I was visiting a client recently in Southern California… a fast-growing firm with an interesting variety of clients. One of our conversations focused on the fact that several of their smaller clients (company size, not necessarily project size) were much more difficult to work with than any of their large ones.
Sounds backwards, doesn’t it? But that seemingly reverse logic is actually very consistent across most firms. Are you dealing with it?
Why does that happen? Large businesses generally “have their act together” (it’s one of the reasons they’re large), they’re used to working with vendors and their personnel are often more experienced and/or better trained. In addition, your project with a large client is usually a very small piece of their annual budget – it’s not really that big a deal to them. But it’s a very big deal for the small guys – and they worry about whether or not they made a good decision and if their money is being well-spent… which adds layers of stress and leads to them being needy, pushy and demanding – i.e. a pain in the a**! UGH!
If you’re struggling with these “small client blues,” what can you do about it? Here are 3 ideas to get you started…
- Start by targeting larger firms with your marketing & sales effort. For example, instruct your sales team not to call on the little firms. Connecting on LinkedIn? Reach out only to those working for larger companies. When creating content (blog posts, articles, eBooks), make sure you’re writing for a ‘buyer persona’ that works for a large company. Using email marketing? Segment your sales database into small/medium/large companies and target your messaging accordingly.
- Politely turn down projects from small firms. In fact, have a ‘standardized’ response to use for such requests. You might even want to recommend other firms to them that they should contact instead (in essence, passing along the potential problem to your competition!).
- Fire them! For those small clients you’re already working with – and that are making you miserable – sometimes, you just have to cut ‘em loose. As much as it might hurt (to give up the revenue) and be an uncomfortable conversation, after it happens, you’ll notice that your stress level immediately declines… you (and your employees working with them) will instantly feel better. More importantly, you’ll open-up your bandwidth to spend more time taking care of your larger clients and focusing your business development efforts on larger sales prospects.
The bottom line: You work too hard not to enjoy what you do… and P-I-T-A clients can drain the joy from you and your employees. And remember, not only are the larger clients generally easier to work with, they’re also generally better for business.