A Client Who Got Away ... And LOST Their Business!

38 replies
Walked into a a great custard place in Ozark, MO called. "XXXSSS Custard."

This place had the richest, creamiest custard I had ever tasted. After stopping in a few times, I was able to talk to the owner and learned a lot about custard making.

The owner talked to me about making more money and getting a few more customers. I gave her a few ideas for local business and offered to get her going FAST.

She asked me to give her a proposal for her husband. I almost NEVER do proposals, simply because when you put detail into a document, the business owner will try to get their cousin or brother or sister to do something for them.

I decided to write a one-page letter outlining what the owner and I talked about along with profit projections and investment.

The husband said, no way was he gonna pay $5000 dollars for a web package or video or even a licensing package he could sell to other custard owners. (This custard shop was owned by a daughter of a family of ice cream makers... she had some techniques that made her custard better than any in the state!)

I liked the custard shop so much that I wanted to help them grow... I was even going to get my fees and profits LATER, after I helped them make more money... so it was no risk! I even asked them to try and give away free samples in the area... they did not want to do anything!

They still didn't go for it.

I didn't find out 'til later how much in dire straits they were in.... They closed the business THREE months later.

Bottom line?

It doesn't matter how good a business is or how much you are willing to give to them.... You can't make a person buy from you... no matter how much you KNOW you can help them!

Warmly,

Millard
#business #client #lost
  • Profile picture of the author Robert Domino
    Totally agreed.

    Though in that story, they may have been in such bad financial condition (ie debts) that they couldn't afford anything. Several months ago may have been different?
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  • Profile picture of the author Jimian
    Yeah, some offline biz's just can't see the importance of getting leads of the net.

    I'd use that as a example to businesses sitting on the fence.
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    • Profile picture of the author Etak
      That's a shame. Even more so because I'd be willing to be they STILL don't know what you could have done for them in terms of bringing them more customers! They just didn't get it. Unfortunately, they just saw money going out, and the money as leverage to get more people in.

      I have to ask...if you don't do written proposals, do you (usually) do verbal proposals exclusively for your consulting?

      ~Emma
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  • Profile picture of the author Fernando Veloso
    Thanks for sharing Millard.

    Similar things have happened to us lately, it's a mix of crisis and lack of information by the business owners.

    Sad but true.
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  • Profile picture of the author raradra
    You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. It's sad when people are so set in their thought process they don't accept help, but honestly, had they accepted your proposal, it sounds as if they would have fought you every step of the way and been a huge headache for you.

    Be happy you avoided that
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    • Profile picture of the author TimCastleman
      Plenty of stupid businesses out there.

      You can talk til your blue in the face with some of them but they'll never get it.

      My guess is this business - like most of them - went into it with no bankroll, no capital to invest in marketing, and no reserves for the lean months.

      Over extended and under invested - it's the American way now for businesses.

      I was dealing with one yesterday that just spent $11k in new equipment. Problem is they have only spent 1k in advertising.

      Now which one do you think will get them new customers?

      It's not worth losing sleep over and when the out of business sale happens you can always silently think "I told you so"

      Tim
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    • Profile picture of the author bighelp
      I've got agree with this observation. Too bad for them. Good for you.
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  • Profile picture of the author MWGrubb58
    I have to ask...if you don't do written proposals, do you (usually) do verbal proposals exclusively for your consulting?

    ~Emma

    Emma,

    I generally wait until a business owner is so excited about the future that they want to talk to me!

    When I talk to them in the initial phase, they can see what the weaknesses are in the business... I have an agreement with me for them to sign along with giving me a check at the FIRST meeting....

    I let me emotions get away from me because I LIKED the owner, I LIKED the product, and wanted the business to grow, no matter what the owner wants.

    NOW, I make sure I follow my own advice and only work with those clients who are an 8-10 on the 1-10 scale... with 10 being, they will do whatever it takes legally and ethically to build their business.

    The proposal is verbal in the context of signing the contract at the first meeting.... I believe in not wasting time on folks who DON'T want to do business.

    Hope that helps!

    Millard
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    • Profile picture of the author Etak
      Originally Posted by MWGrubb58 View Post

      I have to ask...if you don't do written proposals, do you (usually) do verbal proposals exclusively for your consulting?

      ~Emma

      Emma,

      I generally wait until a business owner is so excited about the future that they want to talk to me!

      When I talk to them in the initial phase, they can see what the weaknesses are in the business... I have an agreement with me for them to sign along with giving me a check at the FIRST meeting....

      I let me emotions get away from me because I LIKED the owner, I LIKED the product, and wanted the business to grow, no matter what the owner wants.

      NOW, I make sure I follow my own advice and only work with those clients who are an 8-10 on the 1-10 scale... with 10 being, they will do whatever it takes legally and ethically to build their business.

      The proposal is verbal in the context of signing the contract at the first meeting.... I believe in not wasting time on folks who DON'T want to do business.

      Hope that helps!

      Millard
      Thanks, Millard! EXCELLENT info, as usual.

      The 1-10 scale is brilliant and something I am going to start doing. We go by who our ideal client is but using your 1-10 scale takes that even further. THANKS!
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  • Profile picture of the author MWGrubb58
    Tim,

    I've told myself many times, "That business could have been saved!"

    I don't kick myself, just want to strangle a few folks or shake them and say, "Wake up!"
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    • Profile picture of the author TimCastleman
      Originally Posted by MWGrubb58 View Post

      Tim,

      I've told myself many times, "That business could have been saved!"

      I don't kick myself, just want to strangle a few folks or shake them and say, "Wake up!"
      I agree 100%. So many businesses out there need what we have to offer but if they don't see the value then you can't do anything.

      You can fix almost anything except you can't fix stupid.
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    • Profile picture of the author Michael Nguyen
      Originally Posted by MWGrubb58 View Post

      Tim,

      I've told myself many times, "That business could have been saved!"

      I don't kick myself, just want to strangle a few folks or shake them and say, "Wake up!"
      Me and the Mrs use to walk past this italian restuarant in town every week and I always said to her, "should I go in and talk about marketing".
      I never did for some reason and after a few months later, the went out of business.

      I knew they didn't have a website or anything, shop looked empty most of the time and the old guy seemed to be running the place.

      I've always said to myself that I coulda saved that business. Part of me feels abit guilty for not having the courage to just talk to him.
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  • Profile picture of the author Chad Heffelfinger
    A lot of businesses out there are scared, they are on the verge of closing or almost to that point, but they don't want to spend money taking them backwords in cashflow when they have been burned so many times with advertising. They would rather "hope" they will turn it around than waste money and run out even sooner.

    It's our job to show them we CAN help and get them a good return on their investment. Then they will want to spend more with us to get even more money coming in.
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  • Profile picture of the author MWGrubb58
    Sometimes we just need to go in and talk, be friendly and see if a business owner is willing to listen. If they are, there might be some help.

    Part of the challenge is that many business owners feel like they just want to do things themselves... they don't need any help.

    One way I have tried to stroke that ego is to ask the owner about how they started, what makes the business tick, what they like about it, etc. Once a business owner starts talking about their "Baby," then you can look for places to help.

    As long as they are "Sharp enough" to take the help.
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  • Profile picture of the author susiem
    I agree, so much fear is apparent in the eyes of so many owners, they cant see past the dire strait they are in. Because of the hindrances and bondage they are in , regardless what great offer or advice that can pull them forward to a better opportunity they cant see pass what they are in. So sad they end up in these types of situations because of this.
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    • Profile picture of the author MichaelHiles
      Originally Posted by healymedia View Post

      But why would you expect this owner to see the opportunity when the opportunity wasn't clearly presented to him?

      In any b2b transaction with an established company looking to make a significant expendeture, if you went in to try to sell them something and you gave them a ONE PAGE summary and some "profit projections" you'd cooked up, they'd laugh you out of the room.

      But because this guy is a small sole-proprietor he's supposed to jump at it? And according to some in this thread, he's "stupid" because he didn't see the value here? Talk about arrogant.

      Well I didn't go there initially, but since you did... yes, it chaps my azz to see people talking about "stupid business owners" because said business owner doesn't jump on your "fantabulous deal"!!

      First of all, arrogance towards business owners is difficult to mask, and easily picked up on. Many technically competent people convey arrogance towards non-technical people, which is why technical people are 1) typically less socially engaged; and 2) not as successful in business. Reminds me of Jimmy Fallon's Nick Burns, Your Company Computer Guy" on SNL.

      Saturday Night Live - Nick Burns - Video - NBC.com

      If said business owner is so stupid, then why do they have the money that you're asking them to give to you?

      A lot of "offliners" need a serious attitude adjustment right this very second because they will eventually get a costly one in the market.

      When someone's business fails, it's not fodder for smug arrogance or gloating. It's a sad thing for the family - in many cases costs them everything, bankruptcy, divorce, even suicides happen over business failure. Sure, most of the time it's their own fault somewhere in the mix, usually multiple problems compounding over time. I sense such a thing with Millard's prospect here - if they wouldn't spring for samples, they were probably underfunded from the start.

      Being able to read into a client situation is extremely handy, and in many cases can create a longer term relationship that turns into a paying client down the road.

      I have done things like trade advertising or marketing services for equity in the company, even gone and promoted a business that I really liked just for the hell of it - because I genuinely liked the business and wanted to see them succeed.

      I think Gary Vaynerchuk sums it up in the shortest chapter of any printed book in the history of mankind... one word.... "CARE".

      Short term hype can never, and will never outdo that idea. Even a not-so-competitive price proposal will be accepted by a trusted provider that a client knows, without a shadow of a doubt, cares about their long-term success as a business owner.
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      • Profile picture of the author Kay King
        I have to say I'm a bit amazed at some comments in this thread. Only a few people seem to grasp the crisis many small businesses are in right now.

        Cash flow is difficult to manage - and loans have dried up. A year is enough to drive some under but we are in the third year and even long time small family businesses are barely making it.

        A business having problems buying supplies and meeting payroll isn't going to plop or commit themselves to a large chunk of money easily. I'd be surprised if those selling marketing to small offline business aren't running this problem often.

        Could you help them - probably. But perhaps not in time to save them. I wouldn't call a business stupid for not spending money they don't have.

        In my area I've seen three more business close in the past few months. They were good stores, good products, great service. I expect they were well managed as they had all been in business more than a dozen years.

        Kay
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        • Profile picture of the author FredJones
          Chance for you to "own" an offline business? If you can trace those people and do the entire work in exchange of 50% ownership and make them profitable, you shall have a residual income for whole life there. Think a little, and you may end up opening a multi-million dollar custard franchise with nation-wide presence with a KFC-like secret recipe - of custards in your case.
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          • Profile picture of the author Rus Sells
            That could be a good idea but....

            You then must insist on seeing the books each month so you know the gross receipts, COGS, and the gross profit.

            You must have a sound legally binding partnership agreement in place, its a lot to have to worry about and have in place. IMHO if your business model is not about making yourself in equity partner in a company I would stay very clear of this.

            Trust me, I've been there and done that a few to many times. You better know much more about business then just the services your providing or you could be the one taken to the cleaners.

            Originally Posted by FredJones View Post

            Chance for you to "own" an offline business? If you can trace those people and do the entire work in exchange of 50% ownership and make them profitable, you shall have a residual income for whole life there. Think a little, and you may end up opening a multi-million dollar custard franchise with nation-wide presence with a KFC-like secret recipe - of custards in your case.
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  • Profile picture of the author MWGrubb58
    Life is too short to be working for money only...

    You've got to enjoy what you are doing and have FUN doing it. There are enough people who want your services, so you can choose who you work with...

    Remember.... you make the rules in how you run your business!
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  • Profile picture of the author MichaelHiles
    So let me get this straight, you refuse to provide your client with a written proposal of milestones so there's a common understanding between the two of you to acknowledge whether or not you've actually provided (or exceeded) the objectives of your services?

    Like.. "We will provide you with 10,000 direct mail pieces per month at a cost of $x" or "We will provide you with XYZ backlinks for your website"

    You'd just rather "excite them" into the moment than give them a document of solid objectives - because you're afraid of being shopped around. If you're not providing a compelling, competitive offer, then what would you possibly be afraid of being shopped for?

    No offense intended here, but I sure wouldn't want to be your E&O policy underwriter. And I'd love to be the attorney for one of your clients. You do have E&O insurance, right?

    Millard, think carefully about what kind of advice you're giving to people here.

    I want everyone to be successful, and I hate to see people get themselves into trouble, especially over simple, business fundamentals. In my opinion, you're simply walking a dangerous line with your business.

    As for your client, I am also a non-marketing consulting services related small business owner. A surefire way to hasten your demise as a business is to enter into contracts with people, paying them to provide some nebulous, generalized service because you got emotional over a sales pitch. My guess is that they had a lot of other problems that $5000 worth of marketing consulting wouldn't overcome anyway.
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  • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
    Originally Posted by MWGrubb58 View Post


    The owner talked to me about making more money and getting a few more customers. I gave her a few ideas for local business and offered to get her going FAST.

    She asked me to give her a proposal for her husband.

    Millard
    Your last sentence Millard leaves a BIG clue.

    A clue as to where your talk broke down.

    I see no qualifying from you.

    The qualifying would be to see if she has invested money in marketing help before.

    If not, then you have a big hurdle.

    Many small busnesses see their advertising spend as their only requirement...not paid help to make it more effective.


    Next: If she has paid for help with marketing in the past, then the next step is to see what has she spent in the past.

    Has it been worth it, in her opinion.

    You let the prospect know that it is important for you to know this because you want to tailor a solution that's right for her.

    Grand plans can't be built on a lemonade budget.

    So you have to know the budget first.

    Price ranges are fine.

    Don't want the prospective client feel pinned and pressured.

    As you can see, these are all baby steps to get small agreements.

    When a prospect askes for a proposal, ask back..."To help you the best, I can tailor a package that's right for you and your budget. Do you have a price range that would work for you?"

    If the person comes back to you with a price, then he/she has agreed it will work, because how you framed the question.

    It's easy to get excited when a prospective client asks for a quote or proposal.

    You have to remain calm and take baby steps to qualify and get small agreements... after the request.

    This draws the right ones to you and gets the wrong people sorted out quickly.

    You now will have a higher conversion rate and shorter time between prospect to client.

    All the best,
    Ewen
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  • Profile picture of the author SirThomas
    It all depends how the proposal is structured. You don't have to tell HOW you do your stuff, only what you'll achieve.

    When I offer Google Places 7-box ranking, I specify what keyword or keywords I WILL get the customer ranked for. Plain and Simple. I don't promise anything else. If I don't get that 7-box placement, they get their money back. No excuses.

    If they want me to work on their listing to get more top placements (more keywords) or to maintain their current ranking, they have to pay monthly service fee. If they don't, they loose their exclusive status with me.

    They are also aware that their listing can get dropped on occasion and that is a part of the game. They still have to pay me to maintain their exclusivity. They can also drop me any time they want. I won't be suing or trying to collect on the rest of the contract.

    Thomas

    PS. Use this term often and you will be OK while "talking details" - "proprietory formula for xyz "...
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  • Profile picture of the author MWGrubb58
    A lot of people like to make assumptions about what happened when and what could have been done better. I do that myself!

    When I talk about a proposal, I mean a plan of attack that I am going to do, what I am going to do, when I am going to it, etc., etc.

    If an owner is going to work with me, they have to be excited about working with me!
    The owner must trust me in what I say and do.

    I gain that trust by interviewing them and showing them by the answers they have given me "Show" that they have some knowledge to be gained. The business owner hires me to help them make more profits and stop losing money.

    It is during the SECOND interview, which takes about 3-4 hours that we get into specifics. My approach is that the business owner is hiring me as a freelance business development coach instead of an employee.

    I show the business owner in our initial talk how simple changes can bring greater profits and plant the seeds that I will grow the business. Further, my payment is based upon a retainer and performance-based (That is, greater profits) results, period.

    You go into a doctor to get examined, get a prescription, and treatment.
    Like a doctor, I get paid for what I know and the suggestions I make, the extra bonus is for how well my "treatment" works for the business.

    To take it a step.... Businesses are paying me to put a program together for them... that takes trust.... and enough businesses trust me to pay me upfront.

    Does that happen for you?

    Once the owner agrees to work with me, then we can get into specifics.

    Cheers,

    Millard
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  • Profile picture of the author Steve Prior
    I used to wonder why people made such rubbish decisions (and that includes me)!

    Business owners make decisions based on their beliefs. They believe they know their business better than anyone else. They believe... If you build it they will come.... They believe the website designer is the best person to... erm... design a website.

    They get cold called by everyone and their mother and ultimately can't tell if someone is the real deal or not.

    I used to believe that persistence pays... it might do but only in certain circumstances...

    I now believe it's just best to move on to someone who has a mind that's a little bit open.

    Out of all the books I have read over the years, perhaps the one that taught me more about human nature than anything else was this one. Mistakes Were Made but not by me. Why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions and hurtful acts. Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.

    It's mind blowing and I promise will help explain why no one can win them all and how our sense of self will often sabotage us.

    Regards

    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author MichaelHiles
    Because they're EXCITED ABOUT THE POSSIBILITIES!!

    I just sort of quit this one. It's pointless.
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  • Profile picture of the author MWGrubb58
    Ha! I will make myself even more clear!

    I am NOT talking about IM or the OFFLINE niche.

    I am a business development consultant who has seen that a lot of offline marketers are missing the point just selling offline services.

    I think healymedia has it right as i have said in many other threads... You've got to have RAPPORT with the biz owner before a sale is made. ONCE you have RAPPORT and the SALE is made, you go into the details. No MONEY NEED TO HAVE CHANGED HANDS FOR A SALE TO BE MADE.

    Once the business owner believes that you can build their business, you have a sale!

    Listen. When I am interviewing the business owner, they have sought me out through a series of qualification procedures... They have read my book, they have heard an interview, they have been referred by someone, or they have talked with me PERSONALLY, somewhere. The website I put up for a client mentioned on another thread that took me 2 minutes to convince the owner to buy... I had been eating at that restaurant for months and I knew them... they knew me...

    If people would wake up and realize that, OF COURSE, someone doesn't buy a website or anything unless they know and TRUST the seller, they would realize that you don't have to give away the store to make the sale.

    When I come in to talk with a prospect, they are already pre-sold. When I interview them and use their numbers and show them simple things they can do to increase profits... they are sold.

    I'll be happy to continue selling my way and YOU sell your way.

    There is no short cut.
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  • Profile picture of the author MWGrubb58
    I appreciate the input...

    Let me tell you a little more about this case...

    The woman was part of the family that had a thriving ice cream business and SHE was the one who ran the shop, created the business, formulated the recipes, etc. The husband had an entirely different business and did not run the custard shop in any way.

    I had spent quite a bit of time with the owner explaining licensing, explaining creating a course for others, explaining creating video training about how she ran her shop. Her shop was immaculate, the custard was superb.

    As to doing a proposal, because I didn't write a 20 page report doesn't mean I did not propose something to the husband. The husband, as I later found out was worried about expenses because they had a BIG tax bill that wasn't paid.... That's why the shop closed... if the wife would have told me that, I could have suggested a few cash infusion techniques...

    As it was, the wife told me that the husband just wanted to know what it would cost for me to set up a licensing and training program. I spelled it out in one page.

    I don't think the wife would have spent essentially three hours with me if she was not interested in me helping her grow the shop. Frankly, I spent the extra time because I wanted to see the shop prosper.

    Just as an aside, about the same time I went into another shop and was talking to the owner for a few minutes, which turned into 35 minutes... and he told me, "See that guy sitting over there waiting to talk to me? He's my yellow page rep and you just saved me $5000. I want to hire you today."

    He wrote me a check.

    I just do things a little differently than most folks and it works for me.

    If it doesn't work for you, don't do it!

    Hope this helps.

    Millard
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  • Profile picture of the author MWGrubb58
    It is not my intention to call you stupid or even the business owners! I know, I said I wanted to shake them... and sometimes I want to do more than that! It just bothers me that some owners I have talked to keep going down a path to disaster...

    I can't help everyone, but I like to try.

    Thanks for the advice... I'll remember it.
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  • Profile picture of the author Sardent
    Moot point now that they are out of business.

    The real question is...did you get the secret to the great custard?
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    • Profile picture of the author Digital Info Diva
      Hm - I run into business owners like "them" all the time. First of all, they
      are workers - not marketers. They can usually make their offline business
      work because they are willing to work harder than anyone else.

      But remember - they have BIG overhead to maintain - and that would be
      their retail space. If they don't have money behind them, they won't have
      money for marketing.

      You'd be surprised how many retail owners spend tons of money on print
      advertising without knowing how to track the effectiveness of their ads.
      But they're willing to spend the money because that's what everyone tells
      them to do!

      Show them a comparison between offline and online advertising results and
      the time to get those results and you'll blow them away!!
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    • Profile picture of the author MWGrubb58
      Originally Posted by Sardent View Post

      Moot point now that they are out of business.

      The real question is...did you get the secret to the great custard?
      Yes I did!

      It not as much the recipe, but the type of machine you use...

      They used a very expensive machine made by a company in PA.

      Cheers,

      Millard
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