By Steve Adubato, PhD

When it comes to business development, we all want to have as many clients as possible, right? This thinking is especially prevalent in difficult, challenging, and uncertain economic times. We spend much of our time communicating in sales meetings pitching as hard as possible to prospective clients. We follow up 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. I’ve lived it. As the executive producer of a highly entrepreneurial public television production company constantly seeking underwriters to support our programming, as well as with our leadership development firm 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 is often counterproductive.

In his best-selling 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 approach and you can too. Think about it… 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, thereby, hurting our ability to serve the clients we truly enjoy working with. Further, having too many of these clients will take you away from the clients you are in a better position to serve, ultimately affecting your bottom line. To avoid this situation, Port advocates that you should “dump the duds”, which simply means go through your list of clients 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 the duds? Even getting rid of one client seems crazy. We need the revenue right? But the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. You don’t have to dump ten clients tomorrow or purge your list of all prospects who have failed to return an email or call. Instead, decide to make a strategic change in your approach to business development. Make it a point to periodically (at minimum twice a year) evaluate where you are focusing your efforts. Then, don’t be afraid to cut a client or prospect loose if you strongly believe the hours and angst are not worth the ROI. This approach will free 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 and/or prospects 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 leaders and business partners lend a hand with empathy and support. The folks 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?

Steve Adubato PhD: “Select Your Clients Carefully”