So, you’re meeting a client for the first time. You pick up the phone or walk through the door for a “face to face”: who do you see?
Every client is different, but most of them fall into one of four categories: Fishers, Square Peggers, Cost Conscious Clients, or Perfect Clients. Here are tips to help you identify the type of person you are dealing with in your client meetings and hopefully save you time and money.
MEETING A CLIENT FOR THE FIRST TIME: THE FISHER
So you scored a meeting with a potential new client. Great! They must be in the market for exactly what you do, right?
Not necessarily. If you’re dealing with a Fisher, there may or may not be a legitimate job available. Instead, you’re dealing with someone who is fishing for information. That’s not an inherently good or bad thing, and it usually doesn’t mean ill intent. What it does mean is that you’re in danger of wasting a lot of time.
A Fisher is often trying to figure out what they need to put a request for proposal(RFP) together for a project. It might just be that they’ve never done a digital project before. It could also be that they’re maliciously trying to figure out a baseline for your agency. Either way, it comes down to the same issue: they’re wasting your time without any real work available.
MANAGING A FISHER
The calling card of a Fisher is that they don’t have any intent to buy. Ask questions about why they asked for a meeting – if you’re listening for it, you should be able to pick them out pretty quickly. Sometimes I’ll be very straight about it and ask “would you like me to send you an RFP template?” If they’re upfront in their answer, then I’ve just saved us both a lot of time.
And time is really what it comes down to with a Fisher, and it’s why they’re such an important client type to recognize and understand. When meeting a client for the first time, you go in with the assumption that there’s work available. If you leave the meeting with the wrong first impression, you can pour hours into creating a proposal that just isn’t going to go anywhere. Creating a proposal and estimate takes time: it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it.
I see many young agencies wasting a lot of effort on “fishing expeditions”. Qualifying your clients is key to avoiding this. Like I said before, don’t be afraid to ask upfront questions about what the potential client needs. Offer to send them an RFP template or educate them in other ways that aren’t going to drain your time and energy.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Recognizing, understanding, and managing Fishers will save you time and effort in the long run. Though these clients generally aren’t malicious, they can be a major drain on your resources. Tread carefully when you meet a Fisher to make sure you have someone with actual work on your line.
THE SQUARE PEGGER
Unlike the Fisher, the Square Pegger does have a legitimate job for you to do. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be easier to deal with. Here’s what you need to know to identify and manage this type of client.
A Square Pegger is a client who isn’t the final decision maker, but they are responsible for getting something done. Due to this, they feel their job is on the line. They’re doing their due diligence, so they’re going to ask a lot of unusual questions that you might not normally run into in an initial client meeting.
The other clear sign of a Square Pegger is that they need specific examples of what they’re looking for. So, let’s say you have a Square Pegger who needs a mobile app developed. If you’ve never designed a mobile app, they’re not going to work with you. They want to see exactly what they’re buying at the outset.
MANAGING THE SQUARE PEGGER
One of the least effective things you can do with a Square pegger is send them a huge proposal right up front. Any time you put in here that isn’t directly related to what they want will be wasted. Make sure you edit your proposal so it is succinct.
Another thing to keep in mind with this type of client is that they’re not the final decision maker. Something I like to do early on with any client is to determine what kind of partner they’re looking for. That way, if there are any issues we can’t overcome, I don’t end up wasting either of our time. But with a Square Pegger, you have to be aware of everyone else that’s going to be looking at the proposal too.
Before a Square Pegger gives you the sale, they’re going to have to socialize your proposal with their peers. So not only do you have to understand what the person you’re talking to wants in a partner, you’re also going to have to understand the people around them, also called “stakeholders”. What are the trigger points that would lead each person to purchase? What might their objections be? Understanding the organization as a whole will increase your chance of a sale with this type of client, or help you decide quickly that they’re not someone likely to buy from you.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When you meet with a Square Pegger, understand that they’re looking for something specific that you may or may not be able to provide. I know I tend to bump into this client type quite a bit, so be on the lookout. The sooner that you can show them precisely what they’re looking for, or the sooner you realize that the two of you aren’t a good match, the better.
THE COST CONSCIOUS CLIENT
A Cost Conscious Client is someone who sees what you provide as a commodity. They feel the same way about what you do as they would about buying chair or a loaf of bread. If someone else is charging a certain price for what you do, the Cost Conscious Client is going to expect the same from you.
One of the driving forces behind how this client makes decisions is past experience. Often, these clients have overpaid for something previously. This makes them overly cautious about scope and cost.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you think you may have a Cost Conscious Client on your hands, don’t be afraid to ask about their previous projects and the typical budget. If they’ve been burned before, it will likely come out. You can use the information they provide to decide if they’re the type of client that would be a good match for you.
THE PERFECT CLIENT
This is the client you want to work with! They’re familiar with the process and they’re ready to start right away. They value your skills and are respectful of what you do. Often this is because they have tried a cheaper option and found out the hard way that you truly do “get what you pay for”. Sometimes you will even find that they are willing to pay a premium for the quality services that you offer.
Another calling card of the perfect client is that there is something driving their decision. There’s a reason they need the work done, and they can clearly articulate what it is.
Finally, the perfect client is someone you want to work with. They show respect for what you do, they value what you can provide, and they communicate easily. All in all, they’re someone who is simply a pleasure to do business with.
GROWING THE PERFECT CLIENT
The perfect client isn’t just waiting out there for you to discover them. In many cases, the perfect client is created. By cultivating your clients and providing value and education, you can increase the number of perfect clients you encounter.
This doesn’t mean putting in a ton of work creating a proposal right up front. In many cases all this does is waste your time. But be generous in providing RFP templates, examples of other projects, and other materials for them to look at from the beginning. Be willing to guide your clients early on to help bring out their best.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Understanding what type of client you’re meeting with will help you quickly decide whether they’re someone you want to work with. Don’t be discouraged with you run into Fishers, Square Peggers, or Cost Conscious Clients. The Perfect Clients are out there, and in greater numbers than you may realize.
This article and its content was originally created by Chris Do. It has been updated, combined, and search optimized by Matt Cilderman.