Some of the biggest clients in your territory, the ones who spend the most money and who could make your whole number, are nightmare clients. This is why:
Commands lowest price: Nightmare clients demand that you give them the lowest price. Not the lowest price you are able to give them, even though they demand that, too, but the lowest price they receive from everyone in your industry. They are not willing to allow you to capture any of the value you create.
Will change to save a few pennies: The nightmare client has all the loyalty of Judas. When a competitor offers them a few pennies less, they require that you meet that lower price or they move the business. When you live by this sword, you also die by that same sword.
Full of difficult personalities: There are companies and people who will challenge you to bring your best. And then there are people who are just difficult personalities. This variety of client is the later, offering no constructive criticism, just plenty of criticism, and almost always personal.
Believes all the people who sell to them are vendors: For this group of prospective clients, you are not a trusted advisor, even if you have the advice, and even if you aspire to be that for them. You are also not consultative. You are a vendor. You are a supplier. You will never be anything more.
Is not really interested in changing: You know how sometimes your client realizes that they must make changes on their side to produce the result they need? This type of prospective client isn’t that kind of client. They want the result without having to change.
Will blame you for their lack of investment in results: The nightmare client will tell you that you must deliver better, faster, and cheaper. They do not intend to invest more to produce results; they intend for you to invest more, all the while withholding the investment from you in the way of a price that allows for investment
Pays bills late: Not late every once in a while. Not late because your invoices are incorrect. They pay late because they intend to pay late, regardless of the terms of your agreement. Your money is their money, and they are not willing to give it to you, even when you have earned it.
Adversarial instead of collaborative: You are the enemy. Everything is your fault. Any gain you make must have come at their cost, and they cannot allow it. There is no collaboration around problems and challenges, conflict being their preferred method, and making the problem yours alone is their modus operandi.
High body count: Count the number of vendors or suppliers they’ve gone through since you’ve known of them. There are either many, or there is one with no sense of pride big enough to fire their dragon.
Dream clients are also very large and care deeply about the results you produce.
Will invest in better results: No one wants to pay more than they must. But dream clients are willing to make a greater investment to produce a greater result. If you can justify the delta, they’ll help you with the investment you need to produce those results.
Loyal to their partners: Your dream client isn’t going to change for a few pennies. Or dollars. They are loyal to their partners because the value of the relationship and the knowledge and intimacy allow for better results than another company could easily match.
Collaborative contacts: When you have a challenge or problem, your dream client will work through it with you, finding ways to make an improvement together. They’re collaborative, and they focus on the issue, not you as their vendor.
Believe their best suppliers are partners: For these clients, you are not a vendor, supplier, or even preferred supplier. You are a strategic partner. They want you to be consultative, and they expect you to be their trusted advisor.
Is willing to make changes: Where a nightmare is unwilling to change, a dream is willing to do things different to produce better results. Even if they don’t always do so as fast as you would like them to.
Takes responsibility for the challenges they create: Your dream client owns their side of the relationship. When they cause problems in producing results, they own those problems. They pick up their side of the stick.
Pays timely: Professional firms pay their bills. On time. Every time. They aren’t interested in holding your money. They’re interested in being a good partner.
Excellent communication: Dream clients communicate. You never have to worry where things are because they will always communicate with you what’s going on in their world, what needs to change on your side, or what’s going to need to change in the future.
Your time is limited. You are better off pursuing your dream clients, even if they take more time to win.