There's the work we do with/for our clients. And then there's the work that goes into navigating the dynamics in that relationship.
More often than not, that's where many of us struggle.
What if you could just click through to a resource filled with each and every tricky client red flag situation (from no-shows on a sales call, and asking for guarantees, to asking for a second opinion from an opinionated spouse and asking for reschedules)…
… and tell you exactly how to handle it, based on years of figuring this stuff out on the job(s) until I came up with close to bullet-proof “scripts.” AND… these aren't ready-made, cut and paste answers. Clients are HUMANS, which means they're layered and complex (just like you). Customize these replies, and remember:
Everyone has been in situations where a client is dissatisfied.
Timelines get messed up. Communication becomes murky.
Instead of aiming for a perfect experience, be willing to clean things up if they get messy. And ask yourself:
What can I do/put in place so that this can't happen again?
In part #1 of this blog post series, I'm diving into what we can put into place to help your potential clients show up as their best selves, and what to do if they aren't! (I've tackled all the client red flags in this 3-part series)
SETTING THE STAGE: BEFORE THE SALES CALL
Establishing your relationship with the client starts the moment you start interacting. Not when they sign their contract and pay the invoice. And how you (and they) behave sets the stage for the entire project/package.
These are preventative things you can do to avoid people falling out of touch when you're trying to get them on a call (ghosting!), or treat you with less respect and care than you'd love to receive.
CREDIBILITY BUILDING CONTENT
Your media logos, testimonials, success stories, branding etc. make people trust and respect you. And eradicate the “prove to me you're worth it” attitude you can run into with new clients.
CONFIDENCE ON CAMERA
Show up in your live content with a sense of knowing what you're about and claiming that unapologetically.
CLARITY ON MESSAGING + OFFERS
if people are still guessing what you actually do when they land on the call with you, you're spending your time together explaining, rather than enrolling (missed chance). With clear messaging (and offers) people will feel safe, because they know what to expect, and what they're in for.
WHO YOU RUN WITH
people gauge you by who you hang out with and are associated with. Some folx play this game full out, and do affiliate launches and try to get themselves in pictures with influencers (no judgment lol). Others play a more subtle game of simply highlighting people they admire with, for example, a shared FB live.
Key: show up in such a way, that when they start considering working with you, they deeply respect
you, honor your time, and fully trust you.
DREADED SCENARIOS: WHAT TO DO/SAY WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
- Telling you about “I'm interviewing other people”/ why should I work with you?
“My time is extremely precious and so there are two things you can do. #1. Read up about my qualifications, style and testimonials on my website and reschedule when you're at least 70% sure about moving forward with me [pop link to the website in Zoom chat to show you're serious], or you can tell me right now why you decided to hop on with me today, and not another [your title: i.e. copywriter, designer].
- Slow to book that call, or slow in responding to follow up (no clear yes/no)
Follow up with a kind reminder or 2. After that a very short, final email/message, saying: “Can I assume you're no longer interested in [what you offer]?”
NOTE: avoid the word “just”: just checking in. Just wanting to make sure. Just sending you a reminder. “Just” lowers your alpha status.
- Not filling out the questionnaire
Have your team email them a couple of days before with a reminder for them to fill it in. If they still don't comply, we're talking about “push back on procedure” which is a serious red flag and indicates they're not prioritizing the transformation you offer. Send them a final note the day before warning them kindly that their call will be canceled unless they take a moment to fill out the questionnaire. Do not hop on unless they comply.
- (multiple) reschedules
Reach out with a kind note saying: “Hey [FNAME], most people who reschedule multiple times simply have different priorities right now. If that's you, that's totally cool. Let's circle back in a couple of months from now, rather than trying to move forward now. Unless I'm misinterpreting. In that case, please let me know and we'll get you back on the books for next week.
They might never reschedule, but you've just saved yourself 30 minutes of precious time.
- Confusion about when the call is, despite clear instructions
Have your assistant reach out with further support. But the fact that they can't pick up on simple instructions is a red flag you want to make sure isn't something that will stand in your way when you're supporting your client in their transformation.
- Ghosting/falling out of contact
Indicates (usually) low commitment. You can send them a note saying: “Can I assume you're no longer interested in [what you offer] right now?”, or simply let it go and if you feel they're a potential great future fit, keep nurturing the connection.
- Giving (multiple) excuses for not replying
Support them by saying something along the lines of: “It's totally OK if it's not a priority right now. Shall I circle back in [number of weeks/months] from now?”
If you have a sense of why they're falling out of touch, call it out. This can sound something along the lines of: “Tell me if I'm wrong… I get the sense that __________. Is that what's going on for you?”
- Sending you LONG emails/messages
A big red flag. They have the misunderstanding that they can take up your time (and that you have that kind of time to spend). Especially if you're in the business of helping people with their business (business coach, copywriter, etc.) this points at a lack of experience running a business. Which you should take seriously (it might be hard to help them get results). Again, if this happens, call it out, and be honest about what they can and can't expect in their relationship with you.
- Requesting any special treatments (not wanting to play by your rules): “Can we just look at our calendars, instead of me booking via your link?”
Falls under “push back on procedure.” If they can't play by your simple rules – You don't play.
- Questionnaire answers that are really long, or really short
When they're short, it usually indicates a lack of prioritization (they're not taking their time to reply), or a lack of understanding that no, you don't have time to read through 20 minutes of replies prior to the sales call.
- Canceling right before the sales call
We actually welcome people to cancel their call, if we sense they might not be a good fit at that moment. With our prep & qualification emails, we share information like investment etc. before they hop on a sales call with us. And if they have a big concern, it'll get addressed by my team long before their scheduled call. If it turns out to be un-overcomable, the team cancels the call. This has created a drop of at least 95% of these last-minute cancellations.
If they still do a last-minute cancellation, I'm very hesitant to offer them a reschedule. Unless they apologize and ask for one.
P.S. I make exceptions for people with (chronic) health issues. Parents/Guardians of special needs children. People with caretaking responsibilities and other factors that can create sudden changes in schedule that they can't foresee.
- Not reviewing materials you've sent for them to have a look at
I have my team follow up with potential clients after we send them the material to check in and see if they've read it. If they would show up, and it turns out they haven't, I'd end the call with a request for them to reschedule when they have.
Here's a link to a resource on how to gracefully terminate a sales call you can use for inspiration.
- Asking “what does it cost?” in an email/message prior to the sales call
Often, these are potential clients that end up not converting. Because they can't afford your services, and they probably suspected that already. If it's an important enough concern for them to reach out to you about, I give them all the information they need, including rates/price. It's about trusting that if they really want it, and can afford it… that your credibility and intimacy building will do its magic. If it doesn't? Focus on getting more, better-qualified leads, rather than obsessing over how you're going to get this lead to hop on a call with you and buy.
- Not showing up for a follow-up sales call
I disconnect the call after 5 minutes and don't reach out with a reschedule. Because either way, it disqualifies them as a client: either they're messy with their schedule and have missed the call on their calendar. Or they think it's OK to just not show up.
Next up is The Red Flag Book part #2, dedicated to red flags (and how to respond) during sales calls!