How to reduce "red flag" clients.

No one wants to work with poor-fitting clients, so learning how to spot and avoid prospects that display the classic red flag warning signs is hugely beneficial for your design business. Weeding out poor-fitting clients has very much become a part of my formal process.

I have done this by creating deliberate - and I stress deliberate - “barriers of entry” that can reduce the number of tyre kickers and poor fitting clients significantly. I have found this is best done with the content and messaging you put out.

Tips for this include:

  • Talking about your process by explaining how you work, the steps you take in a project, how you think about problems and how you solve them.
  • Talking about who you work with in terms of types of business or types of people (these can focus on personal traits or industry-related niches)
  • Talking about the stage that a business is in when you typically work with them and most importantly who you DON'T work with.
  • Talking about what clients should expect from working with you (which leads back to your process) but also what YOU expect FROM your clients.
  • Talking about things like what you normally charge and how long things take can also be a huge benefit for weeding out poor-fitting clients.

With uncovering and addressing red flags, there are a few other things to consider. We all have our own personal red flags that we look out for (though many of these are going to be shared), so knowing them and knowing how to spot warning signs is the first step.

Where a prospect has come to you (referral from a trusted source vs cold lead) plays a big role.

How have they gotten in touch with you? For me, someone who calls is normally best (even if this is a bit intrusive), people who DM on social media are the worst and will get the most scrutiny.

The type of business is a huge factor.

How informed someone is, again, makes a big difference. I’ll often ask “have you seen my website?” and those who have I trust more than those who are just bouncing around on Google searches.

What about questionnaires?

Can we rely on a questionnaire for weeding out clients?

Short answer, yes, of course. But there are some pro's and cons when it comes to questionnaires. One benefit of sending a prospect to fill out a questionnaire is the time you can save by reuse and even automate them the questionnaire, but for me there is a huge flaw with questionnaires and that is they can not pick up the subtlety of human communication.

You know the classic “it’s not what you say but how you say it”. Also, a questionnaire can’t notice when to ask follow up questions when something sounds odd/off or important.

For me, this is always going to be a bit organic as there are so many types of red flags and they get brought up at different stages and in different ways.

So my goal is to always to get people onto my process, communicating and working in a way that works for me. Those who push back on this, that’s the ultimate red flag.

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