4 Clues That Your Prospective Client May Not Be A Great Fit

Not every prospective client will be a great fit

The other day I was talking to an agency owner who had a tough year last year. Not shocking given how tough things were for everyone last year. But what was interesting was that most of the challenges came from one single issue – they had said yes to clients that weren't great fits for their agency.

As we talked about it, all the signs were there. They just hadn't noticed them until it was too late. Projects became frustrating for the team, profits started disappearing, and the agency owner thought about quitting.

So here are 5 clues that your prospective client may not be a great fit.

They tell you how well off they are….

Look, there's nothing wrong with a prospective client telling you that they had a great year. But when a prospective client spends a good amount of time telling you how well off they are, it might be a sign of some challenges to come.

When a client has done well, it's often because they've made good choices. In the business that they know. When they hire an agency like yours, they're hiring you for what you know.

But when they tell you about their success (over and over), it can be the hint that they believe all their decisions are great. Even when they're not working in their area of expertise.

So pay attention to this. It's not make or break. But pay attention.

There is excessive negations over the proposal

How do you know if a client may not be a great fit? Count the total interactions over the proposal.

By the time you send a proposal over, you and they have had lots of conversations and you are pretty clear on the work you'll need to do.

Now, it's normal to expect a couple of back and forth interactions on timelines or price. But if the count of phone calls and emails starts going up, it might be a red flag.

I'm not saying every prospect who wants to understand the nuances will become a high maintenance client. But I'm not saying they won't. 🙂

So listen to that little voice in your head that may be telling you that this client won't be a great fit.

They're emailing you on the weekends

When I look back at clients that weren't great fits, they often struggled with boundaries. It's not just emails. But early emails are a nice proxy for seeing how clients will interact with you during a project.

I already explained how I work with weekend emails.

That new prospective client may not be a great fit if you're getting emails all day and night.

There's no give and take

I already highlighted that tons of touch points during a negotiation is a red flag. But there's another dynamic worth watching out for when you're working on the contract.

It suggests that when the project begins, and scope creep happens, you're going to be working with someone who is easily anchored and can't navigate the natural give and take as projects proceed.

As you work on the deal, you may want to make a change. It doesn't have to be a big change. Maybe you adjust the response time when they contact you about an issue (from 4 hours to 6 hours, for example). Then watch how they react.

I'm not telling you to test your prospective client. But I'm telling you to test your prospective client. How well do they navigate small changes? Is there a natural adjustment with a normal amount of give and take?

If there's not, it may be a red flag.

What to do if you discover that a prospect isn't a great fit

I've likely told you the story of a guy who called me up with a great business plan. When he told me what it was, it was simply a domain name. Now, right away, I was out. Nope. Not for me. A domain isn't a business model.

So I passed him on to a friend who worked with him for 9 months to build a site that apparently isn't there anymore (this was before the iPhone).

My buddy sent me cigars for sending him the referral. And 9 months later, my buddy called me up for advice on how to fire a client. I gave it to him and he sent me a case of wine. (Then I found out it was the same guy.)

I benefited from figuring out that the prospective client wasn't for me faster than someone else might have.

If you discover a prospective client isn't for you – that doesn't mean they're not a client for someone. So be generous passing out leads that don't fit your business. But you may also want to highlight what the challenges may be (as I did with my friend) so that they're going into it with eyes wide open.