The Prove Yourself Trap

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The Client Letter
The Prove Yourself Trap
Friends Don’t Let Friends
Work With Bad Clients

April 25, 2012
Sedona, Arizona

At some point in your career, you’re going to run into clients who aren’t sure they should be working with you.

You’ll be talking about working together and they’ll make it clear that they’re on the fence about moving forward.

They might ask for a current client to contact. Or maybe they’ll ask for names of previous clients they can speak with to “make sure it’s a good fit.”

Your response to such a suggestion is important and should not be taken lightly.

The main reason is because your actions will set a precedent in your own mind that you will remember for some time to come.

If a prospective client asks you for “references,” understand that this is a clue.

Do you really want to be working with someone that requires this amount of convincing? Maybe, maybe not. That’s your choice.

There’s no reason to have an attitude about it, of course. Prospective clients are free to ask for whatever they want. My point is that you see clearly that a request like this is not the problem… it is a symptom of the problem.

Stop Shortchanging Yourself!! Ever get off the phone with a client annoyed that you shortchanged yourself on fees or terms of a project? Next time, try this before you pick up the phone.

And because of that, treating the symptom (by giving names of clients for them to contact) is like a band-aid that only covers the underlying issue.

The underlying issue is that there is not enough trust there to support the project.

I made this mistake in a big way once. Years ago, I asked a client to field a phone call from a prospective client.

The prospective client wanted to make sure I was for real I guess. My project fees were relatively high (compared to the other proposals) and I guess the prospective client was looking for some reassurance.

The more likely case was that this person was looking for a rationalization to cross me off the list.

The client I asked for a phone meeting was a client where my work (in conjunction with a partner) led to a doubling of company profits in about 30 days. Not too shabby.

“This should go smoothly,” I thought. Right.

Well, guess what, I never got that client. You know why?

Because I ignored the clues and pushed forward, that’s why.

Here are some takeaways:

First of all, I’d recommend you never inconvenience a current client in an attempt to get a new client.

Current clients have no incentive to help you grow your business. And I don’t believe it helps you in the long run to have clients doing you favors. You do your clients favors.

These days, I react a bit differently to a request like this. When this kind of thing happens, I simply pull back and move on.

Sure, I might provide information like comments from clients etc., but I don’t push to convince anyone. And in my mind, I simply move on to the next opportunity. There’s a whole world full of opportunity.

I don’t make a big deal out of it and I try not to have an attitude. But life is short, and I’m not in the business of convincing people as a way to sell.

That probably sounds like a crazy sales strategy, but I’m sticking to it.

Your marketing, your results and your body of work is what you use to “prove” yourself. If it takes more than that to get a client, maybe that’s not the right client for you.

See you next time,

Jason Leister
Editor, The Client Letter
Creating Success for Independent Professionals

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