What Clients Are Really Saying

I build software, guide teams and consult with management to help them achieve their goals. I can spend an insane amount of time developing a relationship with a prospect that just isn’t going to pan out. From the first 10 minutes of conversation, I can have a pretty accurate assessment of my success chances with the prospect (I’m not kidding).

There are certain things that I hear over and over. They are hints about the client’s situation or intention, sometimes without their conscious knowledge. Let me jump right in.

Warning! This might not apply to 100% of the cases, but has been consistently the case in my experience.

Me: “When is this due?”
Prospect: “As early as possible.”
They don’t have a plan. No plan means that it’s not a priority and that there’s little value in it. If it had real value, they would have made a solid plan with milestones. This also means that any reasonable price would be too high for them.

Me: “What’s your business model?”
Prospect: “We’re two friends who partnered up, put in our own money, …”
This answer is obviously not a business model. That kind of talk is only meant to get your sympathy. Nobody talks about how they put their livelihood on the line unless they intend to negotiate you ridiculously low. Many of my clients put their own money to kickstart their project, but they didn’t tell me this until much later.

Prospect: “We’re looking for a technical partner.”
A technical partner is someone who only gets paid if the business succeeds. If the risk was reasonable, they’d have no trouble paying you in the first place. You might even have to invest your own money, in addition to working for free.

Prospect: “Send me a price and I’ll get back to you.”
This means that they’re shopping around and do not see you as a unique, valuable partner. They don’t care about developing a trusting relationship, which is a critical part of all my contracts. They’ll go for the cheapest one. If they settle for you, you’ll have all sorts of trouble. It will be a bad deal and you’ll regret it. A price is something that you should say on the phone before sending the contract.

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