Subscriber WG writes, “How do you sift the toads from the frogs with new client requests?”
In other words: How do you know whether a prospect will be a good client to work with or a bad client?
There is a formula for qualifying clients I have given before: MAD FU.
It stands for money, authority, desire, fit, and urgency.
1 – Money: does the client have a budget? And is it big enough to cover your fee?
How to find out: Ask the client, “Do you have a budget for this project?”
If they say yes, ask, “Would you mind sharing with me what it is?”
If they say no, ask, “Well, do you at least have a dollar figure in your mind of what you’d like it to cost?”
2 – Authority: can the client make the decision to hire you? Or does he have to get approval from others?
How to find out: Ask the client, “Who else is involved in making this decision?”
3 – Desire: if you are a copywriter, do they value good copy? Do they want better copy than they have? Or do they view copy as a commodity without any special value?
How to find out: When a prospect says “we are looking at many other copywriters,” that’s a sign to me that they view what I do as a commodity service, and it makes me lose interest in them.
4 – Fit: are they a good fit for you? Are they in an industry you are comfortable writing about? Are they the size company you like to work with?
5 – Urgency: if they need the service you provide now or by an upcoming deadline date, the chances are good they will hire you or someone else. If there is no urgency, your chances of getting hired decline geometrically. Prospects in a hurry are the best prospects.
How to find out: Ask: “What is your deadline for completing this project?”
Here are a few additional rules of thumb for client selection:
** Your instincts are right 95% of the time. Therefore, if you get an immediate negative vibe from a person, don’t take them on as a client.
Example: I got a call from a well known direct marketing entrepreneur who wanted, he said, a “killer” ad. He asked me “Can you write a killer ad?” five times in 5 minutes. And he sounded like a used car salesman. I passed.
** If you don’t like or believe in the product, pass.
Example: I got a call a few weeks ago from someone who wanted me to write a sales letter on using astrology to make business decisions. I passed because I think that is a load of B.S.
** It’s a negative to me if the first question the prospect asks me is “What will it cost?” That tells me they are looking for a low price. They ought to be asking to see samples of my work, a client list, and client testimonials and results.
** If they are poor speakers of English, this is a negative for me as a copywriter, because they must be able to recognize and appreciate well-written, conversational English prose when I submit it to them.
** Having a prospect ask if I will waive my fee in exchange for a percentage of sales gets an immediate “no” from me. From a serious direct marketer, I will accept my fee plus a percentage of sales as a bonus when such is offered.
** Also beware the prospect who asks you to lower your fee in exchange for the promise of a lot of work down the road. It’s an empty promise designed solely to get you to cut your price.
** I have had the occasional prospect tell me “You won’t be able to understand or write about my product because my product is different than anything else you have ever seen.” I agree and tell them they are right and therefore I cannot help them and wish them well.
Bob Bly is the author of “World’s Best Copywriting Secrets” and has written copy for more than 100 companies including IBM, Boardroom, Medical Economics and AT&T. He is the author of more than 75 books and a columnist for Target Marketing, Early To Rise and The Writer. McGraw-Hill calls him “America’s top copywriter”.