in Business & Leadership, Journal

Avoid these customers – five warning signs to say no to customers, plus three signs to die for

Bad Customer

Are you feeling the heat of times? There aren’t sufficient interesting & rewarding web projects out there. Everyone either wants to copy some social network / iPhone app or just wants to get it done at weekly grocery cost.

It’s not easy to find projects, so you may tend to pick up anything that comes your way. But beware!

Greg Hoy (on A List Apart) talks about five warning signs you should watch for. He recommends avoiding such customers. They will create problems later. And with my 11 years in web design / development business, I couldn’t agree more. I’ll even share couple of my own warning signs! Plus I have a list of positive signs from customers at the end.

Let’s start with Greg’s list of 5 red flags to Getting To No:

  1. The never-ending contract revisionist: clients who can’t settle on the terms, keep asking for material / mocks upfront before taking decision
  2. The giant project team: more than 3 people on client’s team is harmful. My experience says more than 2 is deadly as well.
  3. Mr. or Mrs. Vague: All of us have them. Ask them plenty of questions.
  4. The prospect with ants in their pants: clients who want it done yesterday. Sure shot problem creator. Charge rush rates.
  5. The vanishing boss: Now he’s here, now he’s not. He’ll be present in the first “vision” meeting, and vanish until you deliver on the second milestone. And then claim “you’ve got it all wrong”. Solution: keep him in loop – email, phone, text – whatever works.

And here are my additions to the list:

  1. Wannabe web millionaire with no commitment: someone who wants to make tons of money with this project, but has no time, money and background. He probably got an idea and his friends told him it’ll tick. But a good idea doesn’t make a business success. A project needs higher commitment from the client to succeed – higher than your own commitment.
  2. Mountain of molehill’er: They give you one line requirement, like, “I want a Facebook clone”. Another version is “I want Facebook + Google Analytics + the next big Web 4.0 startup”. All your alarms should ring when you hear something like that. The spec will grow faster than mushrooms.
  3. The Window Shopper: They ask for price / time estimates first. Have a long list of suppliers they are evaluating, but don’t have clear parameters for evaluation. May not have the time to answer your questions or may answer generically. Such guys will either go with the vendor who bid at 60% of the highest bidder or scrap the project.

Here are 3 signs of good prospects – do whatever it takes to win them

  1. The Lake Water Guy: Such prospects give you clear specifications, are calm and understanding. You can sense their calmness even when you speak to them. They have clear vision of what they want – may not know the technical details – and passionate about it.
  2. Suggestions Welcomed type: a prospect who’s willing to listen to your ideas is grounded and open. They will respect your skills and the discussions will make the project better.
  3. Been There, Done That, But Not Boasting It: These are people who’ve seen the ups and downs, have failed a few times and have seen successes too. They understand there will be challenges and are ready to give you the time and space to handle them.

What kind of customers have you seen? What’s your list of positive / warning signs?

(Image courtesy dev null)

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