As solo entrepreneurs, we frequently work directly with our clients or customers. Over time, you have no doubt found some clients to be a joy to work with and others to be just plain hard work. And while you might believe you treat all these customers equally and that they all get the best possible service from you, the reality is often different. The truth is we are all human, and someone who makes our job hard and dissatisfying is inevitably going to make us feel ‘turned off’. And when we are turned off, we are not at our best. We’re not going to go the extra mile for that person. We’re going to want to get the interaction over with as quickly as possible.
On the other side, the people you enjoy working with often get the best of you. It’s not that these ‘perfect clients’ are those who make your life easiest, nor that they are the most competent or require the least from you. In fact, sometimes the best client in the world is the one who needs moreof your attention than the others. But you find that you willingly work harder and longer for them because you like them. It makes you feel good to serve them.
As our businesses grow (or in order for it to grow), we are likely to contract other people for their services to support us. When that happens, the tables are turned. Then, WE become customers/clients of someone else. But what kind of customers are we? Will we get the best from our service providers because we are joys to work with? Or will we turn them off because we are simply a lot of hard work for them?
In this article, I will briefly examine the key characteristics I think make the ‘perfect client’. Understanding this can not only help us clarify who our ideal clients are (and thus be more discriminating about whom we work with), but it can also teach us how to be ideal clients for others.
KEY TRAIT 1: The Perfect Client Is APPRECIATIVE
We all like to be appreciated for our efforts, regardless of whether or not we’re being paid for them. So, first and foremost, a perfect client is one who tells us they appreciate us and what we do.
It’s also worth saying that, if they appreciate us, they will be more likely to enjoy working with us as well, so everyone wins and has an enjoyable and satisfying time.
KEY TRAIT 2: The Perfect Client Is Clear about What They WANT
When someone signs up to work with you, it is because they want or need the service you are offering – or at least they think they do. But the truth is they may only have a vague idea of what it is they can expect from you.
You need to be sure when your clients hire you that you explain to them very clearly what outcomes they can (and can’t) expect as a result of working with you. If they want those outcomes, that’s wonderful. It means they have the makings of a good client. If you can’t agree with them about the outcomes, you should consider letting them go, because their expectations will not be realistic and you will not be able to satisfy them.
KEY TRAIT 3: The Perfect Client Is Clear about What They Do and Do Not KNOW
When we learn a new skill, we go through a number of stages of awareness of our knowledge or lack thereof. Consider learning to drive. At your first driving lesson, you were unconsciously incompetent – you knew nothing about driving, and you didn’t even know what was involved in driving. After the first couple of lessons, you may have had a crisis of confidence. You might have thought, ‘There’s so much to learn. I’m never going to be able to drive!’ You were aware of what you didn’t know, of what you still had to learn – you became consciously incompetent.
Then, probably for some time after you passed your test, you knew everything you needed to know to drive a car safely. You were competent, but you still had to think about what you were doing. Maybe you couldn’t talk while you were driving, or listen to music, because you were so busy thinking about what you had to do – is it ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ or is it ‘signal, manoeuvre, mirror’? You were consciously competent.
Then, at some point, perhaps after several years of driving, you realise that when you get in the driver’s seat, your body just takes over and you drive, without thinking about it. This is the final stage of learning – unconscious competence.
When a new client hires you, they will probably have to go through these stages. Even if they know all about your subject area, they don’t know how you work, how you will apply your knowledge and experience to them, their life or their business. The perfect client acknowledges that they don’t know everything and that they have something to learn from you. They may be unconsciously incompetent and not know what they need to learn, but they acknowledge that and are willing to correct it – which brings us to the next key trait…
KEY TRAIT 4: The Perfect Client Is Keen to LEARN
If a client isn’t keen to learn, they’ll drag you down. They’ll often feel confused and disempowered. They will make themselves dependent on you and expect you to do it all for them. Eventually, you both may come to resent each other.
But the perfect client is eager to learn from you. If you’re a coach, they want to explore themselves; they want to change things and are willing to do the work. They come to sessions prepared, having done their coaching homework and reflected on the last session. They know what they want to get from the session, and at the same time, they listen to you and are willing to let you guide them through the process.
If you’re a chiropractor, a good client takes your advice, does the exercises you recommend, wears flat supportive shoes, starts carrying their backpack properly rather than slung over one shoulder. They don’t just show up to appointments expecting you to fix them without doing anything for themselves in between.
KEY TRAIT 5: The Perfect Client Is COMMITTED
The perfect client is committed to the work you are doing with/for them. They accept that they may not get results overnight. They accept it may take time and effort to achieve whatever it is they’ve hired to you deliver, and they are willing to put in that time and effort (or wait patiently while you do).
KEY TRAIT 6: The Perfect Client Is ENTHUSIASTIC
I’ve alluded to this already, but it bears being said again. The perfect client is enthusiastic about the work they are doing with you. They want to learn and are willing to put in their share of the work because they are genuinely excited about seeing the results you will produce together. This enthusiasm is infectious and gives energy to the relationship between you.
KEY TRAIT 7: The Perfect Client Is CONNECTED and ENGAGED
Finally, a good client is connected and engaged in the work you are doing with/for them. They chat to you. They ask questions. They are available when you need to speak to them or run something by them. They work on the project themselves rather than delegating it to someone else. If they do need to delegate some of the activities to someone else on their team, they are still actively involved in the process. Because of this, you are able to build a rapport with them. You can laugh and joke with them and get the work done while enjoying each other’s company.
In writing this, I’ve realised that all of these seven key traits of the perfect client are interwoven. They are enthusiastic about what you are working towards because they know it meets their needs. They are aware they have things to learn from you and are enthusiastic about learning them. Their enthusiasm makes them committed to the process and naturally appreciative of what you are doing for them.
And, in turn, their enthusiasm will inspire you to do a good job for them. It will foster a strong connection between you and enable you to work in a healthy collaboration together – as equals.
As a business owner who provides services to people, you will inevitably have clients you love working with and clients you don’t. As you give thought to what makes a good client, for you, it will allow you to start identifying who fits your criteria for a good, enjoyable client before you agree to work with them.
And then, when you take on the role of client with your own service providers, this awareness can help you receive the best level of service possible, allowing your business to flourish and your life to be that much easier.
This is my take on what makes a good client. Now, I’d love to hear what you would add to the list. What makes a good (or bad) client for you? What makes YOU a good (or bad) client for others? Please do share your thoughts or questions in the comments box below.
25 July 2014
P.S. If you believe you could be the ‘perfect client’ to work with Nancy and Lynn at the 7 Graces Project, have a look at our ‘Work With Us’ page, and drop us a line via the Contact Form on this site. .
Nancy V Goodyear is a Business Mentor and Coach who loves to help social entrepreneurs and small business owners cultivate their relationship with self, their business and their audience. With a BA (Hons) in Learning Disability Nursing, she has extensive professional experience working in health & social care within the non-profit sector. She is fluent in French having lived in France for some time. She is a graduate of the Coaches Training Institute and the Co-Active Leadership programme. She is also a director of The 7 Graces Project CIC. http://nancyvgoodyear.com
Like this blog?
Then please subscribe using the form at the upper right side of this page, so you can receive our articles to your inbox.
You can help subsidise ethical marketing training courses for young social entrepreneurs in need. Just subscribe to the blog on Amazon for 99 cents a month (77p UK), and you’ll receive all our articles delivered directly to your Kindle device. All profits go to our 7 Graces Scholarship Fund. You can take a 14-day free trial before you decide. You’ll get a new article 2 or 3 times per week. Check it out at Amazon US or Amazon UK.
Looking for a Tribe?
Come join our 7 Graces group on Facebook, and join us at our monthly meetings. They’re free to attend and we have them both in person and online, so you can participate from anywhere in the world. This is NOT a “business group” but an active community where people actually know and support each other.
Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging: An Effective, Creative & Ethical Way of Marketing for Visionaries & New Paradigm Business Leaders. To receive an update when that book is available, just click here. As a thank-you gift for showing your interest, you’ll get instant access to an exclusive, free 5-page PDF revealing the exact same blogging template we use with our clients and we teach to participants on the ethical marketing training courses at the 7 Graces Project.
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)