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Author Topic: Dealing with the people who think they might want to be your new client. Almost.  (Read 3547 times)

40hz

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There's a great little parable over at 43Folders that goes straight to heart of an issue that confronts most businesspeople at one time or another: how to deal with the dreaded Biz Flirt. Y'know, the guy that hints he'd absolutely love to do business with you? It's just "there's a few minor questions and things we'll need to get clear on first" before you do?

Anybody who ever wasted an hour on the phone or the price of lunch on one of these people - or has blown an entire evening doing up a complex technical quote for a project that somehow never quite got off the ground - will find a lot to laugh and grimace about.

Check out: A Sandwich, A Wallet, and Elizabeth Taylor's Cousin over at 43Folders.  :Thmbsup:

Quote

THE PARABLE

THE OSTENSIBLE CUSTOMER enters a deli and saunters up to the counter. The deli is tended by its rakishly handsome owner, THE SANDWICH GUY.

“Hi,” says The Sandwich Guy. “What looks good to you today?”

“Slow down,” says The Ostensible Customer, as THE LUNCH RUSH starts trickling in. “Lots of delis want my business, so, ?rst I need to really understand what you can do for me.”

« Last Edit: December 31, 2010, 07:18:36 AM by 40hz »

cranioscopical

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Oh yeah!  I particularly love those who try to pick one's brains with the "I have problem X, what would be your solution to that?"

40hz

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^Oh my yes!

It took me a long time to not start consulting on a project before I was actually hired to do so.

Now, being older and wiser (and sphincter-dilated), I just sit, ask a lot of questions, and take notes. When the prospective client is finished I say:

Just so I'm sure I'm clear on what you're asking (then recap the problem as given).

When they agree I've "got it," I then say:

I can take care of that for you. My rate is $___ and it will take approximately X hours to complete. (If materials or equipment costs factor into the solution I'll also give a ballpark estimate on what they usually cost with the caveat it's subject to getting actual pricing from the suppliers.)  

Finally, I'll say: I can begin on <date>. Does all this fit within your budget and timeframe?

Within 10 seconds, one of three things will happen:

  • The prospect will tell me "I'll have to get back to you." and wrap up the meeting. About 50% of the time they will call me back. Sometimes they'll also tell me they're looking at other quotes - which is something I encourage them to do whenever they bring it up. (From my experience, the people that tell me that end up calling me back about 70% of the time. Yay!)
  • The prospect will say "It's too expensive." at which point I'll need to decide if I want to negotiate or further pursue the project. About 75% of the time I won't, in keeping with the Principle of Indifference pricing model. How to handle that remaining 25% that I do decide to further pursue is a complex topic best left for a whole separate discussion.
  • The prospect says "That will be fine. Send us a hardcopy of what we've just discussed." At which point we shake hands and I feel fairly certain that what we talked about will actually happen. (It doesn't always.)

Note: until you have a signed purchase order or letter of intent in hand, you don't have the assignment. And until the client's final check clears, you can't really say you got the job. I could write volumes about that little detail.  :-\)
« Last Edit: December 31, 2010, 08:33:59 AM by 40hz »

Darwin

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...being older and wiser (and sphincter-dilated)ou can't really say you got the job. I could write volumes about that little detail.  :-\)

"Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

cranioscopical

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Note: until you have a signed purchase order or letter of intent in hand, you don't have the assignment.
In >40 years in one of my businesses I always worked on a handshake (not literally, typically a phone call). With projects worth a fairly significant amount, I was stiffed only twice.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2011, 10:32:58 AM by cranioscopical »

40hz

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I've never been stiffed on any large project. 'Big' and 'large' being relative since I've never been involved with anything that I billed out a $100 million either! (But I'd like to... ;D). People that commit to the $20-$30K+ projects are usually good at their word, with or without a signed contract.

It's the sub $2K projects I'm most likely to get bad debt with.

cranioscopical

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I've never been involved with anything that I billed out a $100 million either!
Heck no! Nor have I, that was scraped up over a 40-year period.  :-[

40hz

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I've never been involved with anything that I billed out a $100 million either!
Heck no! Nor have I, that was scraped up over a 40-year period.  :-[

Ok. In that case, allow me to revise my earlier comment:

I've never been involved in anything that billed out at $100 million over a 40-year period either!

But I'd still like to. ;D :Thmbsup:
« Last Edit: December 31, 2010, 04:31:34 PM by 40hz »

mouser

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I've not gotten stiffed on programming projects i was hired to do, but there have been a few times where my own hubris and bad judgement has led me to spend dozens and dozens of hours on a prototype or early work for a project that never materialized.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2010, 05:08:36 PM by mouser »

kyrathaba

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You do mean "stiffed", right Mouser?  :P

mouser

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thanks for that correction   :huh:
« Last Edit: December 31, 2010, 05:26:55 PM by mouser »

kyrathaba

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Just kiddin' -- gotta get a little ribbing in before the New Year  :D