Working with the wrong type of client can cost you time, money and let’s be honest it can be draining! 

The best time to say no to a client is early on before you’ve even started working with them. 

But how do you know if they’re right for you?

You qualify them!

In the early days of business, you might say yes to clients and work that comes in regardless of where it comes from. 

This can be an important part of figuring out how to improve your product and service or finding your niche. 

But once you’ve been in business for a while, there’s a point where it’s time to start saying no. And initially, this can be uncomfortable. 

Sometimes we’re not even aware that we’re still holding on to the wrong type of clients.

So my question to you is… 

Are you working with your ideal clients? And by ideal clients I mean those that light you up to work with and you can help them?

Because listen up… if they’re not right for you, you’re not right for them! It’s just the way it goes. 

I want to share a really simple process that helps you qualify your clients early on so you never have to work with the wrong type of client again. 

All you have to do is come up with a killer set of 3-5 questions and make sure you ask these of everyone before you work with them. 

Let me outline it for you below.

What do I ask? 

The best way to come up with your 3-5 qualifying questions is to think of your non-negotiables when it comes to working with (or selling your product to) someone. 

Then craft your questions around these. 

  • Non-negotiable: Must have a minimum of 10 staff members
  • Question: How many team members do you have?
  • Non-negotiable: A specific set of industries you work with
  • Question: What industry are you in?
  • Non-negotiable: They must be local to a certain area
  • Question: Where are you based?
  • Non-negotiable: They need to have a baseline level understanding of the work you do 
  • Question: Have you worked with a [insert service or product] before or what’s your understanding of [service or product]
  • Non-negotiable: There’s a minimum investment amount required
  • Question: Have you thought about how much you’d like to invest in this?
  • Non-negotiable: You want people to show up or be committed to your service/solution
  • Question: Why is now the right time for you to xyz or what do you want to get out of xyz and how committed are you?

Simple right? It is oh so simple and oh so overlooked. 

ACTION: Take a few moments now, to write down your non-negotiables and what the questions would be for you to ask them. 

Top tip if you’re an online or product-based business. You can follow a version of this process in your website copy and make sure you price accordingly so that you’re speaking to your ideal client. 

How do I ask them?

A barrier is sometimes not remembering to ask the questions in the moment or not knowing when to ask them. The solution to this is creating a process that becomes second nature.  

Depending on your business if it’s online, or in-person, selling will depend on how you ask them. Below are some examples for different types of business. If you get stuck on this and want to pick the brain of an expert in this space, book a complimentary chat with Nicky here

  • If you have a booking system in place (like acuity or calendly) you can add some questions for the prospect to answer when booking the appointment. 
  • Use Typeform or Google Sheets if you don’t have the above systems in place
  • Verbally when you catch up with your prospect, make sure you have your questions in front of you as a part of your sales conversation and record the answers somewhere… even a word doco is better than nothing. 

However you do it in, getting to ask these questions early on is key to saving you time and future headaches. And it doesn’t have to be complicated! In fact, the simpler the better!

What if they’re NOT the right fit….#awkward!

It’s pretty simple really. You can politely tell them that you’re not the right fit, or not the best person to help them. 

If relevant you can be specific about why, but you don’t have to justify your decision. 

You’re allowed to choose who you want to work with.

Read that again 👆

A great way to do this without feeling like sh*t can be to have some referrals in mind. If it’s not the right fit for practical reasons ie. they’re too big or small, you can pass on the details of someone else who can help. 

And remember, even if you don’t have a referral for someone else who can help, you can still end the conversation on a positive by wishing them all the best.

What about the “not now”?

Another common problem is that you overfill your cup, and your calendar, because you’re saying yes to the right type of client but you’re too busy to fit them in.

First, ask yourself, why do you keep saying yes? 

  1. Is it because there’s an underlying scarcity belief and you’re scared if you say no the work will stop coming?
  2. Is it because you feel bad and don’t want to let people down?

It’s okay to tell people you have a waitlist or to let them know what date works to get started in the future

Read that again 👆

I’ve had future start dates with clients six months ahead and clients keep saying yes! 

The biggest expectations we often have, we put on ourselves. And most of the time people will wait for you. If not, that’s also okay.

Qualify the right clients by making sure the price is right!

If you undercharge, your ideal client will overlook you for being ‘too cheap’. Understand who you’re wanting to sell to so you can price, package and communicate directly to them. 

If the concept of understanding your ideal client is new to you, check out my recent article here.

Nicky is a Sales and Business Leadership Coach with over 2 decades experience in sales and leadership. She’s been running successful coaching businesses since 2015 and is obsessed with helping business owners and teams thrive. She helps her clients install smart business growth strategies and leverage leadership for peak performance.

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