by Steve Adubato, PhD
When it comes to business development, we want to have as many clients as possible. This thinking is especially prevalent in these difficult, challenging, and uncertain economic times. We spend much of our time communicating in sales meetings, pitching our business as hard as possible to prospective clients. We follow up in more communication over the phone, via e-mail, and any other way we can trying to get prospects to sign on the dotted line so we can add them to our client list.
I understand this thinking. As the executive producer of a public television production company constantly seeking sponsors to support our programming, as well as with our company Stand & Deliver, I’m often chasing prospects. However, according to my friend and colleague, Michael Port, the author of “Book Yourself Solid,” this approach to business communication is often unproductive.
In his book, Port talks about only going after clients that you really want to have on board as opposed to any client “with a pulse”. He calls it the “red velvet rope policy” in which you ask the question; “Do you have your own red velvet rope policy that allows in only the most ideal clients, the ones that energize and inspire you? If you don’t, you will shortly. Why? First, because when you work with clients you love, you’ll truly enjoy the work you are doing, you’ll love every minute of it. And when you love every minute of the work you do, you’ll do your BEST work, which is essential to book yourself solid.”
Lofty words from Michael Port, but he backs it up in his every day business communication. Port argues that if we surround ourselves with clients who bring negative energy with them, they will bring us down and put us in a bad frame of mind. Ultimately, if you have too many of these clients, it will hurt your ability to serve the clients you truly enjoy working with and ultimately effect your bottom line. He advocates that you should “dump the duds”, which simply means you go through your list of clients and clean out and get rid of those who are consistently not returning your calls and those who are giving you mixed messages.
I know what Michael Port advocates sounds like heresy to some. Dumping dud clients? Even getting rid of one client seems crazy. But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. There are a few of clients who I dread dealing with because they sap so much energy. As soon as I get off the phone with them, I’m struggling to keep a positive attitude. I have to work that much harder just to turn the switch and get into a better frame of mind to communicate with another client or public television sponsor.
You don’t have to dump ten clients tomorrow, just start slow. I decided that there were a few clients that I would no longer pursue. And you know what happened? It winds up freeing up your time, energy and your mind to go after other prospective clients who are a better fit for your organization.
Finally, to clarify, I’m not talking about clients who fall on tough economic times who are unable to follow through on a commitment. That’s part of business. It happens, and when it does, that is when the truly great communicators lend a hand with empathy and support. The clients I’m talking about are the ones that are disingenuous and negative, who say one thing, but mean another. You know who they are, and THEY know who they are. The question is, what are you going to do about it? Michael Port says, it’s time to do some spring cleaning of your client list. With the weather getting warmer, I’d say the timing is perfect.