Why Prospects Need to Pass a Test Before They Become Clients

Mike Lieberman
Mike Lieberman




Something we learned early was that working with good clients is as important as almost anything else we do here. So while the prospects think they’re deciding whether to pick us, we’re also deciding whether we want to work with them at the same time.

Our company’s goal is to make every single client a raving fan. In fact, that’s one of our core values. If we bring on a client who has a bad attitude, is looking for a vendor, or doesn’t value what we do and how we do it, there’s very little chance he is ever going to be a raving fan.

We built a sales process that allows us to weed out clients who will never be raving fans for our agency, never allow us to do what we do best, and never provide our team with a fulfilling professional experience.

Here are the nine non-negotiables for us when we start talking to companies about working together.

  1. The client views us as a strategic partner, not just a vendor.
  2. The business owner or senior executive has committed to being involved in the engagement from start to finish.
  3. The company is committed to trying to be remarkable, at least in some way.
  4. The company is all in on inbound marketing.
  5. The company views marketing as an investment, not a cost.
  6. The business owner or senior executive understands the time frame required to plan, implement, and optimize an inbound marketing program and is willing to be patient while it rolls out.
  7. The business owner or senior executive understands he is going to need to participate in the process.
  8. Client push-back on program components and/or proposed investment results in either a reduction in projected results or a decision not to pursue the business. We don’t discount.
  9. The client and the identified point of contact treats us respectfully, professionally, and like people who are actively trying to help him grow his companies.

While we don’t share these with prospects, we do use these to evaluate opportunities. Our revenue team (the team responsible for turning leads into new clients) uses these nine non-negotiables to evaluate all our prospects throughout the sales process.

It usually takes more than one meeting or call to really get a feel for how each prospective client will do against each of these elements, so we keep track of each prospect during the sales process. We’ve seen opportunities that look iffy in the beginning turn into beautiful engagement opportunities by the time the paperwork is signed.

On the other hand, we’ve seen what look like a perfect alignment turn sour right before the client is picking his start date. This means our revenue team has to stay engaged and aligned with our delivery team to make sure we all agree on whether this company is going to make a good client for our company.

Believe it or not, this approach often surfaces issues during the sales process that allow us to talk it out with our prospective client. You’d be surprised how people react when we tell them, “We don’t want to continue the process because we don’t think you’re going to make a good client for us.”

Most of the time, the client apologizes and want to make the adjustments required to continue the process because he honestly want us to help his company improve its marketing and sales efforts. In the end, it works beautifully for us and has dramatically reduced the number of negative engagements, clients we’ve had to fire, and team members who’ve left us because of difficult clients.

A win for us and for our clients.

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