By: Mike Michalowicz
Excerpted from The Pumpkin Plan by Mike Michalowicz by arrangement with Portfolio Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright© 2012 by Mike Michalowicz.
When it comes to rating clients or customers, there are some pretty basic qualifiers that apply to all businesses.
Do they pay on time, when they feel like it or not at all?
Do they refer others to you, or do they keep you all to themselves?
Would they tell you if you made a horrible (or horribly stupid) mistake, let you fix it and let it go, or would they rub your nose in it every chance they got?
Is a super-sweet deal on the horizon, or are they maxed out with you?
Do they tell you what they need and want, or do they expect you to read their minds?
Do they respect your expertise, or do they consistently undermine or question you?
Are they coming back for more, more, more, or are they one-hit wonders?
You also have your own qualifiers -- the qualities you look for in a shipwreck buddy (top client). Maybe you’re looking for clients who prefer a specific product or service you provide.
You know where you make your money -- wouldn’t it be fantastic if all of your clients bought that product or used that service?
You can make your own Assessment Chart, or you can go online and download the one I made for you at PumpkinPlan.com/Resources.
I’ve included all of the basic qualifiers, and space for you to add your own. Here’s how you make it:
1. List your clients in descending order of revenue.
2. Now, put a line through the clients who make you cringe when you hear their names.
3. Create a column for each of the following qualifiers:
Pays Fast -- do they pay on time, or early?
Repeat Revenue -- do they use your services or purchase from you on a regular basis?
Revenue Potential -- could they generate a significant amount of revenue for you in the future?
Communication -- do they communicate well with you?
Fix It -- when you make a mistake, will they tell you, give you a chance to fix it and forgive you when you do?
4. Grade each client in each column. A = perfect, B = near perfect, but messes up occasionally, C = average, D = poor, rarely meets expectations, F = completely sucks. Be honest— don’t give them more credit than they’re due. This is your livelihood, man, your dream.
Don’t worry about hurt feelings. You can keep this Assessment Chart under lock and key if you have to, but be honest.
5. Now create new columns for the following, less crucial qualifiers:
Opportunity: does working with them give you opportunities you wouldn’t have had otherwise, such as introductions to key partners?
Referrals: do they refer others to you and/ or are they willing to?
History: do you have a long-established history working with this client, making you feel confident you understand how they behave in all situations?
6. Add blank columns for any additional qualifiers you came up with.
7. Place a “Y” (yes) or “N” (no) in each of the non- crucial columns. Use this as a tiebreaker when identifying top clients. For example, if you have two clients who both score a B on the crucial rating scale, find out which of these clients has more Ys than Ns in your non- crucial columns.
If you sell products to hundreds of customers, go with the top five, ten or twenty percent of your clientele (based on who brings in the most dough). Remember, customers are really clients.
If you can’t name your top revenue generators, jot down the names of the people you see most often.
If you don’t know their names (and come on, you have to get to know them), write down their attributes -- lady with pink hair, tattoo guy, high-pitched voice -- and then vow to introduce yourself at your earliest opportunity.
Mike Michalowicz (pronounced mi-CAL-o-witz) launched and sold two multimillion-dollar companies and currently operates his third company, Obsidian Launch. In addition, he is the author of The Pumpkin Plan, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and writes about small business for the Wall Street Journal.