Fire Prospects Before You Have To Fire Them As Clients

Posted by Robin Hensley

Fired Rubber Stamp

If you know who your ideal client is, do you know who it isn’t? Even if prospects are thin, it still doesn’t make sense to take on the wrong ones. Recognize the early warning signs to save yourself the pain and angst of letting the client go later.

Here are ten ways to tell if your hot prospect may be a bad fit for your firm.

  1. They ask for concessions on your fees because they can’t afford you. If the prospect can’t afford you, then yours is not the right firm. Be prepared to refer clients with limited means to colleagues that can work within their budget.
  2. They complain that other firms they’ve worked with have never measured up. Will yours be the one that does? Chronic complainers are hard to please. It’s time to run in the other direction.
  3. They offer you a boatload of referrals in exchange for lower fees. If you say yes, the chances are good that you will never see enough referrals to make up for the fees you won’t be receiving. And, it’s likely those referrals will expect the same deal. Ouch!
  4. They disappear until they need you, then have a crisis that demands you start work right now. You’ve been trying to close them on your firm, spent hours following up, waiting by the phone to finally get an answer then, presto, they want you to drop everything. A client that comes in on a crisis might just be a crisis every time. (Your call on this one but…)
  5. They want to interview three or more clients in their same industry about similar work you have done for those clients. References are great and clients should ask for and get them. But, if the client needs more and more reassurance about the quality of your work, they may be so focused on the details that it will be very difficult to manage their expectations.
  6. They ask you to do work outside your practice specialty and your passion. That’s OK if it’s work you would like to do. However, working outside your specialty can generate more of the same business so take care that saying yes could open the door to work you neither want or enjoy.
  7. They want you to start work without a signed contract and a deposit check. They don’t have time to pay you? What’s next?
  8. They expand the scope of work expecting your fee to remain as proposed. Uh oh! I think you already know where this is going. 
  9. They ask you to keep your calendar open for their matter but are unwilling to make a formal commitment. Wishful thinking can keep you hoping that you will make the close but a client that won’t commit is going to have difficulty making important decisions as they relate to the matters they will bring you, if and when they every commit.
  10. They ask to meet with you over and over before making a commitment. Sounds like they are looking for free advice. Is that how it sounds to you?

Not every prospect makes a good client. Tying up your time and talent with the wrong client, even when prospects are thin, doesn’t make sense in the long run. (It is good for my practice, however since you’ll be calling me for a strategy on exiting that client from your roster.) The answer is simple. The more prospects you have in your pipeline, the better able you will be to say no to those that are not a good fit.

With thanks to C. J. Hayden, MCC for suggesting this topic in her article, “Prospects You Don’t Want As Clients.”

Until next time,

Robin