In one of my recent columns, I wrote about the three types of clients every business wants to avoid. Let's face it; no one likes to tell a customer, "Sorry, but things just aren't working out," so finding the ideal clients to start with is a good preventative measure.
Ideal clients are the ones we really created our companies to serve. They are the people who make it all worthwhile. They're the customers that brighten our day and light us up. It's also worth mentioning that magically, they also seem to be the ones who pay the fastest. Oh, and they are often the most profitable. Hmmm.
But how exactly can you secure this magical roster of rock-star clients? Start by defining what makes up your unique ideal client profile. In my experience there are two core qualities that all great clients have in common:
They trust themselves and you.
Of all the qualities I look for in an ideal client, trust is at the top of the list. When a client trusts me, I am able to be more effective at doing my job. Oddly enough, their trust in you usually has nothing to do with you at all.
For example: When a potential client is looking at hiring me for just a one-hour Rent My Brain consulting session and wants three references, I know this person, as lovey a human being as they may be, doesn't trust themselves.
In other words, their inability to take the low financial and time risk of hiring me for an hour of my time without "proof" means they don't have either a good intuitive, or business, sense of things. My best clients are people who know their "gut" and make decisions based on a balance between good business sense and inner knowing.
As one entrepreneur said to me on this topic recently, "I'm past the point of having to prove myself; I look for clients who get it." Seasoned businesspeople who have an intuitive sense of what feels right to them usually make great clients.
They have high hopes and realistic expectations.
Ideal clients begin projects with the belief that it will all turn out in the end, but with the understanding that realistically, on the way to getting there, things may come up.
The best clients have the flexibility as people to roll with punches and pivot as needed and are willing to do their part to achieve the objective set.
When clients meet these criteria, you can do your best work, instead of constantly worrying that you are falling short of expectations. Having the feeling that you can "win" with a client helps create a smooth relationship dynamic, in both the short and long term.
As small business owners and entrepreneurs, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking all business is good business--but it's not. Bad clients with unrealistic expectations cost us time, money and peace of mind. Good ones create long-term value and a happier work life.
What type of client do you want more of?
Think about your favorite clients over the years. What combination of qualities did they possess? To create your ideal client profile, ask yourself:
- What are the problems that I do the best job of solving?
- What are the changes, or results, I excel at creating?
- Who are the people who have these problems and want these results?
- What kinds of clients do I do my best work with?
- What types of people and businesses do I find inspiring to work with?
- What sorts of clients leave me more energized?
- What sorts of clients leave me feeling frustrated?
- What kinds of clients and companies do I feel I can be myself around?
The first step in getting more of the ideal clients you seek is to ask and answer these questions. After all, trusting yourself to know what you want is half the battle.