Growing a successful consulting business isn’t a walk in the park. Especially if you work closely with clients on their businesses or lives — it’s intimate. It’s not as removed as sending off a product to your customer and minimally interacting with them. When you’re consulting — especially if you’re working with people in an ongoing manner — you are also navigating their mindset, belief systems, and vision.
That’s why having filters in place to find the client types and personalities that you work best with is a worthwhile endeavor. The filters catch all of your deal breakers and give you a sense of what working with someone will be like before you commit to a considerable amount of time together.
Here are some of the filters I use, and why I use them.
1. Do I believe in the work that they do?
When you’re working on someone’s business or life, you must be able to stand behind the mission and business you’re working with. Sometimes people will want to work with you, but maybe you don’t align with their company vision or values. Maybe you don’t believe that what they do actually helps other people or solves a real problem.
If you can’t stand behind the work they do, then you can’t support that work and maintain your integrity. It is ethically wrong to take money from a client you don’t believe in.
Here are the questions I ask myself to make sure I actually believe in the work my potential clients are doing.
Can I support the work? (Both am I able and do I want to?)
Can I understand their services?
Do I really think I can help them and make a difference?
Do I believe in the work they do?
Is their work, mission or vision in alignment with my own?
2. Do I like the human they are?
Once you know you can support the business, it’s time to evaluate if you like the potential client as a person. In a long-term consulting container — when you’re working together for six months or longer — you need to like the other person. It’s important to want to spend time with them.
If you dread taking their phone calls now, that’s not going to get better or easier just because they paid you. If this goes unchecked and you sign a client you don’t like as a person, it leads to resentment and massive issues with the client.
Ask yourself these questions to find out if you really like the potential client as a human:
Who are they?
What do we have in alignment with each other?
Can I care about who they are and what they are up to?
Did they come from a trusted referral partner?
How do they show up in the world?
What do their clients say about them (such as testimonials and reviews)?
How do they treat people online?
3. Do they desire to change their lifestyle (or the underlying problem that you help them with)?
Motivation in a potential client makes all the difference for the results they get. A highly motivated client gets much better results than a client you have to drag through the process.
Not to mention, it’s not fun working with someone who isn’t enthusiastic about getting the result. If they’re not motivated to get the results they want, they’re not a good fit. If the work you do is intentional and dependent on the client’s willingness to actively participate in changing the course of their business and life, then here are the questions you can use as a filter to make sure you’re working with motivated clients.
Are they willing to do the work to change their lifestyle/get the result?
Do they understand that they won’t always feel inspired, but are willing to show up anyway?
Are they devoted to the long-term commitment of what they desire?
4. Can they afford an expert?
This is important. A good deal of new business owners will spend a lot of time engaging with potential clients who have no intentions of working together or they have no ability to follow through and hire the expert.
This is dangerous because those moments spent with potential clients who can’t afford to hire you, steal your time away from people who do need you and can hire you. It costs you time and money.
So here are some of the questions that will help you understand if a potential client is ready, willing, and able to afford your services.
Are they willing to invest in their business and themselves? Or are they just checking you out to see what you’re about – essentially kicking the tires.
What is their time table for getting started?
How significant is this need/problem for them?
Have they set aside a specific budget for this?
Having filters in place to ensure you’re only working with the most qualified clients that you’re excited about makes the difference between loving your business and showing up energized or growing to resent your business where you feel the desire to burn it all down regularly. Filters are your first line of defense in protecting your standards and maintaining the integrity of your business. Use them wisely, and feel free to tweak these or add to them as you need to.