based on how they answered questions. Self-scoring assessments are great when you want to work only with clients who reached a certain level of readiness in something. For example, you may only want to work with business owners who understand the importance of marketing. Their assessment score will show you how ready they are to work with you.
Many professionals already conduct assessments when they first meet their clients. The problem is, they do it over the telephone, which means they have to set aside a half-hour or more to determine if this prospect is their ideal client. If he or she is not, then they have just wasted their precious time, which could’ve been spent on a more productive activity.
Automating the screening process with AssessmentGenerator.com will make your life easier and business more enjoyable. Here’s to ideal clients and a stress-free business!