Mike Jeffries suggests in a recent posting that worthy residential clients will call you for only one of two reasons:
- They don’t know anyone in the area; or
- They hired a contractor in the past for similar work and were not happy.
Everyone else probably isn’t worth the trouble. (And perhaps some of the No. 2 fit in the “don’t bother me, I’m too busy to waste my time on you” category, as well.)
Who wants to spend time with tire kickers, time wasters, deadbeats and chisselers? Alas, many of the people who would call you out of the cold (rather than through a proper referral or recommendation, or because they are a repeat client) will fit in these less-than-illustrious categories.
Your challenge is to weed out the deadbeats, quickly, without alienating the potential clients who might be worthy of your time. So, Jeffries suggests you develop some questions you can ask quickly at the outset, to decide if you would rather refer these potential clients to your worst competitors.
Do you ask these questions?
- How much research have you done so far?
- Have you found any projects or materials that you like?
- Have you ever had a project like this completed before? (you should make this specific to your industry and time related too if this is a project folks need to do periodically like painting or roofing)
- What was your experience? (if they had a bad experience you will surely know and if they didn’t you should probe more because they may just be using you as a price check)
- Do you have any other appointments set up yet? (If they have more than 3 set up this is a no go for my consulting clients in almost every situation and 5 or more it is a definite no go).
Prospects that have done their research are much more likely to be ready to go. Plus they will be a lot better informed than someone who is just beginning the process. Even simpler projects like painting need research (colors, color combinations, types of paint or coatings etc.)
Now, Jeffries writes for residential clients, but the same concepts apply in the business-to-business world, and in fact, as he observes: “Do you have any other appointments set up yet?” he uses it as a screening system for his own potential clients.
You don’t need to be heavy-handed in your screening practices. Usually you can find out what you need to know with just a few questions. You can then focus your energies where the results are likely to be the most profitable for you.