8 ways to spot a bad client (before it’s too late)

Darren WoolleyIn this guest post, pitch doctor Darren Woolley has some advice for agencies on how to spot a dodgy client before a deal is done.

So, you are trying to woo a client. Or, even better, they are trying to woo you. But how do you tell a tyre-kicker from the real deal? How do you know they are not simply going to take you for a spin around the block before dumping you on the pile of rejected agencies?

Here are eight simple things to look out for before it’s too late.

1. Past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. So if they change agencies on a regular basis then prepare to be used, abused and dumped.

2. Respect is a mutual attribute. If on your first meeting they leave you waiting in the reception area for more than 15 minutes without an apology, this is a good sign of a lack of respect.

3. Are you as important to them as they are to you? If they cancel and reschedule meetings with you at the last minute more than once it is a good sign you are not.

4. How they treat their incumbent is how you will end up being treated. So if they openly criticise their current agency with you, just remember that will be you one day soon.

5. Is this about value or are they simply looking for the cheapest option? Listen carefully for the first things that they talk about, because if it is rates and remuneration, then this is probably no more than a financial transaction for them.

6. Clarity of objectives reflects clarity of purpose. If they cannot describe what success looks like it is also likely that they cannot see your place in that success.

7. Communication is the foundation of successful collaborations. But if they resort to using industry jargon and ‘weasel’ words that require deciphering, it is likely they are covering up that they don’t know what they need.

8. Finally, in the words of David Ogilvy, never have a committee as a client. But committee come in all shapes and forms. So if you find yourself talking to someone who can’t make a decision, that is a committee.

Your time and energy is too valuable to waste on clients that simply chew up agencies and spit them out. Look for the signs and if you see one think carefully about going any further. See two? Stop and walk away. If you see three or more, turn and run. If you don’t, then don’t blame anyone but yourself when you have been chewed up and spat out.

You have been warned.

Darren Woolley is the managing director at TrinityP3.


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