Balancing clients and prospects
Let's face it, if you're a freelancer or in the consulting space, on-boarding new customers can be fun. Whether you are doing some of the sales or just coming in later as a technical resource, there's always a honeymoon phase. You talk about all the things you can, will, and would like to do to improve their business.
I've been a part of the sales side and the technical side. It can be challenging at times, but most of the time, it's exciting. You get the opportunity to present solutions to decision makers and complete projects that were either neglected, or never happened due to budget constraints.
While this can be exciting, I've been a part of smaller firms and witnessed so much energy put into sales, marketing, and meeting with prospects. Sometimes in these cases, you end up losing focus on your existing clients. The never ending search for more clients, the best clients, the perfect clients can become intoxicating.
Don't let your current clients become frustrated with longer response times or let your customer service take a hit because you are spending too much time chasing new clients. Here are a couple techniques I've used over the years to balance things out.
Prioritize your existing clients above prospects
Provide realistic timelines to prospects and new clients
Perform some level of screening before engaging with prospects
I've seen many freelancers and consultants constantly in "hustle" mode they forget who is actually paying invoices. No matter how great a lead, or prospect is, you need to prioritize existing clients above all else. These are the customers who are actively paying you. The last thing you want to do is blow them off because you're too busy on calls or having meetings trying to sell your services.
There are times where prospects are extremely eager to move forward with your services. This is great! It's an awesome feeling, don't get me wrong, but can be a bit tricky if you already have other projects lined up. Don't be afraid to provide realistic time frames. No one will ever be upset with a realistic timeline.
Earlier in my career I felt like it was bad customer service and was nervous to give a timeline upfront for the on-boarding process or project completion. Everything was assumed to be performed as soon as possible. You guessed it! This leads to over working, spending too much time being stressed to make unreasonable timelines, etc. Again, don't be afraid to present deliver reasonable timelines.
For freelancers and consultants it can be difficult to turn business away. I by no means am advocating turning down work or business, but you need to understand that not every lead or prospect is a good fit. There's nothing wrong with that. For example, perhaps you receive a referral for a prospect in a vertical you're not as familiar with. There could be some level of compliance or regulatory affairs you don't quite understand. The best approach is to perform some level of screening beforehand and acknowledge you're not a good fit for their business. The last thing you want to do, is accept everything thrown your way and find out later there are violations with compliance you are responsible for.
I know this advice is easier said than done. I hope this helps provide some insight into helping you balance out working with existing clients and hopefully meeting with new ones!