Life is too short to work with bad clients.
And by “bad clients” I specifically mean “clients for whom you are not a good fit.”
Taking on bad clients just because you need the money is a short term solution that creates a long-term problem:
You end up getting paid poorly for work you hate.
Over. And over. And over...
Wash rinse and repeat.
In my 10+ years of consulting, I have learned to spot bad (for me) clients early in the sales cycle by being sensitive to certain interactions that I consider to be “red flags”:
- Prospect says the project “shouldn’t be too hard” or something to that effect.
- Prospect has a strong idea about how long the project will take.
- Prospect replies to email in a way that indicates they didn’t really read (or perhaps comprehend) my message.
- Prospect seems obsessed with price before we’ve even discussed the project.
- Prospect tells me that they have had bad experiences with consultants in the past.
- Prospect seems to run their business in an overly reactive way (vs a proactive way)
- Prospect asks me to sign an NDA before having an initial sales call.
- Prospect refuses to engage in a Why Conversation on our initial sales call.
- Prospect can’t answer Why questions to my satisfaction (and won’t/can’t put me in touch with someone who can).
- Prospect and I can’t agree upon clear business goals for the project.
- Prospect insists on what I believe to be unrealistic goals for the project.
- Prospect insists on what I believe to be an unrealistic timeline for the project.
Whenever I have ignored these red flags, I have ended up regretting it.
NOTE: My list is not meant to be used verbatim. Some of your red flags will probably be different from mine. Make your own list—and stick to it!
P.S. Implicit in advice like this is that you should be turning down work from prospects who are less than ideal for your business. If you’re not in a position to turn down bad clients, we should talk.
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