Look Who's Coming to Dinner

October 29, 2019

If you’re a solo professional services provider or you’re a partner in a small firm, you recognize—or you should recognize—the importance of accepting clients who are the best fit. Not only is your time limited, but clients you shouldn’t have taken on often absorb the time available to take on great clients who come along later.

Sometimes it’s hard to know prospects until they become clients. I’ve written about the warning signals sent by the “what are your rates?” question, particularly if it comes early in a conversation.

A consultant recently asked me about other signs they should look for in a “bad fit” prospect.

I suggested the dinner test:  would you be willing to invite this client to dinner in your home? Not at a restaurant, where it’s easy to escape, but to your home?

Further, would you be willing to introduce your spouse or significant other to this client?

If the answer to these questions is no, then why would you take them on as a client?

Judging what the quality of a future business relationship is something we all wrestle with, and we’ll never always hit it exactly right. It’s critical judgement call, though, as every engagement involving professional services will hit a rough spot. Maybe that rocky point will come when you must deliver bad news about a snag or delay in the delivered work. Whatever the cause, a challenging conversation must occur. It’s much more likely you’ll be able to maintain or even strengthen your connection with that client if you’ve started with a relationship as a foundation.

In the absence of a good relationship, all that’s left is a transaction. Anything can go wrong in a transaction, and invariably does. If there’s little to no relational connective tissue, then your engagement is at risk, even if you think all is well.

You don’t have to be best friends, by the way. We can have great relationships with individuals who aren’t our closest friends.

But if the thought of inviting someone to your home a couple of hours for dinner, wondering what your spouse might think, and questioning how you’ll fill up that conversation time gives you pause, then you should think twice about engaging that prospect.

I think it works the other way around, by the way:  if you’re thinking about hiring a consultant, accountant, attorney, or some other professional services provider to help you in your business, would you have them over for dinner? If not, that may be a signal you should pay attention to before you sign that engagement agreement.

(Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash)


©Ray Business Advisors, LLC and John Ray


About me:  I’m enthusiastic about how changes in pricing strategy can significantly change profitability for a business and enhance life choices for business owners. I live this passion through Ray Business Advisors, my outside CFO and business advisory practice, in which my pricing is exclusively value-based, not hourly. I work with business owners on how they can change their pricing not just to increase their profits, but better serve the wants of their customers. Click here to learn more or call me at 404-287-2627.



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