A few months ago, a prospect who had requested a sales consultation canceled his appointment after receiving some materials to review prior to the consultation. Of course, he couldn’t just cancel it; he felt compelled to write me a smug dissertation on my stupidity (his words) for sending him an antiquated CD (gasp!) along with multiple reports that were several pages long — far more copy than anyone reads “these days.”
If you’ve been in business for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve come across a few “disagreeable” prospects, and maybe a few are even clients now, much to your dismay. So, what can you do about it? There are a few things, actually.
For starters, you need to be clear on who your most productive clients are and set up sales and marketing litmus tests to sift, sort, and screen through the majority who do not fit that profile. I have made it an intention of mine to only work with smart, respectful, competent people who have honest ambition, and I have intentionally designed my coaching groups so that clients enter at the bottom and only ascend to the highest levels by invitation and interviews.
Unfortunately, smart, respectful, and competent people are in short supply these days. So, when I find them, I work doubly hard to keep them around and grow my relationship with them. Most people do the opposite, either treating all clients the same or (worse) giving the unproductive, chronically unhappy clients the majority of their time and attention in an attempt to appease them. The best clients get ignored because things are “good.” Furthermore, many business owners let the whiners and complainers erode their confidence and alter how they do business in an attempt to make them happy, which can then alienate their best customers.
For example, I intentionally send “long” reports and information in advance of a sales meeting as a litmus test. If a prospect isn’t interested enough to read through the free material, how productive are they going to be as a client? The answer is not very. They’re a refund waiting to happen. If the aforementioned prospect regarded what I sent him as “too much information to read,” he’s absolutely going to implode when I ask him to be a serious student who reads, listens to, and learns various lessons from the content we deliver to become an educated marketer and understand the underlying principles, philosophies, and strategies necessary to create productive marketing systems. Someone with honest ambition and a good work ethic would eat it up and be delighted to get so much quality material for free. The quick-fix crowd is repulsed.
Additionally, the CD in the mail is still a big driver for us in closing new clients. Yes, the media is quickly disappearing, but it’s far from dead yet. This may shock you, but according to an article in Fast Company, 51% of all music is still sold via CD. I’d be an idiot if I stopped sending CDs because some non-reading moron doesn’t have a CD player in his car. I know my business, and that CD still drives a significant number of sales each year, so it stays until the actual testing and results prove different. Many IT companies make the mistake of getting too far ahead of their clients with technology, assuming (wrongly) that everyone has a smartphone and email and prefers digital everything over “old-fashioned” faxes, direct mail, and physical materials. Folks, that’s a giant mistake. You are not your clients, and making decisions based on your personal inclinations over the communication preferences of your clients is an enormous sales-killing mistake.
Here’s a very important question to ponder: What litmus tests do you have in place to ensure you only deal with clients who you can be the most productive with? What hoops can you put them through? What are your non-negotiables?
Candidly, I made the mistake early on in my business of taking on any client who could fog a mirror and clear a check. I overlooked outrageous insults and seriously bad behavior from a handful of clients for fear of backlash, criticism, and getting a bad review online. Nobody needs or wants a vengeful client out in the marketplace with a personal mission to throw tacks under your tires. But here’s what I know: Your regret in bending to the will of an ill-fitting client will be greater than your regret in missing the money they represent. It is better to put yourself in a situation of not needing their money or approval by having a solid marketing system in place to consistently bring you fresh new leads and opportunities. Aside from the obvious benefit of more sales, it strengthens your resolve and lowers your tolerance for bad behavior.
Now, one final word on critics. It’s best if you develop thick skin and ignore them, or they’ll poison your thoughts and actions to the point that you’re not able to do anything for fear of making a mistake. Anyone with a public persona who puts themselves “out” in the world while attempting something of significance knows that opinions are like arseholes — everyone’s got ’em, and they all stink. If you are attempting to do any kind of marketing, get ready for it. You will be attacked and criticized by people who will freely give you their unwelcome advice on what you should be doing and point out what you’ve done wrong. Nuts to ’em.
One of the downsides of social media is that it’s given a platform to every vile idiot who feels the need to give their uneducated and unwelcome opinions about other people. Some are out-of-control attack dogs who cross the line, spreading total fabrications and outright lies. If you wallow in what’s being said about you and to you, it can seriously hinder your confidence and distract you from more productive work. To the best of your ability, ignore them and let the swamp urchins feed on each other.
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