By Carrie Dagenhard (Tech Writer)
How can IT pros determine if a client is a good fit for their MSPs or Professional Services Companies?
This is a question worth pondering because the right or wrong answer may be the difference between success and failure.
For MSPs and professional services organizations, 2020 was a year of uncertainty, 2021 a year of pivoting, and 2022, hopefully, a year of renewed motivation and explosive growth. Now, as we collectively shake off the holiday haze and refocus on new goals, many IT professionals and tech business leaders are looking for ways to acquire new business streams to get a head start on hitting Q1 revenue targets.
But smart tech entrepreneurs understand that creating long-term, sustainable success means being judicious about who to choose to work with and who to take a pass on.
While signing every potential prospect can bring in significant funds up-front, working with customers that are not the right fit for your business will create headaches (and expenses) in the future.
To make sure you’re setting your MSP or professional services business up for maximum success in 2022, we’ve done the legwork to get some practical tips on the best way to determine which clients are the best fit for your business.
Why You Should Thoroughly Evaluate Prospective Clients? (Even When You Desperately Need Them)
For many MSPs and professional services organizations, 2021 was a rough year, so understandably you're now looking for some quick wins. Or perhaps you have a highly ambitious marketing team that’s filled your pipeline with highly qualified leads, and your sales team is eager to close them.
Whatever the case, it’s critical that you properly vet every potential client. Why? Because working with a customer that is a poor fit for your services can lead to adverse outcomes, expensive losses, and the risk of gaining a poor reputation within the market. It can also stress your workforce, create employee burnout, and increase turnover.
That’s why we recommend always taking extra time to evaluate prospective clients and learning as much as you can about their goals and expectations before you make them sign on the dotted line.
Here are a few things to consider:
Does This Customer Fit Within Your Target Market?
Who is your ideal client? Consider your target market(s), and then delve deeper into your target personas. Think about some of your best existing clients and what makes your relationship most successful. Now take a look at your prospective client. Do they meet some, most, or all of these criteria?
Now think of clients that were a poor fit for your services, examine what made the relationship toxic and whether your prospect has those qualities.
Once you’ve parted ways with a customer that's a poor fit for your services, it’s easy to forget how negative the experience was — especially when you have an exciting new prospect that is a good fit ready to drop a lot of money into your palms. The takeaway is that no amount of money is worth the stress and frustrations that inevitably come to the surface when you’re working with a customer that is a poor fit for your services.
Do You Align on Core Values?
Most organizations have developed core values. But unless you’re true to those values and factor them into every business decision, they’re little more than decoration. If you want them to become an intrinsic part of your culture, you have to walk the walk. And that means ensuring you only work with clients that align with those values.
For example, if one of your core values is integrity, you’d want to make sure prospective clients are committed to honesty and strong moral principles.
Not only is this the right thing to do from an ethical standpoint, but failing to align on key values gives your workforce and customers the impression that your values are superficial.
Does The Client Have Realistic Expectations?
One of the most common issues leading to poor client relationships is unmanaged expectations. Some prospects may enter the conversation with wildly unrealistic expectations about what you can achieve. In many cases, you can solve this by educating potential customers on what you can or can’t do and why. But if a prospect fails to adjust their expectations, that’s a red flag and a sign you may not want to engage further.
Can You Develop a Rapport With Your Client?
You don’t have to be best friends with every client you sign, but you should at least be able to carry on a pleasant conversation. Building rapport and getting to know your customers personally will help you cultivate stronger relationships and promote long-term loyalty. It will also make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved.
If a prospect is resistant to rapport, unpleasant, or rude, you may not want to proceed with a contract. After all, success in professional services often requires working closely with your clients and communicating regularly. If you don’t enjoy engaging with someone, it could negatively impact outcomes.
Have They Been Assigned a Point Person?
Before you commit to working with a new client, it’s important you both understand how the relationship will be structured and who will be responsible for communicating to whom. It’s crucial you both assign a point person.
On your end, this might be an account manager or strategist. On their end, this might be whoever is responsible for the outcomes you’ll deliver. For example, if you run a managed IT services company, your client’s point person might be a CTO, CISO, or facilities manager.
Whatever the case, make sure everyone is crystal clear on the point person. If your client is too disorganized or refuses to assign one person to manage communications, this could spell disaster (or, at the very least, stall your progress).
Can You Meet Your Customer's Needs?
No matter how much money is on the table, before you sign a client, you need to take a hard look at what they need and whether or not you can deliver on those objectives. If you can’t guarantee success due to staffing constraints or a lack of expertise in their industry or market, then it’s best not to move forward.
After all, every client failure creates an indelible mark on your brand’s reputation. If you can’t meet a clients’ needs, there’s a good chance they won’t keep it to themselves. And while some relationships may turn sour no matter how capable your team is, choosing not to enter into contracts for projects beyond your capabilities can help reduce the risk of a big fail.
Additionally, always make sure you’re setting yourself up for success with the right tools and technology. For example, if you haven’t invested in professional services automation software, now is the time.
As you move ahead into 2022 and work to expand your client base, make sure you take the extra time to vet your prospects and only work with those who are the best fit. Doing good work for the right people will have a ripple effect and eventually help you create rapid, sustainable success.