As I wrote in my article, In Praise of the Ideal Client, having a clear definition of your ideal client allows you to make wise decisions about how you spend your time. Defining Your Ideal Client should include quantitative and qualitative factors.
Let’s say that you’ve defined your ideal client as “professionals in their 40s and 50s with investable assets of $500,000 or more who are looking to save time and make sure they have a clear plan for retirement.”
By doing so, you’ve effectively drawn a line: some clients are ideal and some aren’t. That’s ok – not everyone is ideal.
So how should you consider someone who is non-ideal?
Here are three options:
A pre-ideal client is someone who meets all your qualitative factors but doesn’t meet the quantitative factors yet. A good example of this is a client who expects to retire in the next few years and has a large 401(k) that could be rolled over. Or perhaps a couple has a combined income and savings rate such that they will quickly meet your quantitative definition.
The key is that there should be a very clear path to becoming ideal. Hoping that they eventually will become profitable is not a good strategy. Neither is expecting to wait many years before they become ideal.
Some clients are not ideal and you do not expect them ever to become ideal. But you have a good business reason for accepting or keeping them as clients. Perhaps they are a family member of an ideal client or someone in your practice. It may be that they are a long-time client who is in the distribution phase. Or it could be someone that you simply want to help – a pro bono case.
Make sure the exceptions are truly exceptions. If they constitute 15-20% or more of your client base, they’re not really an exception. Furthermore, make sure to determine the type of exceptions you will make prior to meeting with a prospective client. Too often, advisors will say “yes” to a non-ideal client because they hate saying “no” to anyone.
The third situation is when the prospective client does not fit your quantitative or qualitative criteria for ideal clients, nor is there a business reason to categorize them as an exception.
We’ll talk about those situations next week.