How to Identify Your Ideal Client

Identifying the Ideal Client you want to work with is key to a successful business

Finding the “Ideal Client” is at the top of any new business start-up list.

Most new business owners have at least a general idea of the type of client they’ll be serving when they began to formulate their business plans.  

When I started my senior downsizing business back in 2009, I assumed that every client was the “Ideal Client”. Boy, was I wrong!

That misguided assumption not only cost me a ton of time and energy but, at times, cost me hard-earned money.

Not all clients are the “Right Client”

So, in this post, I’d like to share an important lesson, which is, that not all clients are “Ideal” and some, in fact, like the “Problem Client”, should be avoided entirely.

Luckily for you, the “Problem Client” can be identified by a few red flags, some of which I’ll be sharing with you in a minute.

But, how do you tell an “Ideal Client” from the kind you want to avoid?

Let’s start by clarifying what an “Ideal Client” might mean for you and your new business.

An Ideal Client is someone you truly enjoy working with who values you and your services

An Ideal Client Defined

For most businesses, an “Ideal Client” is someone that truly needs your services and appreciates the unique and personal way you provide them. 

The “Ideal Client” is respectful, friendly, open to suggestions, and thrilled to have a professional willing and able to solve their problem.

They also pay on time and are happy to refer your business to everyone they know. They are your biggest fans! 

But, I believe the biggest factor is that they acknowledge and appreciate the overall value that your service provides.

They don’t complain that your services are too expensive or insist on heavily discounted fees right out of the gate. 

The “Ideal Client” knows you are worth every penny of your service fee and they clearly and consistently let you know it.   

Is this the type of client you’d want to work with?

Problem Client Warning Signs

So, now, let’s tackle the “Problem Client” because part of knowing who’s “Ideal” is also knowing who you don’t want to work with.

Remember those red flags I mentioned earlier? When you see them, they are your best indicators that you have a “Problem Client” and you are in for the ride of your life (and not in a good way).

Be aware that some “Problem Clients” start out acting like you are the best thing to happen to them since sliced bread. They come out of the gate acting like they want to become your new best friend and couldn’t possibly be unpleasant to deal with.  

So, it’s important that you stay alert, observant and employ your “spidey-senses” as early as the initial phone consultation.

Problem Clients Often Provide Early Warning Signs

Here are some important red flags to look for:

1. Pay attention to their demeanor during your initial intake phone call and in-home consultation.  

Are they confronting or demanding?  For instance, when you tell them your availability, but they want service sooner, are they insistent you change your schedule? Do they try to use other persuasive or intimidating tactics to get what they want?

Are they super nice up until the moment you tell them something they don’t want to hear, such as not being able to meet an unrealistic timeline, then instantly turn into Super Cujo complete with fangs?

2.  Do they want 5 star-service at a 1-star price?

I had one potential client that insisted she wanted the “full-service move package” (packing, unpacking, materials, and move day oversight) plus movers, but wasn’t willing to pay a dime more than $300 for it all.

Needless to say, I politely declined the “opportunity”.

Now, I should be clear that being cost-conscious, in and of itself, is not an issue. Seniors often need to be careful with their money or stick to a budget, because they are on a fixed income.

The difference is that an “Ideal Client” that has genuine budget issues is willing to work with you. They prioritize the services they can afford and never demand that you take a cut in pay just to meet their budget needs.

A “Problem Client” doesn’t care about your ability to cover hard costs or make a living. They are all about what you can do to make their life and downsizing move a premier experience.

3.  Have they known about their move for 6 months, but called you a day or two before their move date and expected you to accommodate them?

What’s that old saying?  “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part!”.

You will get a fair share of people like this who call the day before a move and genuinely expect you to be standing by, ready to jump in at a moment’s notice.   

But a downsizing move takes time and planning.  Movers are often scheduled months in advance, especially during the busy move season. 

Even the most service-oriented person, especially if they are just starting a business, are tempted to jump at this opportunity thinking they can save the day. 

But, don’t.  If the customer couldn’t get it together to call you or schedule a mover, just imagine all the other issues they didn’t plan or prepare for either.

Take this kind of client and you’ll be setting yourself up for failure because even though they couldn’t get it together, they will have unrealistic expectations that you will deliver them the Promised Land on time and without a hitch.

4. Are they Drama Kings or Queens?

If you immediately get a bad vibe during your initial phone consult or the in-home walk-through because the potential client is overly arrogant, in a bad mood, picking fights with their spouse, or constantly complaining about anyone and everyone around them, run!

Odds are, if they are saying nasty things about others to you, they’ll be doing the same with your business reputation even when their complaints are baseless.

And let’s be honest, no one wants a grumpy “Ideal Client”, especially during a stressful experience like a downsizing move.

5. Do they want to change the terms of your service contract?

Here again, is an example of a hard lesson I had to learn during my early years in business.

A client that is telling you that they won’t sign your service agreement unless they strike out certain terms and conditions that they don’t want to be held accountable to, is not a client that you want to do business with.

Your service agreement protects both your business and your clients.

I include a service contract template in my downsizing course for my students to use that has been thoroughly vetted by an attorney. Those terms are there for a reason. Exposing your business to potential litigation is an expensive and stressful gamble you should avoid. 

If the client is unwilling to honor those terms, it’s a clear sign that they could be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Don’t take the risk.  Stick to your business principles and protect your reputation and business assets by wishing these kinds of clients on their way to torment a competitor.

Some Final Thoughts

Knowing what to look for in an “Ideal Client”, and which type of clients to avoid, can help you define what’s most important to you in your business vision.

There will be times when you might have to say no to a potential job because it doesn’t fit your business values or the client clearly does not appreciate the value you bring in your services.

That’s ok. Keep your focus on building your business with clients that you love working with. Not only will you enjoy them, but they will continue to provide a steady referral base that will help you grow your company in the years to come.

I discuss even more ways to identify your “Ideal Client” in my Introduction to Senior Downsizing as a Business course, so if you’d like to learn more on the subject, plus much more, check it out at course page.