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When you think about finding new clients, is your core belief that they select you and that you must work with anyone who approaches you about training or do you believe that you select your clients too?
When I first started out as a freelance trainer, I fell firmly in the first camp but, these days, I think that finding quality, high value clients is a two-way street. Just as I need to be a good fit for my clients, they need to be a good fit for me too. If a project or client relationship doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t, and I’ve realised it’s OK to say no, which is incredibly empowering and means that I love all the projects I’m involved with.
The risks of working with ‘poor fit’ clients
Recognising that you can select your clients is especially important if your resources are limited, although I think it applies to business of all levels. When clients are the wrong fit, you can run into a range of challenges, many of which are time and energy consuming (and can have financial consequences). You may encounter:
- Changes to the scope of the project, meaning that it takes more time than you originally expected and you need to re-pitch, re-quote or even amend your training materials
- Moving goalposts or pushing of boundaries, e.g. a client emailing at the weekend and expecting an immediate response, or a client asking you to add extras to your training provision for free
- Negotiation about project budgets, e.g. comparing you to someone who’s cheaper or who has offered a discount
- Micromanagement – this might mean attending endless meetings to give reassurance or cover the same ground
- Personality clashes
Although all of these issues can arise from time to time with any client, and you can become more adept at dealing with these situations as your business grows, they can raise red flags. If you find yourself spending all your time fighting fires or working round the clock for low paying clients or clients that make you question your worth, then it’s definitely time to address how you can attract more ‘quality’ training clients to your business.
Identifying your high value clients
What do we mean by quality or high value training clients and how can you identify them?
In a nutshell, high value clients are the people or companies that you love working with. They’re great because:
- You feel passionate about working with them
- They feel passionate about working with you
- Your training is a good fit for their business
- They believe that working with you will benefit their business
- They recognise your worth
- You recognise the value you add when you work with them
- You know you can make a positive impact
- They know you can make a positive impact too
- They respect you and you respect them
- They pay their bills on time and their budget fits well with your rates
- They work with you time and again
Many of these above statements around identifying high value clients are to do with a gut feeling or emotional response; they’re about how working with a business makes you feel.
There are other, more tangible ways to identify your high value clients too. You might want to ask yourself the following questions in order to build a picture of your perfect client:
- What size companies do you enjoy working with? How many employees do they have?
- What would their minimum project budget be?
- What is the largest training project you would have the capacity to take on?
- What payment schedule would you like to follow?
- What project dynamics are important to you? How do you like to work? How important is it to you to have regularly meetings with your client, to have a single point of contact, to have ongoing bookings with the same client?
- What length of working relationship would you like to foster?
- How many days training would you like to provide to the client over a set period of time?
- Is the company ethos important to you?
- What industry do you want to work with?
One tip is to decide on five essential features that all your high value clients will have – this might be company size, budget, ethos or something else altogether. Each time you approach or are approached by a potential client, give them a score between 0 and 5 for how well they match your criteria. The higher the score, the more likely the client will be a right fit for your business.
It can be helpful to keep a record of how each client scores across each criterion so that you can compare and identify commonalities between your quality clients, and gain some key insights into what really makes you tick when it comes to creating a fulfilling client relationship.