We have spent time here talking about dream clients and how they differ from prospects. Dream clients are better than prospects; you must spend your time working on your dream clients.
When you don’t work on dream clients, you sometimes find yourself in the unenviable position of having won a prospect. You may enter into the relationship with every intention of turning your prospect into a dream client, and sometimes you succeed. But more often than not you fail to convert them into a dream client and you end up with something far worse; you end up with a nightmare.
The worse attribute that nightmare clients possess is the strong desire to treat their partners as adversaries. Nightmare clients believe that every problem that they have is the vendor’s fault, and that if you were a better vendor they would achieve a better result. Instead of acting as partners in their own improvement, they accuse, blame, and find fault with your effort.
And so every negotiation turns into a win-lose negotiation, whether it is access to information, support and sponsorship of the change necessary with the stakeholders, or a discussion over finances. And you are expected to lose; anything less means that your adversarial, nightmare client didn’t win. And they won’t stand for that.
Pretending to Take the Red Pill Nightmares
Nightmare clients only pretend to take the red pill. They talk about the change that they need. They crucify their present provider in the worst terms imaginable. They make a strong and convincing case that they are willing to do whatever is necessary to participate in their own change effort and to work to make those changes possible.
In reality, after you have won the deal and begin to implement and execute, you find that there isn’t any willingness to change and that you have to achieve the outcome you promised without their participation or cooperation. You have to help them achieve a better outcome while they continue to operate as they always have.
Your nightmare client does a slight of hand and takes the blue pill; they have no desire to change what they do, only their vendor.
Lack of Leadership Nightmares
It is difficult, or more accurately, it is damn near impossible, to implement an effective change effort with your client without the leadership and sponsorship of your client’s leadership team. Without it, you lack the support and the political cover to implement real change.
Producing better outcomes requires leadership from you and your client. Without their involvement, the politics of change are the hardball politics that cause disruption, turf wars, half hearted and dishonest efforts, and the ability to wait you out.
Real change for your client requires leadership on their side to ensure that you have access to the information that you need, and the access to and cooperation of the stakeholders who can ultimately help you succeed (or fail). Without the support of leadership, your effort will fail and you will be blamed, whether or not you are fault. As an added bonus, your adversarial nightmare client will share your failures far and wide.
Nightmare clients can suck the life out of your sales efforts, they demoralize you and your team, and for all you effort, they still abuse you and treat you as an adversary. Better to part sooner rather than later, with your reputation in tact, your time returned, and with your team knowing you won’t expect them to suffer through a nightmare that ends badly for them.
To succeed in sales, you need to do your best work for your dream clients, the clients for who you can produce breath-taking, mind-blowing results. When you settle for prospects, you often end up with nightmare clients instead of dream clients.
- What causes you to accept prospects instead of dream clients?
- How do handle adversarial clients?
- How much time and energy does it require to serve a miserable, adversarial client? What could you do for a dream client with that same time that would delight them and win you their trust and their loyalty?
- What do you do to ensure your dream client has the will to undertake the change effort that is required for them to achieve the outcome that they need and that you can help deliver?
- How do you spot a nightmare client?
- Tell me about your nightmare.
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