You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work. -Laurie McIntosh
When I meet with prospective clients I inevitably hear this line, “yeah, I’m doing this because I definitely don’t want to be sued.” I get it. No one wants to deal with a lawsuit. It’s annoying, and often the process is nerve racking, long, and overwhelming.
However, here’s the honest truth. Lawyers don’t stop lawsuits.
While it is true that having a lawyer on your team at the beginning of your business lessens the likelihood that someone will succeed if they sue you, a lawyer can’t stop the person from filing the case. Anyone can go down to the local courthouse, pay a fee, and file the necessary paperwork to sue you. That’s just how our legal system works. The real secret to stopping the litigation train before it starts is picking the right clients.
“The real secret to stopping the litigation train before it starts is client selection.”
In the legal world, client selection is huge. Attorneys have certain ethical obligations that make proper client selection necessary. However, the attorneys I know go beyond ethics in the client selection process. They know that choosing the right client can mean the difference between enjoying the work and wanting to scratch their eyes out. So even if they want the money (and we all want more money), most lawyers will pass on a case if they know the client isn’t a right fit.
I stand by this approach and think that all entrepreneurs should, too. You have to attend to families, friends, a thriving business, and, if you are like me, piles of laundry. You don’t have time for a lawsuit, and client selection is the first line of defense.
So how do you go about picking the right clients? Weigh them against the C.R.A.Z.Y. factors.
C – Cost Over Quality
Good clients, the kind you want to work with, are concerned with the numbers. We all are, but good clients also have a clear understanding of ROI (Return On Investment). So when they are ready to invest in your services, they are willing to pay for them without the drama. If you explain your price (you know the one you spent hours agonizing over), and the potential client’s first question is, “can you do it for some other much lower number?” without an explanation or they request a reduction/change in services along with the reduced price point, turn the other way. This type of client will always try to find ways to get out of paying you what you’re worth resulting in lots of lost time and anxiety for you. It’s not worth it.
R – Rude
This is a personal choice, but it’s one I’ll hope you adopt. Is the potential client always over an hour late or does she fail to show up at all? Will she cut an old lady in line for a cab if it means she doesn’t have to wait? Does the prospective client tend toward lashing out in anger more than anything else? Look the mean girl thing has been played out since high school. You’re a busy professional running a business. You should definitely cross “making time for rude people” off your list. Your mental health will thank me.
A – Alarm Bells
Have you ever spoken with a potential client and the little voice in your head starts saying, “Hmm, something is not right here?” Have you noticed that the prospect calls too often or at inappropriate hours even though you’ve asked them not to? And you can’t quite put your finger on it, but just speaking with the potential client makes you cringe. If so, this client isn’t for you. Remember that when there is smoke, there is fire. As an entrepreneurial visionary, you often see the smoke before anyone else. Trust yourself. Say no.
Z – Zero Tolerance
If you can, try observing the way your prospect works with others. Did she still call and yell at a vendor for failing to meet a deadline despite the fact that the vendor’s mother just died? Are they unwilling to wait a few extra minutes to meet a client despite the fact that the client called and advised that she unexpectedly had to pick up her sick child from school? Rudeness is one thing, but unexpected things happen to all of us. We forget. We make mistakes. If you notice that your prospect has a “zero tolerance” attitude toward the stuff that happens in life, she’s not the one for you.
Y – Yo-Yo Stringing You Along
Is the prospect constantly emailing for more information or asking for free advice with the promise to buy your product or service as soon as X happens? The problem is X never seems to happen as planned, but they keep calling. This is the proverbial, “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” situation. You must stop this behavior for good. No more free milk.
Do you have your own list of types of clients to avoid? Share your tips in the comments below. While you’re at it, let me know if there are any business or legal questions you’d like to discuss in future posts.