But that’s not what happens.
Which brings me to this very important point today: Everyone you come across is not your ideal client. (Or even your “kinda-sorta” client.)
It’s your job to figure out which prospects are worth your time and which are not. The sooner you can figure this out, the sooner you can be on your way to profitability.
Spiritual teachings say “judge not.” But when it comes to your business, you’d better judge — or size up — the situation right in front of you or you’ll waste a lot of time.
This is not about negatively judging someone as a human being and writing off that person as not worth your time. Of course not. But this is about being able to ascertain whether you are speaking with someone who will seriously consider purchasing from you or someone who will never buy what you are selling.
Many new entrepreneurs or service providers think everyone they come into contact with is a prospective client. They spend precious time talking about their businesses, what they offer, how they can help, only to realize after the fact that the person they were speaking with had no interest or means to purchase.
So how do you know who is a good prospect and who is not?
First, think about your ideal client. Who is this person? Write a description of your ideal client. Place the description somewhere you can see it — taped to your computer monitor, saved as a note on your phone, stuck to the wall beside your desk. The point is to remember your ideal client when speaking with prospects.
Second, consider what it is about your ideal client that makes this person ideal. Does your ideal client earn a certain amount of money, whether your ideal client is an individual or an organization? Does your ideal client live or work in a certain geographic area? Does your ideal client have certain other characteristics?
The reason it’s important to identify your ideal client and then pinpoint what about this person or business makes it ideal is because this helps you know where to focus your marketing efforts.
Ideal client or tire kicker?
If you encounter someone who does not fit within that definition, then you know this person is not your ideal client and this person may not need or be able to afford your services.
But not every person who buys from you will be your ideal client, so it’s not always enough to talk with only those who fit neatly into your ideal. I’ve landed projects from clients who were not part of my ideal, but they still needed and could afford what I offered.
The key then is to use context clues to gauge whether the person you are speaking with is likely or somewhat likely to purchase from you. You remember when you were in elementary school, you had to learn about context clues. Context clues, if you recall, helped you figure out the meaning of what you were reading. So it is here. You’ll need to use these clues to figure out the meaning of the interaction. Do the person’s answers to your probing questions suggest someone who is likely to consider purchasing from you or is this a tire kicker?
You know what a tire kicker is. This is someone who goes to a car lot to look at and “kick the tires” of the cars but isn’t really a buyer. It’s just a person who wants to go through the exercise. And while a tire kicker has plenty of time to waste like that, you do not.
So you have to figure out if you are speaking with someone who is a serious buyer or a tire kicker.
For instance, if you offer a high-priced, premium service, then the context clues will help you determine if the person you are speaking with might be interested in and able to afford your services. If the conversation reveals the person is just starting out in business and has no cash flow, then this may not be someone who can afford what you offer. If you offer haircare products and you’re speaking with someone who is bald, then that person may not be someone interested in what you have to sell. Context clues.
When you encounter someone who may not be your ideal — or even “kinda-sorta” — client, then figuring that out early in the interaction will help save you time, effort, and disappointment. That is because if you are speaking with someone who will never buy from you anyway, then you can provide the basic information that is requested, but you know you will not want to spend undue time on that interaction. You would be better served spending your time meeting the needs of those who truly need and can afford what you offer.
When you figure this out, that will help reduce the level of disappointment, as well. Because let’s face it, when you are starting out in business and you take the time to put together a sales presentation or quote, answer questions, and do all the necessary things to land the deal and then you don’t get it, you are disappointed. But what if you realize that not getting the deal wasn’t about a failing on your part or about your service not being good enough? What if you realized it was just because the person you were trying to woo just was never interested in the first place? Wouldn’t realizing this save a lot of disappointment?
Need AND ability to pay go together
The reality is that many people will want what you offer. They’d love to have someone come in and do the thing you do. But they can’t afford it. They’ll never buy from you.
Rather than agonizing over your rate and lowering it to ridiculous levels in an attempt to land that particular client, go find the ideal client. Go find the person who needs what you have AND can pay for it. Those two conditions go together.
Reply to everyone who requests information
That said, judge each interaction based on its own merits. A person may not be an ideal client, but he or she may still end up doing business with you because of other reasons. Maybe the person realizes the value of what you offer and while it may appear that he can’t afford what you offer, he may make a sacrifice to purchase from you. Maybe he’ll save up the money or sell an asset or cut back somewhere else.
That is why, even as you try to quickly gauge whether someone is an ideal client or not, you still want to give each person who requests information about your services the courtesy of a reply.That doesn’t mean the reply has to be long or as time-consuming as the one you would give an ideal client or hot lead. Maybe you have a template or form reply. Maybe you have an FAQ page you can send the person to. Maybe you have an abbreviated answer to the question asked. Maybe you spend five minutes on the phone instead of 45.
Do you spend a lot of time on leads that go nowhere? Why or why not?