Whether you are a seasoned entrepreneur, or part of a budding start-up, you will need to deal with clients. The hard part is making sure they are happy and you are profitable. Even though there are 6 billion people on the planet, when it comes to spending money and doing business most people will fall into a few categories.
Now I’ve been a part of fitness, retail, e-commerce, consulting, and non-profit businesses. To say that I have dealt with many different types of people is a mild understatement. However, most of these people have fallen into 1 of the categories I’m outlining below. The list is not exhaustive, but it will cover most of the people you meet.
The Control Freak
Characteristics: The control freak shows up mainly in long-term service sectors such as SEO Consulting and personal training. You can spot control freaks by a few tell tale characteristics. Those include the need to sign off on everything that is being done, poor adjustment to change, and small or no support staff.
How to deal with them: Set firm boundaries from the beginning. For example with current Internet marketing clients who are control freaks, I let them know that inbound marketing is a fast paced, and changing industry. So the change that I make to their website, or the content I create is based on experience and knowledge (that’s typically why they hire someone like me), and they need to trust me. If you are already have a client like this move slowly in the right direction, don’t make a sudden change. Start with something small, and then expand from there.
Characteristics: Negotiators are usually fellow business owners in a separate industry that use that to try and elicit some sort of deal from you. You can usually spot this early on by them talking about their business and how they run it whenever you are getting ready to perform a transaction. However, some people may talk about their business and not even bring it up. These people will make themselves known when they ask for a deal in return for free services, products, or just on a handshake and a promise to have your back.
How to deal with them: Unless this person is a relative or close friend, DO NOT give them a discount, or a deal. Once you’ve compromised yourself, then everything is up for discussion. This can include, but is not limited to, negotiating about hours, terms of service, price again, and levels of service. So if you are not ready to be trampled on repeatedly, I would not give the negotiator an inch.
Characteristics: Questions are a good thing; however some past clients of mine have taken it to the extreme. Typically in the early phases they will seem just like inquisitive customers, however when they keep digging in to the level of complexity you know you’ve got 1. In bad cases this can manifest in contact at inappropriate times. By inappropriate times I mean calling you at 6 a.m. to ask why x isn’t like y.
How to deal with them: Similar to the control freak, it is important to set boundaries from the start. However, instead of boundaries regarding approval set them in regards to contact. For example consider limiting phone calls to once a week for 20 minutes, or one-hour sit down meeting once a month. That will ensure that you are not being hounded, make the client prioritize the information he needs, and still give them the opportunity to check in and learn.
Characteristics: The disinvolved will be uninterested. These are the business people who think they can just throw money at someone, and that person will magically fix all their problems. I see this all the time in SEO audits. After working with a control freak, this may seem like a dream, but it will be far from it. Often times this behavior is accompanied by unreasonable expectations.
How to deal with them: Let them know up front what you will need from them. This may mean having semi-unpleasant conversations. When I worked as a personal trainer; I had several conversations about personal responsibility & what they needed to do outside of our sessions. It may be the same with your clients; you only see them or work with them a small amount of time. They need to work on their end if they want results.
Characteristics: The miscommunicator is mostly unclear about what they want and what they expect from you. They can also be people who change their minds often. When talking about goals and expectations beware of vague terms like “overall improvement” or “general success of the business.” That can be what makes or breaks your relationship with that person; usually it will just break it.
How to deal with them: Be as concrete as possible. Do not leave the success of the project or engagement up to interpretation. If you are a marketing consultant, use clear metrics to determine how successful a project was. If you are a personal trainer, base success off of fitness benchmarks. That way when your client says they aren’t sure about the success of the project, or if they look any better in their dress, you have concrete results you can show them. The catch is the project must actually be successful.
Chris is a serial entrepreneur who has started CrossFit Gyms, worked with non-profits, and founded the e-commerce field guide. He specializes in SEO Audits, and helping businesses make the most of their online presence.
Image credit: CC by Aurimas Adomavicius