Red Flags

Red Flags to Avoid with Clients

Have you ever had a client who just didn’t work out? You tried your best, yet it seemed like it was destined to fail from the start.

Well, guess what, it probably was!

I have been in sales for a really long time, and one thing one of my early mentors taught me was this: sometimes, it’s important NOT to make the sale.

He taught me that certain clients actually cost us more time, more money, and more energy in the long run than they are worth. He also guided me to listen to and trust my intuition. He said, “Lianne, if they’re taking up a lot of time in the sales process, they’re going to take up even more time once they become a client!” He was absolutely right, and I am so grateful for that lesson.

Sometimes we have to let go of an OK client to make room for a dream client.

Over the years I have gotten very good at spotting certain red flags early on in the process. Of course, I’m only human, and every now and then I prioritize making a sale over working with the right person. Every now and then I choose to ignore the red flags.

This happened to me several months ago. I was excited to work with someone I really liked and admired. While at first she appeared to be a dream client, there were a few red flags that showed up along the way. Yet because I really wanted to work with her, and do a great job for her, I ignored the red flags and accepted her anyway. What I should have done was walk away. I’m going to share those red flags with you.

Red Flag #1: She’s just not that into you

This title was cute when it was first a book and later a movie, but when it’s happening to us in our business, it’s not quite as funny. Some people are just not that into us, and that’s OK. But they should also not become clients.

Your clients should be absolutely, 100%, over-the-moon excited to work with you! Period. If you are not seeing signs of enthusiasm and excitement in those first few connections, it’s probably not a perfect match.

This can show up in a few ways. They may think they are above you in some way, or perhaps they don’t agree with some of your key messaging. They may not return your calls or emails and show other signs of disinterest. They may have their own ideas about what they want, that aren’t in line with what you offer (more on this later). In short, there are a lot of subtle ways that people let us know that they’re just not that into you.

Trust in that and let them go. They will be better served by somebody else.

Red Flag #2: They haggle

You are not a flea market. Your prices are not negotiable. Your dream clients know this and respect it. When someone shows up to a first conversation and wants to negotiate your price, your hours, your availability, your package structure, etc. they are essentially letting you know that they don’t respect you or your work. I know that can be a tough pill to swallow, but it’s true.

Dream clients are willing to pay your full price. Dream clients are willing to work around your schedule. Dream clients trust that you know what is best.

When you make exceptions or bend your rules to fit someone else’s agenda, you are letting them know that they are in charge. I do believe that the customer is almost always right, but this behaviour early in the relationship is a red flag that more of this kind of behaviour on its way.

Red Flag #3: They need convincing

I have decades of experience with customers, but I still need to consider this one now and again. Read my lips! If it feels like you have to work hard to ‘sell’ someone on you, it’s not a fit!

The people who are best cut out to work with us don’t need a lot of convincing. If we have done our job right in the marketing stage, we have attracted the people who see the vision in our mission, our messaging and our content. By the time those people reach out for a sales conversation, they should already be about 90% in!

If you find you are spending a lot of time explaining your process or convincing people to go forward, they are probably not destined to work with you. And that’s OK.

Red Flag #4: They stall on paying you

There are millions of reasons why people may not be able to pay you. None of them are your problem. If someone’s ready to dive in and work with you, then they are ready to make the financial commitment to do so.

Do recognize that in business, chasing payment is sometimes part of the territory. But if someone is truly stalling on paying you, and especially if it becomes habitual, they are sending you the signal that they are not a perfect match for you.

Delayed payment might indicate Red Flag #1: they are just not that into you. Or it might indicate that they truly can’t afford you and are struggling financially and this isn’t the right time. Delaying payments may also indicate that they are shopping around. They may have received a quote or proposal from you and are checking to see if they can get the same work cheaper elsewhere.

The truth is they should want to work with you and find it in their budget to do so. You really don’t want anyone choosing to work with you because you are the cheapest. If that is happening, it indicates that there are some other problems in your business you need to look into.

Red Flag #5: They are disrespectful

I don’t care if you are just starting out and desperate for every penny, I would never advocate working with someone who shows you any form of disrespect.

For many years, I worked for other people and was forced to deal with certain customers I would never deal with if it were my own business. I found myself in situations that were borderline abusive. I worked with clients who were so demanding that at times they would berate me and call me names if I didn’t meet their ridiculously high expectations. However, because I often worked with a high-end clientele, I believed it was my duty to take this type of abuse. It wasn’t.

Disrespect can show up in many forms, and I want you to be looking out for this particularly in the early stages of a relationship, such as in sales conversations. People show a lack of respect when they don’t show up to a scheduled meeting, arrive late, don’t pay on time, or are rude.

Please trust me when I say this, my friend. You deserve to work with people who love what you’re all about and who are motivated to work with you.

Life is short. Seek to work with the very best. Keep an eye out for those red flags. Although it can be difficult, have the courage to walk away. There is always something better out there waiting for you!

Oh, and that client I took on that I shouldn’t have? We parted ways halfway through the program. The very next day, I landed a brand new VIP client with a bigger budget, great attitude, and who was a perfect fit!

by: Lianne Kim 

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