(Editor's Note: Today we're rolling out a four-part series on the challenges business owners face when dealing with difficult clients. This post, and the others in the series, are a collaboration between WeddingIQ co-editors Jennifer Reitmeyer & Kyle Bergner.)
Clients interview us all the time. Magazines and blogs have timelines for when we should be hired, suggestions for finding the best vendor and what questions to ask each of us. Sometimes we are the most important vendor to our clients, other times we are just a box to be checked on a long list of things to be done before the wedding. We as vendors spend a lot of time and energy wooing these clients through our virtual doors and coaxing them into meetings, all in the hopes that they will hire us for their big day. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to get a contract that we forget to pay attention during the interview process - because, remember, we are interviewing them as well.
From the very first contact, potential clients will let you know if they are a good fit for your company and your brand. Below are several red flags we have experienced throughout our careers that let us know a client might not be right for us. The sooner you learn to identify your own red flags, the sooner you will begin to improve your relationship with all your future clients.
- Longest Email Ever: If a potential client leaves an incredibly detailed email about every minute aspect of their wedding, complete with multiple declarations of my talent, I'm a little suspicious. This client clearly wants to tell everyone their wedding story and is less concerned about the business end of the transaction. Most people write a brief sentence or two about their event or just want to know pricing and availability. Maybe later in the day or week they'll set up an appointment to talk more about the wedding and go over the details.
- Multiple Callbacks: If I receive a call on a Friday night, a Saturday morning and then Saturday afternoon, each left with an increasingly perturbed attitude, I'm pretty much going to tell you I'm booked no matter the day of your event. I try to return messages in a timely fashion but I'm not available 24/7. Also, I work Friday and Saturday nights. A failure to recognize that fact suggests to me that, throughout the wedding process, this client will expect me to be on call for them at all hours. An inquiry is not an emergency, so I'm going to pass.
- Cancels More Than Once: I get it, things happen. Work calls, a family member can't make it, traffic is rough. I'm pretty flexible when it comes to scheduling meetings; however, if this happens two or three times, it's a sign the client isn't taking the process seriously and doesn't value my time. This is not going to change once they sign the contract, and it's a pretty good indication of how the timeline is going to go the day of the wedding.
- Allergic to (Real) Research: I dare say that my company's website has more honest, specific information than just about any DJ site out there. We've got a list of 40 must-ask questions (with our answers), an extremely thorough FAQ, and a bunch of articles full of advice. That's why I'm always wary of clients who email us with long lists of questions - probably copied from a magazine or blog - about things that are already explained, in overwhelming detail, on our website. These kinds of emails show me that a client is more enamored with gathering responses (and having vendors cater to them for the fun of it) than with actually researching their decisions.
- Skepticism Overload: Given that we are, in fact, selling our services, usually to clients who have never hired a DJ before, it may sound counter-intuitive to expect prospective clients to approach us with a certain level of trust from the get-go. And yet, that's exactly what I expect. Again, our website is extremely detailed, with tons of information about our style, our philosophy, and our company values. It also links to our 600+ glowing reviews and lists our many awards and accolades. I've provided everything that's needed to demonstrate that we're a legitimate, respected business. Of course I'm aware that it's our responsibility to "close the deal" by making clients feel comfortable, and that's why we have them meet with their specific DJ prior to signing a contract - we place a tremendous amount of value on our working relationship with them. Still, though, if a client clearly doubts the value of our services and our reputation within the industry from the first inquiry onward, it's obvious they're not the right client for us.
- Contract Butchers: Like many companies, our clients are accomplished, educated and smart. Many of them are attorneys themselves or have an attorney in the family. Wonderful! A huge red flag for me, though, is when a client wants to practically rewrite the entire contract. As any intelligent business owner would do, I had my company's contract and other legal documents written by a lawyer. Not only does it define what my clients can expect from my business (and vice versa), but it also outlines our legal obligations to one another in case things go wrong. It's serious stuff, and not something to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Will I write a custom addendum when the circumstances are right? Sure, if the addendum doesn't set me up for problems down the road (and, of course, if my attorney approves). But generally speaking, I believe that if a client has major concerns with a company's contract, that's something that should be factored into their decision whether to hire that company. I don't think it's reasonable to expect another party to completely forfeit their own interests in order to earn a piece of business, and someone who expects me to do so isn't my client.
Being mindful of client behaviors early in the sales process will greatly increase the chance of creating a harmonious relationship with clients. When we are matched well with our clients, the whole process is easier and more rewarding. It will result in better service, continued referrals and great reviews from clients who truly value us.