Red Flags To Avoid When Choosing Clients

Oct 13, 2023

You win or lose based on client selection. Choosing the right clients means you're happy and they get incredible service. Choosing the wrong clients means you're miserable and they get the worst of you.

In 16 years of consulting and coaching, I'm blessed to have had amazing clients for the most part. The few less-than-great came from me overlooking my own criteria for an ideal client.

This is the problem most businesses make. Their only filter for deciding who makes a great client is their ability to pay. That's important, but it's only part of the equation.

I once asked a business owner who made an ideal client for him. His response? "Anyone with a pulse." Ugh. There's a lot wrong with that statement, but we'll dive into that another time.

You need to know what makes a great client and what to avoid when taking on a new client.

Here are a few conditions that you'll be wise to follow closely:

  1. The prospective client has too many decision-makers.

I work with brands that have over 200,000 employees. I also work with solo entrepreneurs. Guess which one is easier?

Too many masters and nothing gets done. Decisions are by committee. You're more likely to see Biden and Trump hold hands than you are to see a committee move fast on implementation.

This isn’t to say it can’t be done, but there needs to be one main contact. One person who can take the lead on the work you do together. It's rare but sometimes a partnership can work well. Anything more than 2 decision makers though and you've got a problem client on your hands.

  1. The prospective client has too many objectives.

If they want to achieve everything all at once, run. Success is a marathon, not a sprint.

Take the book industry for example. An author writing a book needs to know the goal. Do they want their book to grow their social media audience and email list? Generate clients? Sell a million books? Most authors say "yes" when asked these questions.

They need to pick one.

Too many desired outcomes at one time creates confusion and potential disappointment on their end. Trying to do everything at the same time is a guaranteed way to ensure they do nothing.

  1. The prospective client doesn't have any money.

I'm a big believer in helping people when you can, regardless of their bank account. I coach solo entrepreneurs who can't pay what a Fortune 500 company can. That doesn't make them a bad client.

Where money comes into play is how it ties into their goals. In my 20's, I sold real estate. I lost count of how many home buyers told me they wanted a 4 story mansion on a lake within a gated community. What they could afford was a quaint home in a cookie-cutter subdivision.

In my business today this simply requires an upfront conversation with a prospective client. What is the real budget, what are their goals, and in what timeframe do they expect those goals to be met? If they don’t have an answer to these questions or they don’t understand that their budget, goal, and timeframe are too far apart this is not my ideal client. 

You shouldn't take on clients simply because they can afford you. They need to be able to afford the outcome they're striving to achieve.

Before we wrap up, consider an extra filter when selecting clients.

That filter is their attitude.

A client with a bad attitude will make you miserable. No matter what you do or what result you help them achieve, they'll be unhappy.

Life is too short to work with people you don't align with. Business can be rewarding AND fun. It's not either or. Choose people you're excited to serve. You'll be happier and you'll do better work for them.

Who will you choose to work with today?