As service providers we have all been through it. While trying to land a new client, there is that period where they want to know about your company’s background. They check your credit, they want references, they want in-depth information about your work history, they want to know about successful projects in the same genre. As you might expect, these inquiries are viewed as appropriate business practices, especially where larger contracts are at stake and the monies involved are substantial. It is all part of the pre-qualification process.
We also take the time to pre-qualify our clients …
in many of the same ways they want to pre-qualify us. There are obvious things you need to be certain of; like finances, payment cycle, existing or past litigation(s), and personnel turnover. But there’s more …
From our perspective as a small Custom Software Development company, we only want to become involved in projects where we are confident success is possible. For us, success is defined in three ways. First, the project has a reasonable and achievable scope of requirements including the client’s time-line. Second, the client must be able to provide the support and information which will allow us to be successful. Third, we feel our reputation is paramount to our success in the Application Development field, so we want projects that leave our clients with a strong feeling that our work has had a value-added aspect that made it all worthwhile.
Expectations must be realistic on both sides of the table; client personnel must have a positive can-do vibe about them, and there must be an attitude of cooperation that tells us we have formed a partnership of trust. We know success building Cusotm Software takes tremendous planning and focus. Clients and vendors alike must carry an equal portion of the responsibility for the success of the project … because everyone ends up losing if the project fails.
We seek out clients that can define their project, outline realistic requirements and fulfill their commitments. In a manner of speaking, we form partnerships with our clients and we’re only as strong as the weakest link. We look exclusively for win-win scenarios. So, short term quick-fix commitments from a client are something that does not work for us. We intend to make a time and materially responsible investment in our client’s project … so we want a project that will reflect that commitment.
Many times during the sales or RFP cycle, potential clients will do or say things that throw up red flags. To me this indicates the potential for problems during the relationship. Here is a perfect example; a client once said to me that he believes “pressure makes diamonds”. In other words, no matter what we managed to accomplish … it was never going to be enough and we would be under constant pressure to achieve still more. Such pressure can be crushing.
Some clients may also attempt to lure you into giving lower rates by promising future work. In practice this additional work rarely materializes. They may also indicate there is a rush on it or it should be easy. It’s a much better when the client understands quality work isn’t easy or possible to rush.
Here is another rule of thumb
We will not overlook; technology can be very expensive … so, we want our services to have a positive impact on the clients overall performance in their industry. We were hired as experts in our field and as such we want clients that will heed our advice, particularly in areas where we feel our expertise will provide the biggest impact on the finished product.
My advice …
Follow your intuition about entering into business with a new client. My experience … every time I have had a bad feeling about a client, it has turned out to be true. Now, if we get a bad vibe, we simply pass on the project.
The strength, longevity, the very core of my business is based on great clients and lasting relationship. We’ve carefully selected them (as they’ve selected us). Pick the right clients and your business will flourish. Pick the wrong ones and struggles are sure to ensue.