SCORE Small Business Blog

My Deadbeat Customer Story
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A few years ago I received an inquiry for services through the contact page on my website. The company seemed like a perfect prospect. The referral had come through a trusted source who knew the prospect and my work well. The owner was smart, ambitious and had already demonstrated excellent results. The owner was interested in a marketing partner who could help take the company to the next level of growth. The product was interesting and in a familiar industry.

The owner and I easily spent an hour brainstorming ideas. I dove right into recommendations and the owner seemed pleased with the insights.

I then prepared a contract with pricing and details and the relationship sharply shifted.cactus customer

The owner started dissecting every element of the contract, questioning the specifics of one line to another. I spent hours on the phone answering questions and justifying time. Each time after hanging up I realized that I had just given away hours of time and insights – for free! Our exchanges flipped from collaboration to buyer/seller negotiation. The owner saw my services as a cost center, not as a growth engine.

Somehow I found myself in a very unsatisfying engagement. I spent many more hours on the project than projected. I dreaded adversarial discussions with the owner. Despite my efforts to deliver value, I always felt underappreciated and overworked.

After several weeks, I was finally able to extricate myself and complete the project. In reflection, I could admit this customer was not really the deadbeat. Instead the culprit was my own deadbeat sales and service delivery processes.

To be honest, the experience was just the kick in the pants I needed to improve. I developed a Customer Screener to get a better read up front on new prospects. I restructured my contracts and descriptions to more clearly communicate costs and value delivered. And I better thought through my service delivery to ensure the project (and my time) stayed on track and within scope.

On November 29th at 1pm ET I will offer a live webinar to share the process and tools for getting better customers (and offloading some of the deadbeats). Sign up here  – as a gift to my SCORE readers, all registrants will get a free copy of my ebook “The Secret of Getting Better Customers”. You can also sign up here to get editable “better customer” templates and tools to start working on your business.

Jeanne RossommePresident, RoadMap Marketing
Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.
www.roadmapmarketing.com | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne

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Discussion (1) Comment


  1. Matt StachelVisitor

    Jeanne,

    This is a great story! A truly successful Entrepreneur can always look at both sides of any situations, as you did, and come away from the situation better. I was wondering if you might be interested in writing an article about my company. http://WWW.Nastyclient.com is a site for businesses to rate and review all their clients. Sort of the angieslist for business owners/service providers. It would really be a tremendous help if you would help me spread the word about the site.
    I look forward to speaking with you.

    Thanks,
    Matt

 

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