Choosing the ideal client

Good clients… We all want them. They make you feel better about yourself. They pay their bills. They love your work. They are happy and content. These are the type of clients you’d like to work with, but have you created a process to maximize your chances of getting the best clients on every job?

I’ve talked at length about not chasing every lead. In addition to not pursuing every lead, let’s talk about how to get the best clients and keep them. 

Cull has always been one of my favorite words. It has saved me an untold amount of time, and paid me handsomely. So, what does this short word mean? “Cull” according to Dictionary.com is a verb meaning: 

  1. choose; select; pick.
  2. to gather the choice things or parts from.
  3. to collect; gather; pluck.

For our use, let’s stick to the 2nd definition – to gather the choice things or parts of. You want to gather the best clients, and discard those who don’t fit your Ideal Client Profile (ICP).

Why choose ideal clients?

Here are some reasons to be picky about who you accept as a client.

  1. Ridding yourself of a non-client will save time and money.
  2. You waste time and money looking for clients in the wrong places.
  3. You waste time on trying to sell to Non-clients.
  4. The margins on the wrong clients can hurt the financial health of your business. 

What is an ideal client?

Define your ideal client. This is the first step in the selection process. You have to define exactly the type of client that you want. You can call this stereotypical client whatever you like – an avatar, Mrs. Jones, or Ideal Client (IC). That doesn’t really matter. What matters is choosing some sort of name and to start defining who this person is. As Peter F. Drucker once said, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well, the product or service fits him (or her) and sells itself.”

Selling is much easier when you know who you are selling to. As I referred to in the Scientific Remodeling System Marketing module, Abraham Maslow points out that you can’t sell something to someone on an upper level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, if their lower needs haven’t already been met. In other words, you can’t sell comfort and convenience to someone if they don’t have sufficient food and shelter already. To sell effectively then, you have to know who you want to sell to, and understand their needs. Do they have the financial wherewithal to enjoy your services?  What is their pain? Do your products lead to a solution of their problem?

Here’s a series of questions to ask as you prepare your Ideal Client Profile:

  1. What are their expectations of you and of the proposed project?
  2. Income level – can they afford you?
  3. What is their gender?
  4. What are their dreams?
  5. Does their project fit your niche?
  6. Are they all about themselves, or are they considerate and respectful of your time?
  7. Are they negotiators or hagglers?
  8. Do they seem to value your knowledge, skill, and experience?
  9. Do they challenge you to grow?
  10. Are they well connected, i.e., will they be a source of good referrals?
  11. Does he or she get along with their significant other?
  12. Does your gut feeling tell you they will be a good fit for your company?

Let’s look at each one of these points in more detail and start to create the Ideal Client Profile.

Red flag or green flag?

1. What are their expectations of you and of the proposed project?

This has a lot to do with the type of company you’d like to be. Some companies are happy to pay close attention to their clients, and devote a lot of time to them. Others are not so good at that. Is your ICP one who requires a lot of hand-holding or not? Do you have the time and energy to deliver what this client expects? Higher end projects require this. If you are not into “hand-holding” then it is best to choose clients in lower or middle income ranges, who don’t have such extremely high expectations.

2. Income level – can they afford you?

The answer to this has to be “Yes”. Yet many remodelers don’t get around to asking this question till they’ve done their “due diligence” and wasted a bunch of time meeting with them and providing them with a quote. Your ICP has to be able to pay you for your services. Get this out of the way up front with a quick qualification over the phone. Choose the income level you want to sell to.

3. What is their gender?

This is not discriminatory question. It is merely something for your own information. Do you sell to mostly women or men? Keep track of this. Which gender is typically the most influential in your past sales? Your ICP has to have a gender. 

4. What are their dreams?

Is your ICP one who wants beautiful, expensive things, or one that is satisfied with run-of-the-mill products – one who just wants good things that work but aren’t necessarily top-of-the-line.  

5. Does their project fit your niche?

What types of projects does your ICP want? Do they want a basement remodeled, or a new kitchen? Do they want routine maintenance on their home? This has more to do with the direction and goals of your company, but nonetheless you have to define your ideal client. If you are in the kitchen and bath business, then your ICP wants a kitchen or a bath. Next decide on whether they want a high-end kitchen or a moderate kitchen. Be specific. 

6. Are they all about themselves, or are they considerate and respectful of your time? 

Most of these questions and their answers will raise, what I call, a red flag or green flag. When there are several red flags, then it’s time to move on to a better lead. I wouldn’t consider this a deal breaker if the answer to this question is that they are all about themselves, yet I would give it considerable weight. If your prospective client is not considerate of your time and expertise, there is a likelihood that, when a problem arises, they will not be able to see both sides of the story. (Remember that this is about an ideal client.) Decide whether you are okay with clients with these personalities. 

7. Are they negotiators or hagglers?

Are you okay with a bit of negotiation, or do you see this as a sign of disrespect or distrust? Does your ICP accept your word that you are delivering the best value possible for what they are paying? 

8. Do they seem to value your knowledge, skill, and experience?

This, to me, is very important. It boils down to trust, and that is the foundation of a successful project. Without it, there will be problems, head-butting, and loss of profits. It is essential that they see you as an expert and respect your experience. 

9. Do they challenge you to grow?

This question may not be clear to you. It means, does your ICP challenge you to learn new things, to solve difficult problems, cause you to step up your game? If this is  something you enjoy doing, include it in the qualities of your ideal client. If not, and you just want to do standard projects, then choose clients who don’t ask for difficult, out of the ordinary projects. There’s nothing wrong with either choice. But the choice needs to be made. 

10. Are they well connected, i.e., will they be a source of good referrals?

This also is not a definite reason to choose your prospective client, yet it’s a perk that will pay off in the long run. If all your clients are well connected, love to entertain, get along socially, then they will be ambassadors for your company. It wouldn’t hurt if your ideal client brought you a lot of future business, would it?

11. Does he or she get along with their significant other?

My ICP definitely has to get along with their companion. I advise you to think long and hard about accepting a lead where the couple does not agree with each other. You will end up in the middle and the ending may not be very pretty.  

12. Does your gut feeling tell you they will be a good fit for your company?

And finally, decide if you will pursue a lead that you don’t have a good feeling about. Over time, your gut feeling can be more perceptive than all of the other criteria combined. 

A sample ICP

Now you have your Ideal Client Profile. It might read:

Our ideal client is female.

She expects top-notch service. She wants us to pay attention to detail and help her plan her project, although she expects to be very involved in the process. 

She can easily afford our services. She has a household earnings between $75,000 and $150,000 per year.

Our ideal client is very practical, and likes things that are functional over things that are expensive and flashy. 

She is interested in attic and basement remodeling.

She respects our knowledge and experience, and is understanding of the nature of our business. She is not a perfectionist, and understands that having a perfect project is unrealistic. 

She understands that we are bringing her excellent value.

She does not ask us to solve atypical problems, and understands that we are exceptionally talented and deliver great value, provided we stay in our field of expertise. 

She and her companion get along with each other, are social, and potentially will be raving fans of our business. She will continue to refer us to profitable jobs for years to come. 

More tips and outcomes

Don’t deviate from your ICP. If you follow your guidelines of who your ideal client is, you’ll see several changes in your business. As you stick to this client model, you’ll consistently have happy clients, clients who will recommend you to others, and clients who allow you to make the profit you deserve. 

Focus on the best prospective clients, culling the best and letting the rest go. Streamline your marketing efforts to attract the right leads. With your new ICP you can be more strategic in your marketing efforts. You’ll get paid everything you are owed. Your business market value will increase. You’ll get more referrals. And you will get more joy out of your job. 

Everyone benefits!

Wishing you the best of fortune, Randall

This article was written by Randall Soules, remodeling coach, adviser, educator, and creator of the Scientific Remodeling System, showing you better ways to advance your business, raise your profits, and improve your life, through the use of superior remodeling processes. If you would like to discover better ways to run your business, click here. He also provides his uniquely customized one-on-one coaching to a select group of contractors. Feel free to contact Randall at Randall@scientificremodelingsystem.com.

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