Choosing Clients the Old-Fashioned Way: Interview Them!Scan the Web and you’ll find countless articles providing tips for fool-proof employee interviews, guaranteed to separate the wheat from the chaff, the gold nuggets from the pail of sand. Although fine for companies and organizations looking to bring on new staff (or new vendors), these articles fail to serve trainers and training companies, struggling (like employers) to decide with whom we want to work. That’s right; vendors have some say in the matter! Yes, the “customer is king” – but not every client who knocks on a trainer’s door should get a free pass to the throne room. The key is interviewing our potential clients before we sign that contract and lock in our services. But what is the purpose of an interview, really? If we’re talking about hiring officials, the logical answer would be “To fill a position” — a conclusion that over-simplifies things quite a bit. The hidden reason employers interview people is that they’re searching for clues about what kind of behavior that person will exhibit, day in and day out, once they walk through the front doors of their organization. In other words, through the interview, hiring officials are seeking to predict what kind of employee you’ll be. We trainers need to do the exactly same thing, interviewing our prospects and clarifying for ourselves “What kind of clients do I want to work for, and which ones should I most certainly avoid?” Speaking for myself, I’ve certainly enjoyed working with my teambuilding clients over the years. By and large they’ve been enthusiastic, straightforward and pleasant; and best of all, they’ve tended to pay me on time. But oh yes, there have been those occasions when I’ve wondered why I ever took this client job on. Was it really worth the hassle? To save you some of the frustrations I’ve experienced during my 18 years in the industry, please find below my list of difficult clients to be on the look out for: 1) The Unreachable Client You know the type. You call, you email, nada. No response. With the date of the client’s event racing towards you at light speed, you just can’t seem to get your contact person on the phone to finalize logistics – putting you in a real bind regarding travel, workshop materials and overall preparation. 2) The Overly-Demanding Client Clients in this category fall into four sub-classes, namely:
- Mr. Ambiguous: After submitting the agenda for your seminar, the client rejects your plan without expressing sufficient criticism or suggestions, leaving you to guess what they dislike. (“I don’t know what’s wrong. I just don’t like it.”)
- Ms. “I Want More But Won’t Pay More”: Upon delivering your agenda, the client asks for a variety of extra features (ie. T-shirts, refreshments, a videographer) that were not in the original agreement, refusing to pay for the additional services rendered. (“You’re already making plenty on our program…it’s the least you can do.”)
- Mr. Unreasonable: After finalizing your workshop plan, the client makes a series of last-second requests — usually with an impossibly-narrow delivery time. (“Please submit three other versions of this agenda. Oh, and can you customize the materials to our group? We’d like to see a draft for our 9am meeting tomorrow morning, thank you!”)
- Ms. Waffler: With only days (or hours) remaining before your training, the client is still going back and force on the details, forcing you to make repeated, last-second changes. (“We still haven’t decided if we want to do the indoor or outdoor program. Perhaps you could prepare both versions in case we change our minds that morning.”)
- What is your team’s greatest strength? What is your own greatest strength?
- What is your team’s greatest weakness? What is your own greatest weakness?
- How do your staff members handle stress and pressure? How do you, personally, handle stress and pressure?
- How will you evaluate the success of this training?
- Why do you want to work with us?
- Why should we take you on?
- What are your goals for this training? What would you like your team to be able to do once the training is over?
- What’s the biggest misperception people have of you and your team?
- How do you and your group unplug?
- Have you done this kind of training before? If so, why are you switching to us?
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