When to walk away from a new business prospect

There are times, especially during these lean times in the advertising/design business, that we take on business just because it is cash flow. It sure is nice to have the cash flow, but are we really helping or hurting the business of the firm?

Pursuing business is a difficult and time consuming. Winning the business can be rewarding and the potential of additional income is always a plus. However, for the sake of keeping a healthy shop, we sometimes need to learn to walk away from potential new business. Continuing to pursue mismatched clients can be harmful to moral as well as the bottom line of a firm.

Seven reasons to turn and run from a prospective client:

• Marketing & Sales report to the same person. This is a contradiction in terms if there ever was one. Marketing should be trying to position the product(s) and/or service(s), while Sales should be trying to overcome objections, educate and negotiate. Yes, they both have the same end result at heart, but, by nature, should take different approaches.

• You’ve never met the senior executive at the client. If the prospect is entrusting you with a vital role in the sales, marketing, and positioning of their company, the top executives should be interested in finding a few minutes to meet you. If they don’t, this is a clear signal that they don’t see your role in their success to be that important.

• Marketing doesn’t trust the business units and vice versa. If the people within a firm no matter how big or small ­ don’t trust that their peers are qualified and doing their best, they will certainly point to you in a heartbeat.

There are more than four people at the first meeting. This is a huge billboard that there is not one decision maker, but a committee. What this means to you if you pursue the relationship is missed deadlines and changes in the scope of projects midstream.

Too specific directions given about layouts, typefaces, colors, size and shape. Another major indicator. This client is going to be a micro-manager of your work. You no longer are the specialist, but the one who just implements what the client sees as the right way. If it works, they will take the credit and explain that you just implemented their ideas. If it doesn’t work, you will get blamed.

• Your primary contact is powerless. Along the same lines as mentioned above, if your contact can’t make the decisions, then you are going to have to sell your contact and hope that they have the same skills at selling ideas as you do. Can you say “doomed from the get go?”

• It absolutely has to be done right now. If this happens while you’re pitching the business, do you really think it’s going to get better? Do you really believe that this is the only time this client needs something yesterday? Yes, all clients will need this expediency from time to time, but if they are looking for it at the prospecting stage, be forewarned!

When prospecting clients, take a really close look at the way the client operates. Evaluate their style, methods, and personalities ­ both the individual as well as the company. After you feel you have a handle on who they are and how they function, ask yourself, “would I put up with this if I worked for someone else?” If you can’t say yes, then you should walk away.

To turn a prospect away, here are three important factors:
1. Use a calm and quiet voice. This will gain there attention and by default create some respect and authority.

2. Don’t complain. No matter how much of a nightmare your experience has been, don’t bring up any negatives or gripes. Keep the conversation positive and even offer to help the prospect find a firm that is “more suited to their needs.”

3. Don’t explain. The fact is that the two of you are not compatible. It happens. But don’t bring that into the discussion. Let the prospect know that what they are looking for is not what your firm specializes in or is not the direction that you are looking at moving into.

As hard as it is to pass up any income these days, it is easier to stop the madness before it begins. And just think, this will save you one client you have to fire next year!


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