Rather like the wrong type of leaves being disruptive to the rail network – the wrong type of clients can be detrimental to your business.
It can take ages for business owners to realise this, when they start out they are excited about their new venture and keen to prove to the world that they can succeed on their own.
New business owners are often so afraid of being without an income, that they agree to take on clients that deep down do not meet their strategy or will take up a load of their time, without earning them sufficiently to compensate. Taking on every client who asks can make them feel busy, and being in demand makes them feel that they’re doing a good job.
It can take some experience in business to realise that getting overloaded with the wrong type of clients, reduces productivity, morale and income generating potential.
But I’m a nice person, I can’t let people down – if they ask me to help and I can, then I should.
I have news for you, that may or may not come as a surprise –
You can’t help everyone – all of the time.
The wrong type of clients
In any business there are going to be enquiries from people that you could help, and really do need help, but for whatever reason they are not the clients that you should take on. Say you are a counsellor that specialises in bereavement and you get a call from Steve who sounds distressed because he is facing redundancy. He really needs to talk, and has heard how much you helped his friend Amanda when her husband died last year.
What do you do?
When you’re new to business you take Steve on as a client anyway. We’ve all done it. You can’t leave him to fend for himself at this time of distress, how would you live with yourself? You’re a nice person.
But you’re not doing either of you any favours. You end up with your diary being clogged up, preventing you from doing what you’re actually meant to be doing. Steve gets a less than ideal outcome, as you prevent him seeking help from the specialist he needs.
The ideal solution is that you refer him to a trusted contact that would better suit his needs.
1. Internal referrals
If you get a lot of enquiries in a particular area, you may consider having someone else within your business deal with them. In the example above, you may know another counsellor and allow them to work from your premises full or part-time depending on demand. You may choose to train up someone, so that you know that they are in tune with your business objective or recruit someone to join your business on an employed or contractor basis.
2. External referrals
Most professions have some sort of association that either regulates them or offers some kind of credibility to their members. Use this as a starting point to find other local, reputable colleagues that you could network with. Spend time with others in your field that are local to you, with a view to understanding their specialism and being able to signpost people their way. This can be of great benefit to you both.
Be sure that you understand their practice and ethos, and when you pass their details on to people – be prepared to explain both how you know them and any experience you have of them.
So, back to Steve – what do you say?
Have a brief chat with him and explain the position.
“Thank you for getting in touch, I’m really pleased that Amanda felt confident to refer you to me. I’d love to help you but I’d like you to call my colleague Helen, as she specialises in counselling for work related issues and will be able to give you a more specialised service than I can offer.
“I’ve known her for 3 years, we were at college together / I met her last year at our professional conference and although I’ve not worked with her personally, she is experienced in her field and was a person I instantly warmed to.
“Would you like me to ask her to call you? Let me know how you get on.”
If you’re struggling to find people to signpost to, please get in touch – I have a huge range of contacts and may just know the person that you need an introduction to!