As you know we are on an ongoing search to talk with businesses about how they pre-qualify their customers before a job or decide to do business with them. We preach it everyday but it can be different in every industry how you approach it so we are finding out tips from each kind of business on how they approach customers at first sight.
Here is an interview with Mike Taubleb of Promenade Speakersabout how his company pre-qualifies their customers. Promenade connects companies and associations with thousands of professional public speakers nationwide. A specialist in health care, insurance and financial services speakers.:
How do you pre-qualify your customer?
Depending on how high up in the company, I’ll find out their budget, preferred speech topic, audience description, which speaker they’ve hired previously, desired takeaways and the event’s date/location. If they have been in the news for negative financial/sales performance, I’ll consider that in setting terms.
What is the one and most important thing to ask while getting to know the customer (pre-qualify) and to see if they are a fit for your business?
Speaker budget. If it is below a certain threshold, I can’t help them. All my speakers are paid. If I know the budget, I can focus my time efficiently on the right candidates.
Do you require a percentage down before you work with them? (Depending on what type of business you are)
My industry standard is 50% of the speaker fee as a deposit due within 2-3 weeks of signing an agreement. The balance is due 30 days prior to the speaker’s appearance. Travel expenses are billed afterwards. We go out of our way to avoid having to collect substantial amounts after the speech is done.
What advice would you offer a business on how to pre-qualify their customers?
Find out the budget upfront. If the inquirer doesn’t know, they are not close enough to the decision-making process and you will often be spinning your wheels with incomplete information.
When dealing with an overseas customer, 100% payment well in advance is a must including all expenses. In my business, that’s non-negotiable, be prepared to walk away if they won’t work that way. Be careful of scams, especially inquiries that require quick response and your financial information.
Find out what similar purchases they’ve made in the past, which indicates likelihood to make a future financial commitment.
If a client doesn’t want to make a deposit, that’s a warning sign of possible payment issues down the line. Make sure your contract terms are clear. Think twice about working someone who won’t make a financial commitment upfront if they are a small or relatively unknown organization.
Have you ever had a customer that was difficult or caused problems for your business? If yes, tell us what happened and how you handled it.
Rarely, we’ve had customers who were very late on payment. This impacts cash flow and our relationships with speakers, who we are reimbursing. We are persistent, polite and continually correspond in writing to request payment. When we get enough people on the customer side involved, the outstanding debt has always been collected.
We like to call bad/unruly customers – CustoMonsters. What would be your definition of a CustoMonster?
Someone who spends relatively little, frequently makes unreasonable demands and ignores important details we’ve laid out. We’ve never had verbally abusive clients. One of the best aspects of owning your own business is the ability to set standards for how you’ll be treated.