“For that reason, I’m out.”
If you’ve ever watched Dragon’s Den (or its U.S. counterpart, Shark Tank), you’re intimately familiar with that final verdict. It’s uttered by some very successful entrepreneurs when they decide a particular investment opportunity isn’t a good fit.
So how often do you say it to your prospects?
Maybe you should be saying it a little more often.
You know how it goes: Some potential client emails you about working together. Maybe he wants a new website, or some copy, or marketing advice. Doesn’t matter. You and he discuss the work a little further and you realize…
Your potential client is about to make a huge, expensive mistake.
Even if you invested hours, even despite doing your very best work, you know in your heart of hearts that this person is about to waste his money on something that won’t work.
What do you do?
Most people shrug. “That’s what the client wants… not my fault if it doesn’t pan out like he planned!”
But here’s the thing: You do have a responsibility to serve your clients well. If you take on a project knowing that your work and his money will be a complete waste, it’s (in my humble opinion) wrong not to tell this person the state of affairs.
I see it all the time – some people get so excited about their ideas that they can’t see the forest for the trees. They don’t realize the business model is broken, or that the idea sounds fun but just won’t make money, or that there’s a huge gap in the marketing strategy that nearly guarantees a fail.
The money’s just burning a hole in their pockets, because they want to see their idea become reality fast. And they want you to do the work.
You’re the expert. You should know better than to accept the job.
Think of it this way: If he was asking you to invest in his idea, what would you say? Probably this:
Sure, turning down a job means losing income, and that sucks. When someone waves $10,000 at you, it sure is tempting to go ahead. You’re already imagining what you’ll do with the money before it even hits your bank account. Victory!
But if your client is making a mistake and you know it, don’t take his cash. Even if it hurts. Turn him down. Pass on the job. You lose the money but you gain integrity points and self-respect for having made the right decision.
Not just for your client, but for yourself.
Granted, knowing when to back out of a bad deal isn’t an easy sixth sense to develop. It takes experience, wisdom, common sense and some forethought, but it isn’t impossible. Sometimes just a few simple questions can turn up red flags:
“And what methods will you use to drive traffic to your new blog?”
“A newsletter? Sounds good. Have you planned your strategy for the coming 12 months?”
“Could you tell me more about your revenue streams? I don’t seem to notice any right now…”
Questions like those may reveal that your client has no plan for his newsletter content (and doesn’t even know how Aweber works) or that he hadn’t considered revenue streams. He thought the money would just start rolling in on its own. And traffic? Don’t you just build it and people will come?
Think about it: Should you take this person’s money and do the work he wants you to do?
No, no, and no. Not without telling him up front that while you’re happy to do the work and be paid for your time, you don’t believe he’ll achieve the results he expects.
He might be mad. He might be offended. He could be insulted. Doesn’t matter. You need to say it.
Because believe me, if this person pays you and doesn’t get the results he’s hoping for from your work, he’ll blame you. Not himself. Not his crazy idea. Not his poor marketing plan or lack of traffic or terrible product or bad service.
So if you’re an expert, use those wits and smarts of yours. Ask questions. Watch for the red flags and problem spots. Point out the issues. Have a little heart-to-heart with your client and tell him the frank truth. Go ahead and let him know his idea could use a little more thought before you work together.
Don’t feel bad about turning a prospect away – you’re only inviting him to do some extra homework to create better success!
Here’s the truth: Most people – especially the ones who respect your expertise and value your counsel – will appreciate your honesty. They’ll be thankful that you told them the truth (and probably wonder why no one else has said anything up to now).
And they’ll go back to the drawing board. They’ll think things through. Maybe they’ll come back to you in the future with a better plan that works. Or maybe they’ll stop right there and be grateful they didn’t lose their shirt.
Now that’s a job well done.