Much of the sales process is focused on your company’s value and how you can best serve a new client. While this certainly should be a top priority, you must look beyond the idea of selling yourself to anyone who walks in the door. After all, the relationship between a service provider and a client goes both ways.
Think about it: If you run a luxury event company, you’re marketing and selling to clients who aren’t going to shy away from a steep estimate. However, you may have an inquiry from someone who dreams that you’re the right fit regardless of price. The problem is that they can’t afford you. They know that they want to hire you and so they’ll try to squeeze as much out of you as possible. This is not a good fit for you.
It’s not always about the budget; in some cases, it could be clashing personalities or mismatched values. If you are an LGBTQ+ advocate in your market, you might have trouble working with someone who is against the idea of same-sex marriage. Likewise, they may be a micromanager, which might not sit well with you. On the other hand, they might be too apathetic about the process, which could also signify future discord.
A thorough vetting of your clients early on can save you the trouble of working with the wrong people, as well as the time spent selling to someone who ultimately won’t book with you.
Here are a few tips for assessing clients to determine whether they’re a good fit:
1. Start with pricing.
In some cases, providing a quote can make or break a sale. This can be an excellent way to start, as it weeds out anyone who doesn’t value your services at their cost. Being upfront with pricing prevents a situation in which you spend hours trying to win over a client, only to find that their budget is half of what you thought it was. You can still express all of the benefits and value that a client gets from your company, but giving them a raw number to visualize will show you how much they value your work.
2. Recognize red flags.
Everybody has different red flags based on several factors, such as core values, business size, pricing structure and specific market. However, there are a few common factors that we should all keep an eye out for throughout the sales process.
In particular, you should be cautious of anyone who over-questions your policies or is hesitant to sign off on your terms. In some cases, it could merely be a cautious reaction, or it could be a situation where the client is trying to change your contract and take advantage of your services. Stick to your policies and procedures; if you let someone bend your rules, you risk setting a dangerous precedent for your company. If they are not happy with this, then encourage them to look elsewhere.
3. Maintain respectfulness.
It can be difficult to let a potential client walk away. Not only is that money going out the door, but it can also be uncomfortable to let someone down when they came to you with expectations. Still, you must do what’s best for your company. That doesn’t mean you need to be harsh or discouraging, even if you felt would-be client was disrespectful of you and your time. Tell them in a polite way that they may be better off working with another company and leave it at that.
4. Consider damage control.
In some unfortunate cases, you may discover late in the process that a client is not the right fit for your company. You’ve already invested time and hard work into their event, but now they’re showing the ugly side of their personality, or maybe they’re suddenly cost-averse when they weren’t earlier on.
If you find yourself facing issues with a client while deep in the process, you need to trust your gut and do what’s best for your company. In some cases, it might be putting on a smile, dealing with it, and chalking it up to a hard lesson learned. In other situations, it might be in your best interest to let your client go. Weigh the pros and cons of your options, and consult your team to get a feeling for how the situation could turn out.
5. Navigate vendor troubles carefully.
Sometimes, it can be an issue with another vendor rather than one with a client. Again, your best bet is to do what’s in your best interest as a company. Have respect for your terms and procedures, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel your standards been ignored.
We typically recommend continuing through to finish the current event, assuming your client doesn’t have a role in the situation. Your client should not fall victim to vendor discord. Do what you need to do to please the client, then have a frank discussion with the vendor(s) after the fact to explain why you can no longer work with them. As long as you are respectful and your reasons are valid, it’s usually for the best. You can always leave the door open in the future if they become open to working within your terms.
A big part of pre-qualifying clients is the conviction in what you stand for. If you’re comfortable sticking it out for a paycheck, do so with caution. If you’d rather cut ties early, do so with caution as well. Client management can be tricky no matter how you look at it, so be firm in your company’s values and don’t be afraid to say “no” when it matters.
Heather Rouffe is the director of sales and partner of Atlas Event Rental, a Boynton Beach, Fla.-based full-service event rental company serving the southern Florida market for more than 30 years. Recently named one of the top 30 rental companies by Special Events magazine, Atlas provides top-quality products and unparalleled customer service to each customer.