We don’t understand our customers

Are you a patient person? Can you take your time and do a job right? In conversation, can you sit and listen without just waiting for your turn to speak?

I hope you can, because those traits are hallmarks of a great business owner — someone who can take time in the sales process to really listen to the client’s needs.

Of Billing and Getting Shafted

Last week I was talking to a prospect who has been through three developers over three years, trying to get this prospect’s product to market. This person has had everything from a custom CMS built (well, started to be built but…) to a Joomla site started (again, only started). They paid for some work 100% up front,  and other work in installments.

After these three years they have a log-in to a site that doesn’t work, and that’s about it.

During our conversation, this prospect asked how I usually get paid and you could see the discomfort on their face when I said 100% up front is my normal terms.

At this point, I had a choice — I could stick to my guns or listen to the client. See, I had already heard the above story about all the developers that had screwed this prospect over, and I figured that while I usually get paid 100% up front, this client was going to have strong reservations about that.

Really, can you blame them? They’ve heard the same thing from three other developers:

Yup, I can totally do that, we are the right people for the job!

Only to find out that they were clearly not the right people for the job, but the client had to spend money to figure that out.

Ask

So after I said 100% up front, and they were very obviously uncomfortable, I asked what payment terms they would be comfortable with.

Guess what? It only took about 30 seconds of talking to come up with the weekly model of billing I’ve used as my alternate. We both feel safe that the risks we’re taking are low.

We’re both happy.

Now, if I had just put my foot down, or not spent the first 20 minutes of the conversation listening to their needs I likely wouldn’t be converting this prospect into a client.

Your first call with any client should only be to understand your client. Figure out who they are, and what their experience has been with other developers. What are their goals outside of the project? Where do they see their business?

Once you really understand someone it’s generally easy to figure out how to work with them.

Sadly, so many business owners just don’t take the time and they rush the sale.

Don’t be that person.

photo credit: brianneudorff cc

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