Editor's note: This is part two of a two-part series. Click here to read part one featuring the author's 10 favorite kinds of clients.
Last week, I shared my 10 favorite kinds of clients- clients who understand the role of PR, respect the team and expertise, pay on time and share similar values.
Unfortunately, not every client is a good client. These are the prospects that I have learned will lead only to misery.
1. They want me to sell them on why they need PR. I have no problem telling a prospect why they should choose my company, but I’ve learned that it is not my job to convert someone who believes that PR people are spin doctors or party-hopping publicists.
2. They think they know PR better than I do. On the other side of the prospect who wants me to justify the profession is the one who knows ‘exactly’ what needs to be done, but doesn’t have the time to do it.
3. They show a lack of respect. People are typically on their best behavior at the beginning of a relationship, so if a prospect is rude to anyone, from the person serving the coffee to someone on my team or theirs, it will only get worse.
4. They have unclear or changing goals. I can’t measure what isn’t articulated. It’s like going for a drive without a destination. Likewise, suddenly changing direction tells me we’re never going to get there. Let me out.
5. My least favorite clients waste time. These individuals can be difficult to recognize. I met with one prospect three times and submitted two proposals before realizing that she was probably never going to move forward with me or any consultant. Another prospect called me after our first meeting and said he wanted to ‘pick my brain’ for a few hours. I told him I would be happy to strategize with him and gave him my rate.
6. They want free work. This usually occurs in one of several guises, including:
Try to reduce the cost of services while maintaining the scope.
Expect work to begin without a signed agreement...or a deposit.
Believe we should do a project on ‘spec’ before they commit.
Offer to pay based on results.
Trust me on this one, just say no. These clients will never respect the value you bring.
7. I don't love clients who have unrealistic expectations. We’ve heard it all, from wanting the first press release to land them coverage in the New York Times/Wall Street Journal/Vogue to having their social media post ‘go viral.’ If these expectations cannot be tempered with explanations about PR being a relationship-building practice, it’s better to let someone else disappoint them.
8. They pull a disappearing act. Sometimes prospects do all the right things up to the point you a) submit the proposal or b) send the contract. Suddenly they’re unavailable. Emails are unanswered, calls unreturned. If this happens after you present the proposal, they could be shopping the proposal around to see if someone else can do the work for less. If it’s after delivery of the contract, they may be hoping you’ll begin the work without the signed agreement. All my proposals have 30-day expirations and my clients sign the contract first so that I’m not held hostage to work that may not materialize.
9. They are egocentric. These are people who have passion for only their own notoriety. It’s always all about them. They tell you if the business story doesn’t interest the media, their personal story surely will. They want results only for personal gain and, should you take them on, they will take all the credit.
10. They have a culture that is at odds with our values. While evaluating a prospect’s corporate culture takes considerable time, a lack of respect, integrity and/or professionalism are usually easy to spot.
Your list might be different than mine. If you have something to add, I’d love to hear it!
Based on my experience, I developed a prospect interview sheet to help me qualify clients. It has saved me time pursuing clients that were not a good fit, and allowed me to focus on qualified prospects, acquiring more valuable (and enjoyable) clients.
Lorraine Schuchart, APR, is the founder and CEO of Prosper for Purpose, a communications and development firm that helps businesses, nonprofits and individuals maximize their impact by optimizing their brands. Lorraine is a strategist, speaker and writer with 30 years of experience. Prosper is a Certified B (for benefit) corporation.
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