Potential client is asking for 2 references of past work..how to handle it?

49 replies
So I meet with a small gym/personal trainer business last week and they got back to me that they would like to work with me. However, their office manager has requested 2 references from businesses I have worked for so they can ask them how the work has been going, and why they like using you for their web work as well as SEO work.

Now here is the situation. I've had a couple clients I've worked for that they are no longer with me due to them moving in other directions beyond SEO. The last client was a pain to deal with and they cancelled their service with us complaining not enough was been done for them (although we got them plenty of leads, but their conversion sucked) and they complained all the time. Another client was a friend of mine that used our service for about a year, we got them ranking for his keywords on the front page, but it seem like it wasn't converting as well for them so they decided to put SEO on the back burner and try other things.

Right now I'm working on a web design/SEO for my sister-in-law for her new business so that one is currently active. We also did a web design for this other company only (no SEO) and they were satisfied with their end product.

So should I have them try to contact my friend and sister-in-law for references or should I try to do in it in another way about we don't like to disclose any client information and see what they say?
#client #handle #past #potential #references #workhow
  • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
    Originally Posted by mrtrance View Post

    So I meet with a small gym/personal trainer business last week and they got back to me that they would like to work with me. However, their office manager has requested 2 references from businesses I have worked for so they can ask them how the work has been going, and why they like using you for their web work as well as SEO work.

    Now here is the situation. I've had a couple clients I've worked for that they are no longer with me due to them moving in other directions beyond SEO. The last client was a pain to deal with and they cancelled their service with us complaining not enough was been done for them (although we got them plenty of leads, but their conversion sucked) and they complained all the time. Another client was a friend of mine that used our service for about a year, we got them ranking for his keywords on the front page, but it seem like it wasn't converting as well for them so they decided to put SEO on the back burner and try other things.

    Right now I'm working on a web design/SEO for my sister-in-law for her new business so that one is currently active. We also did a web design for this other company only (no SEO) and they were satisfied with their end product.

    So should I have them try to contact my friend and sister-in-law for references or should I try to do in it in another way about we don't like to disclose any client information and see what they say?
    Me? I would make sure the references are expecting the call, and give their contact information. Put your friend's name first.
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  • Profile picture of the author serryjw
    I personally would tell them that you respect your client time and privacy ( you don't want them comparing prices!) but there is no need for references since....I work with my clients until they are 100% satisfied.
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    • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
      Originally Posted by serryjw View Post

      I personally would tell them that you respect your client time and privacy ( you don't want them comparing prices!) but there is no need for references since....I would with my clients until they are 100% satisfied.
      They had meetings with 2 others after mine and made a decision to go with me. The actual owner (who I met with in the first place) is I think has no issue, but it is the office manager that is pushing it. So I believe they have been comparing prices as well so I guess that is notthe issue here to not disclose references.

      I have been reading other threads about this and many seem to think that we should not disclose our client information when asked. To say there is a non-disclosure agreement in place with each client.

      Is that still a good way to address this whole reference issue?
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      • Profile picture of the author midasman09
        Banned
        The MAIN THING I learned early in my Sales Career is; "NOBODY WANTS TO BE FIRST!"

        Whenever I go in to try and sell someone on anything....I always SHOW "others" who I have done biz with or...who are ALREADY IN the program I'm trying to sell this prospect!

        Example: My first sales program was "Restaurant Placemats"!

        This involved a 11 x 14 sheet of 20lb bond, placed on restaurant tables. Each placemat had an ad for the restaurant in the middle of the sheet and 16 Ad Spaces around the edges.

        These were provided FREE to restaurants. It was then my job to get local advertisers to PAY to be on the edge spaces.

        Well...if I were to go into a potential advertiser and show him a blank sheet with empty squares (which I did initially)....his first question would be, "Who Else Is Gonna Be On This?"

        So...after a couple of these I "learned my lesson"! Which is to Prevent the "WHO ELSE have you done biz with?! question.

        So....I went home and put in ads of 3 advertisers....even though these advertisers had NO idea of what I was doing.

        And...when I went out the next day and showed prospects my Placemat Sheet with THREE SPACES ALREADY TAKEN....that "question" NEVER entered my prospects heads!

        So....understand something here; NEVER show potential clients/customers an "EMPTY" sheet!

        Don Alm....master sales guy
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        • Profile picture of the author serryjw
          Originally Posted by midasman09 View Post

          The MAIN THING I learned early in my Sales Career is; "NOBODY WANTS TO BE FIRST!"

          Whenever I go in to try and sell someone on anything....I always SHOW "others" who I have done biz with or...who are ALREADY IN the program I'm trying to sell this prospect!

          Example: My first sales program was "Restaurant Placemats"!

          This involved a 11 x 14 sheet of 20lb bond, placed on restaurant tables. Each placemat had an ad for the restaurant in the middle of the sheet and 16 Ad Spaces around the edges.

          These were provided FREE to restaurants. It was then my job to get local advertisers to PAY to be on the edge spaces.

          Well...if I were to go into a potential advertiser and show him a blank sheet with empty squares (which I did initially)....his first question would be, "Who Else Is Gonna Be On This?"

          So...after a couple of these I "learned my lesson"! Which is to Prevent the "WHO ELSE have you done biz with?! question.

          So....I went home and put in ads of 3 advertisers....even though these advertisers had NO idea of what I was doing.

          And...when I went out the next day and showed prospects my Placemat Sheet with THREE SPACES ALREADY TAKEN....that "question" NEVER entered my prospects heads!

          So....understand something here; NEVER show potential clients/customers an "EMPTY" sheet!

          Don Alm....master sales guy
          I sold the restaurant placemats 20 years ago! I think your idea is great...It all depends on whether YOU are the new or the gig is new. I showed other great jobs that where done. Sometimes, ( read your customers) I would say 'I am the new kid on the block'...I used to ADD, 'there is an exclusive in each category', so you won't be competing.
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          • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
            Originally Posted by Edk View Post

            I've found that if a customer has confidence in me, they don't bother about references. This is from another field though, not offline IM (I'm talking about the building business which I've worked in and which I know a little bit about). I've found that the same customer might ask me for references and I know they didn't ask someone else for references.

            I just assume their senses/antennae picked up that I wouldn't in their eyes be fully up to the job.

            I also find that if I make a good confident impression on the customer, they don't in fact care about niceties they might have mentioned over the phone before meeting me.

            It's too late to tell them that 'you're just getting going and so on but you're competent' but I just feel irritated at their insistence and if I were you I'd be prepared to leave this one. There's nothing like being able to walk away. Sorry if that comes across as 'too cavalier' but customers do admire as well a devil may care attitude to whether you'll have them or not. You deal with them politely and so on, but you just aren't stressed if they take up your offer or if they don't. My 2 cents worth...
            Originally Posted by NewParadigm View Post

            Many times its not what you say, but how you say it. OM was probably just delaying decision and are testimonials actually critical to getting the biz? Can't you handle it the same way you did w/ the owner?

            There's nothing wrong with saying you are just starting out and willing to work hard to build their/your successes either. People like helping people.
            Well I emailed him back and pretty much went with what Dan suggested and also listed like 4 website urls that my outsourcer had done as work for web design and tried to move the subject from from references to smooth transition as suggested by Ewen. Will wait and see what they say. Thanks for the suggestions and feedback guys.
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      • Profile picture of the author serryjw
        Originally Posted by mrtrance View Post

        They had meetings with 2 others after mine and made a decision to go with me. The actual owner (who I met with in the first place) is I think has no issue, but it is the office manager that is pushing it. So I believe they have been comparing prices as well so I guess that is notthe issue here to not disclose references.

        I have been reading other threads about this and many seem to think that we should not disclose our client information when asked. To say there is a non-disclosure agreement in place with each client.

        Is that still a good way to address this whole reference issue?
        ?? Are you prepared to give your prospect an ND? The office mgr is just trying to intimidate you. I would say, 'I know your busy and don't want other businesses bothering you'.As long as they know their satisfaction is of utmost importance to your business , this shouldn't we an issue.
        In a time with social media, bad news travels quickly.
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        • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
          Originally Posted by serryjw View Post

          ?? Are you prepared to give your prospect an ND? The office mgr is just trying to intimidate you. I would say, 'I know your busy and don't want other businesses bothering you'.As long as they know their satisfaction is of utmost importance to your business , this shouldn't we an issue.
          In a time with social media, bad news travels quickly.
          Pretty much I said that clients don't want to be bothered and tried to give an impression that the transition would be smooth without any issues. Also listed some website examples for them to see. So hopefully that shuts up the OM and the owner can get on with me on moving this forward.
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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    Originally Posted by mrtrance View Post

    The last client was a pain to deal with and they cancelled their service with us complaining not enough was been done for them
    I'd not bother using this one as a reference.

    By the way, if you're going to do the respect-my-clients-privacy thing, you're going to need written testimonials. Maybe you can get them to write up something, and then have copies of that to provide to others.
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  • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
    Is it a good idea to possibly use one of the web design outsourcers here and use their portfolio and present to client them as my web design partner and show samples of their work since I will be needing them to do a redesign of client's site anyways.

    Anyone know if any of WF outsourcers are open to sharing their portfolio to represent as reference? I wonder if I can ask the SEO service people I outsource my work to if are willing to do something similar.
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    • Profile picture of the author serryjw
      Originally Posted by mrtrance View Post

      Is it a good idea to possibly use one of the web design outsourcers here and use their portfolio and present to client them as my web design partner and show samples of their work since I will be needing them to do a redesign of client's site anyways.

      Anyone know if any of WF outsourcers are open to sharing their portfolio to represent as reference? I wonder if I can ask the SEO service people I outsource my work to if are willing to do something similar.
      It would scare me to leave my reputation up to someone else. You have a bunch of kids on Fiverr. HOW I get the job done is my business. A general contractor does not share his subs with the client. That is WHY he is hired.
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  • Profile picture of the author SirThomas
    Use a Fiverr provider or someone from this forum (warriors for hire). There should be a WSO providing this service
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    • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
      Originally Posted by SirThomas View Post

      Use a Fiverr provider or someone from this forum (warriors for hire). There should be a WSO providing this service
      So someone in the WFH section should be able to help me out and present their portfolio of a few sites and I can present to the client these I suppose. But I am guessing this client might want to speak to the actual end client for which these sites were made and/or SEO done which might be difficult to pull off with one of the outsourcers here. Showing sites and referencing work is one thing, but trying to get individual reference numbers and contacts will be hard if my client wants that.

      What is weird is the owner referenced the office manager as requesting this and he even questioned in the email if it was even possible to get that. He seems fine with moving forward, but for some reason the OM is injecting doubt here.
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  • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
    The first thing that comes to mind for me is that there is someone in the business who has more influence on the owner than you do.

    This office manager could be a pain in your ass. I would schedule another appointment with the manager and find out the real issue. Don't rely on the owner to sell them. You have found who really has the power.

    The big problem is that the manager sees your product as just a commodity they can get anywhere. You need to differentiate yourself. They need to know they can only get something they need from you.

    So, provide a reference, and throw in something that only you can provide them. I don't know what that is because I don't know you and it is a little late in the process. Next time you should differentiate right from the beginning.

    If you would have said no right away, the owner would have aligned with you and the manager would have lost their control of the situation.
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    • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
      Originally Posted by Dan McCoy View Post

      The first thing that comes to mind for me is that there is someone in the business who has more influence on the owner than you do.

      This office manager could be a pain in your ass. I would schedule another appointment with the manager and find out the real issue. Don't rely on the owner to sell them. You have found who really has the power.

      The big problem is that the manager sees your product as just a commodity they can get anywhere. You need to differentiate yourself. They need to know they can only get something they need from you.

      So, provide a reference, and throw in something that only you can provide them. I don't know what that is because I don't know you and it is a little late in the process. Next time you should differentiate right from the beginning.

      If you would have said no right away, the owner would have aligned with you and the manager would have lost their control of the situation.
      Well when I had my meeting with the owner last week he asked me if I go on your site will be able to see testimonials and I responded "that we don't have those and we don't disclose client info for ones we have worked or are working currently. We have a confidentially agreement in place with our clients." He just nodded OK and we moved on from it. It was not an issue at that time.

      But you are right in that it seems this OM is having more power than the owner here and trying to be a big pain in the butt right from the beginning. You would think that once the owner was OK with it (I only had emailed him and give him my pricing) that there would no need for that.

      From the email I got from him it seems he is fine to go move forward with how he said "if it is even possible?" and also at the end of the email he mentioned that he is looking forward to working with me. So it seems that he is on board, but this OM seems to be the sticking point.

      If I can just respond back with some sort of statement that would put her in her place and make the referral a non issue that would be great. Just don't know if I should respond with the whole confidentially thing like others have mentioned in other threads or just give them a url link to the last web redesign we actually did (since it has our website in the footer) and mention that we don't normally disclose our clients sites/info, but here is a sample of what we did for a recent client. I just want to give them something so it can satisfy them and move on with the actual client.

      Any other feedback?
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  • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
    How about something like this?

    "I have given your employee's request some thought. I normally would not do this because I don't like to bother my clients by asking you to sell for me. Here is another client I am especially friendly with so I don't mind too much.

    I hope this will satisfy their concerns so we can get started! I am looking forward to this project and a long relationship with your business.

    Can we move forward with your service? "

    You might want to tighten the language up a bit. The main point is to do enough to satisfy the owner and shut up the manager. Notice how I worded it referring to the owner as already being your client and also creating some distance between the manager. Also notice I reminded the owner that he is boss and they are an employee. Pull the owner onto your team and make it almost seem ridiculous. You can get back some of the power you lost over the project.

    Be very careful with this approach. He trusts this person to some degree so handle it like you are telling him something bad about his mother!

    You are going to want to manage this employee closely in the future. They WILL try to push their way in again.
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    • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
      Originally Posted by Dan McCoy View Post

      How about something like this?

      "I have given your employee's request some thought. I normally would not do this because I don't like to bother my clients by asking you to sell for me. Here is another client I am especially friendly with so I don't mind too much.

      I hope this will satisfy their concerns so we can get started! I am looking forward to this project and a long relationship with your business.

      Can we move forward with your service? "

      You might want to tighten the language up a bit. The main point is to do enough to satisfy the owner and shut up the manager. Notice how I worded it referring to the owner as already being your client and also creating some distance between the manager. Also notice I reminded the owner that he is boss and they are an employee. Pull the owner onto your team and make it almost seem ridiculous. You can get back some of the power you lost over the project.

      Be very careful with this approach. He trusts this person to some degree so handle it like you are telling him something bad about his mother!

      You are going to want to manage this employee closely in the future. They WILL try to push their way in again.
      Thanks for that information. It helps me a lot.

      So should I use "employee" or "office manager" when referencing the OM in that statement? I guess employee would give that impact of who is the owner and who is employee..just hope it is NOT the wife that is the OM..LOL.

      In that line where you say I should state "I don't like bothering my clients..." I think it should say "by asking THEM to sell for me" instead of "by asking YOU to sell for me" correct? Think it is a typo.

      In the line where I mention here is a recent client I should just list their url for them to check out and not give any contact info correct? Now that might work for the web design part, but since we did no SEO work for them I wonder if they come back to see a reference of a SEO work I have done for a client or if this will shut them up and we can begin work?
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      • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
        The real concern from the office manager possibly is, will this new change interfere with his/her day to day work?

        Being a manager it is their role to clean up the owners mess created
        and make things run smoothly.

        If you can reassure them both that what you will be implementing integrates smoothly with existing systems.

        Use reassuring language of...
        No upheaval
        Super easy to use
        Will show how to use
        Fast support
        Etc

        Move the subject from references to smooth transition.

        Best,
        Ewen
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      • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
        Originally Posted by mrtrance View Post

        Thanks for that information. It helps me a lot.

        So should I use "employee" or "office manager" when referencing the OM in that statement? I guess employee would give that impact of who is the owner and who is employee..just hope it is NOT the wife that is the OM..LOL.

        In that line where you say I should state "I don't like bothering my clients..." I think it should say "by asking THEM to sell for me" instead of "by asking YOU to sell for me" correct? Think it is a typo.

        In the line where I mention here is a recent client I should just list their url for them to check out and not give any contact info correct? Now that might work for the web design part, but since we did no SEO work for them I wonder if they come back to see a reference of a SEO work I have done for a client or if this will shut them up and we can begin work?
        It's not a typo. I am trying to point out that you should start referring to the owner as your client. Get him thinking that way.

        It's called a switch of referential index. It can change the way he sees himself in the relationship. It works better via voice than in writing.

        If you feel weird calling him your client already, you should fix that because he will feel the same way you feel.
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        • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
          Originally Posted by Dan McCoy View Post

          It's not a typo. I am trying to point out that you should start referring to the owner as your client. Get him thinking that way.

          It's called a switch of referential index. It can change the way he sees himself in the relationship. It works better via voice than in writing.

          If you feel weird calling him your client already, you should fix that because he will feel the same way you feel.
          So if I am giving them that one reference to check out should I just give the url of the site we have done or give actual contact info for them to contact?
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          • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
            Originally Posted by mrtrance View Post

            So if I am giving them that one reference to check out should I just give the url of the site we have done or give actual contact info for them to contact?
            Totally up to you.

            I look at this as talking to a friend "Look, I know your employee is concerned about this so here, let's throw them a bone so we can move forward getting you more customers."

            Don't say exactly that LOL...that is just how I would look at the situation. BUT - that is MY personality. You may or may not want to take that route.

            This is your bowl of noodles to sort out my friend!
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            • Profile picture of the author MRomeo09
              Why not create your own reference. Build a case study of before and after, what you have done for them. Show traffic before vs after, conversion increases, etc. Get a quote or two from them. Have it complete as possible. So that IF they really want to call to get a reference, it's more like "Hey Charles did you work with Marcos?" .... "Yes".... "Ok Thanks, bye!"

              Over 90% of references are never called. And if you document it well enough you really discourage them from calling as you've done all of the work already for them.

              What I will tell you is that the old line "I respect my clients privacy" is complete horseshit. I won't and never will do business with a company who says such a thing. Truth is, if you do good work, you'll get raving fans. And I've encountered too many crooks who hide behind that line or garbage.

              No offense Mr Trance, you need to up your game. You should be going above and beyond so that your clients wouldn't DREAM of leaving you. And if they did, their competitors will be drooling on their boots over being able to finally hire you.

              Just my thoughts
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              • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
                Originally Posted by MRomeo09 View Post

                Why not create your own reference. Build a case study of before and after, what you have done for them. Show traffic before vs after, conversion increases, etc. Get a quote or two from them. Have it complete as possible. So that IF they really want to call to get a reference, it's more like "Hey Charles did you work with Marcos?" .... "Yes".... "Ok Thanks, bye!"

                Over 90% of references are never called. And if you document it well enough you really discourage them from calling as you've done all of the work already for them.

                What I will tell you is that the old line "I respect my clients privacy" is complete horseshit. I won't and never will do business with a company who says such a thing. Truth is, if you do good work, you'll get raving fans. And I've encountered too many crooks who hide behind that line or garbage.

                No offense Mr Trance, you need to up your game. You should be going above and beyond so that your clients wouldn't DREAM of leaving you. And if they did, their competitors will be drooling on their boots over being able to finally hire you.

                Just my thoughts
                Ya I think the whole line of "client's privacy" is not a good one to take with this or future clients. I think best thing is possibly show examples from the portfolio of the web design outsourcer that I will be using and that should at least get them what they need.

                I think the way Dan and Ewen suggested is a better route to take to address the issue and try to get this project going.
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              • Profile picture of the author misterme
                Originally Posted by mrtrance View Post

                Well when I had my meeting with the owner last week he asked me if I go on your site will be able to see testimonials and I responded "that we don't have those and we don't disclose client info for ones we have worked or are working currently. We have a confidentially agreement in place with our clients." He just nodded OK and we moved on from it. It was not an issue at that time.
                You don't know what he's thinking inwardly. Fact is, his question about asking to see testimonials tells you EXACTLY what's on his mind. You waving it off didn't suddenly make that concern vanish. It only made him stop asking.

                And even if he was ok with it at that moment, people change their minds.

                On top of that, how do you know he's not playing good cop bad cop with his office manager on you? I often have my office manager handle the "dirty work." You're strategizing to work on the office manager and that may not even be the issue.

                The 800 pound gorilla in the room is your issue of credibility. Tackle that directly instead of trying to work around the office manager.

                Originally Posted by MRomeo09 View Post

                Why not create your own reference. Build a case study of before and after, what you have done for them
                This is brilliant.

                It spurred me to think of how you could even show how your concepts are proven and true based on others who have used them, not necessarily your clients. You could show those results too. But doing case studies makes so much sense.
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            • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
              Originally Posted by Dan McCoy View Post

              Totally up to you.

              I look at this as talking to a friend "Look, I know your employee is concerned about this so here, let's throw them a bone so we can move forward getting you more customers."

              Don't say exactly that LOL...that is just how I would look at the situation. BUT - that is MY personality. You may or may not want to take that route.

              This is your bowl of noodles to sort out my friend!
              Since I will be outsourcing the web design work I'm being allowed to use the outsourcer's portfolio to show the various web sites that have been done. Do you think just listing a few of these urls in my email and mentioning "here are some examples of websites done by my web design partner" should suffice here?

              Only issue I have with that is what if they want to actually contact the actual owner of that business/site and talk to them. I'm hoping just showing them a few examples of sites done will be enough and we can move with the project.
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  • Profile picture of the author mjbmedia
    Ask the owner and OM, 'when you become my clients, do you really want to be continually interupted by all my future prospects seeking your personal testimonials about my services? Well neither do my current clients, with all the extra business they are winning due to partnering with me, they dont have the spare time to respond to such individual requests, Im sure you can understand that!'

    at the same time obtain written and if possible MP3/ video testimonials from them including stats that show the differences your services have made, but the first paragrapgh should solve you immediate issue.
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    • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
      Originally Posted by mjbmedia View Post

      Ask the owner and OM, 'when you become my clients, do you really want to be continually interupted by all my future prospects seeking your personal testimonials about my services? Well neither do my current clients, with all the extra business they are winning due to partnering with me, they dont have the spare time to respond to such individual requests, Im sure you can understand that!'

      at the same time obtain written and if possible MP3/ video testimonials from them including stats that show the differences your services have made, but the first paragrapgh should solve you immediate issue.
      Do you think that might be too forward or it is OK to say?

      Also the part about "with all the extra business they are winning due to partnering with me isn't that too much to be promising them and if things don't work out it might come back to bite me?
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  • Profile picture of the author NewParadigm
    Many times its not what you say, but how you say it. OM was probably just delaying decision and are testimonials actually critical to getting the biz? Can't you handle it the same way you did w/ the owner?

    There's nothing wrong with saying you are just starting out and willing to work hard to build their/your successes either. People like helping people.
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    In a moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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  • Profile picture of the author Edk
    I've found that if a customer has confidence in me, they don't bother about references. This is from another field though, not offline IM (I'm talking about the building business which I've worked in and which I know a little bit about). I've found that the same customer might ask me for references and I know they didn't ask someone else for references.

    I just assume their senses/antennae picked up that I wouldn't in their eyes be fully up to the job.

    I also find that if I make a good confident impression on the customer, they don't in fact care about niceties they might have mentioned over the phone before meeting me.

    It's too late to tell them that 'you're just getting going and so on but you're competent' but I just feel irritated at their insistence and if I were you I'd be prepared to leave this one. There's nothing like being able to walk away. Sorry if that comes across as 'too cavalier' but customers do admire as well a devil may care attitude to whether you'll have them or not. You deal with them politely and so on, but you just aren't stressed if they take up your offer or if they don't. My 2 cents worth...
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  • Profile picture of the author Eddie Spangler
    In a nutshell if they insist on references they don't "feel" you

    Here is a great article from Business Insider about this topic.
    People Prefer Confidence Over Actual Expertise - Business Insider
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    Promise Big.
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    • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
      Originally Posted by Eddie Spangler View Post

      In a nutshell if they insist on references they don't "feel" you

      Here is a great article from Business Insider about this topic.
      People Prefer Confidence Over Actual Expertise - Business Insider
      Nice article.
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      Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
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      • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
        Originally Posted by Dan McCoy View Post

        How about something like this?

        "I have given your employee's request some thought. I normally would not do this because I don't like to bother my clients by asking you to sell for me. Here is another client I am especially friendly with so I don't mind too much.

        I hope this will satisfy their concerns so we can get started! I am looking forward to this project and a long relationship with your business.

        Can we move forward with your service? "

        You might want to tighten the language up a bit. The main point is to do enough to satisfy the owner and shut up the manager. Notice how I worded it referring to the owner as already being your client and also creating some distance between the manager. Also notice I reminded the owner that he is boss and they are an employee. Pull the owner onto your team and make it almost seem ridiculous. You can get back some of the power you lost over the project.

        Be very careful with this approach. He trusts this person to some degree so handle it like you are telling him something bad about his mother!

        You are going to want to manage this employee closely in the future. They WILL try to push their way in again.
        Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

        The real concern from the office manager possibly is, will this new change interfere with his/her day to day work?

        Being a manager it is their role to clean up the owners mess created
        and make things run smoothly.

        If you can reassure them both that what you will be implementing integrates smoothly with existing systems.

        Use reassuring language of...
        No upheaval
        Super easy to use
        Will show how to use
        Fast support
        Etc

        Move the subject from references to smooth transition.

        Best,
        Ewen
        So I sent a email to the owner yesterday where I incorporated a bit of both your ideas into that email and so far have not heard back.

        I don't know, but to me it seems like the OM that is running the show here since you would think the owner would be the one with final decisions here and what not. As a recall in the meeting he mentioned about discussing with the OM as well and also made that point in the email that he and OM were meeting with a few other companies as well before making a decision. Weird thing is the OM was never present during my meeting with the OM.

        To me it should be the owner making the calls about budget, references, etc. and the OM relaying the info to me. But here it seems to be the opposite where the owner is more of the employee and the OM is the owner making the final call on these decisions.

        I agree with one of the person that mentioned there that this might be a headache waiting to happen and having to deal with this OM. I don't see the owner having much control here since if he did he should have just said "Yes we have made a decision to go with you and let's get this started." This whole reference thing was brought on by the OM and that put doubt in the owner's mind I think.

        Anyways I think this one might be a lost cause and they will probably not get back to me. Just have to learn from it and move on. Thanks guys for the feedback and the others that contributed here.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rus Sells
    For future reference just tell them that reference lists are always the hand picked nothing went wrong clients. If all you want to hear about is how awesome I am I'll just tell you now for myself.

    What you really want to know is what happens when I make a mistake, right? What do you think happens when I make a mistake? Well, I own up to my mistakes and I make it right by my clients and that's really the measure of my businesses character.

    Then ask for the check.
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    • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
      Originally Posted by Rus Sells View Post

      For future reference just tell them that reference lists are always the hand picked nothing went wrong clients. If all you want to hear about is how awesome I am I'll just tell you now for myself.

      What you really want to know is what happens when I make a mistake, right? What do you think happens when I make a mistake? Well, I own up to my mistakes and I make it right by my clients and that's really the measure of my businesses character.

      Then ask for the check.
      Like that alot. Straight and to the point and really the truth.
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    • Profile picture of the author Greg71
      Well, ask them if they are willing to provide references to your future clients, which will mean the OM having to deal with that.
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  • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
    Inside almost any business you have the boss...and then someone the boss trusts. These people can tank a deal very, very fast. In the future, make certain that all the decision makers are there. If you hear the owner referring to someone (anyone) else, like the wife or husband, manager, or cousins uncle, that is where you should stop and ask about this person and the role they play.

    Before you go further, you try and get that person in the room. Otherwise, you are usually wasting your time.

    Another lesson:

    Don't let yourself be in this situation. You spent a lot of time worrying about this client. That is a VERY clear signal to me that your sales funnel is empty.

    You need to be actively prospecting more so you are not in this situation. Spend 80% prospecting, 20% fulfilling.
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    • Profile picture of the author Rus Sells
      Agreed, additionally I would have stopped the presentation the moment I heard the owner saying they needed to refer to the office manager.

      I would have told them to get the office manager into the meeting while I'm present. If they say the manager can't be there then politely say, that's ok. I'll be happy to return when you can both be present to make this decision.

      Two things most likely happen here.

      The owner says OK, lets do that and have another meeting, or the owner comes to the conclusion that you perceive them as not being able to make a decision about their own business without some another persons help. (Kind of like asking for your spouses permission to wipe your a$$ while still sitting on the toilet.)

      Sometimes their own sense of self worth and ego kicks in and they decide they can make this decision on their own and if that happens it's usually a sale every single time.

      Originally Posted by Dan McCoy View Post

      Inside almost any business you have the boss...and then someone the boss trusts. These people can tank a deal very, very fast. In the future, make certain that all the decision makers are there. If you hear the owner referring to someone (anyone) else, like the wife or husband, manager, or cousins uncle, that is where you should stop and ask about this person and the role they play.

      Before you go further, you try and get that person in the room. Otherwise, you are usually wasting your time.

      Another lesson:

      Don't let yourself be in this situation. You spent a lot of time worrying about this client. That is a VERY clear signal to me that your sales funnel is empty.

      You need to be actively prospecting more so you are not in this situation. Spend 80% prospecting, 20% fulfilling.
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      • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
        Originally Posted by Rus Sells View Post

        Agreed, additionally I would have stopped the presentation the moment I heard the owner saying they needed to refer to the office manager.

        I would have told them to get the office manager into the meeting while I'm present. If they say the manager can't be there then politely say, that's ok. I'll be happy to return when you can both be present to make this decision.

        Two things most likely happen here.

        The owner says OK, lets do that and have another meeting, or the owner comes to the conclusion that you perceive them as not being able to make a decision about their own business without some another persons help. (Kind of like asking for your spouses permission to wipe your a$$ while still sitting on the toilet.)

        Sometimes their own sense of self worth and ego kicks in and they decide they can make this decision on their own and if that happens it's usually a sale every single time.
        You are correct.

        Ya this whole OM thing call the shots and I have to sit down with them and so forth makes me think he can't make the decision by himself and relies on the OM to do that for him. I think if the owner is not the final decision maker (and the one who is gonna be paying for my services) then I can already see issues coming up fast.
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        • Profile picture of the author Pierre!
          Another awesome WF Thread!

          Learned lots here - All good stuff.

          Thanks

          Patrick
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        • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
          Originally Posted by mrtrance View Post

          You are correct.

          Ya this whole OM thing call the shots and I have to sit down with them and so forth makes me think he can't make the decision by himself and relies on the OM to do that for him. I think if the owner is not the final decision maker (and the one who is gonna be paying for my services) then I can already see issues coming up fast.
          As a manager and business owner, I bring employees in on certain decisions that will impact them. It is more motivating and team oriented than making decisions and dumping that decision and vendor on them. Ditto for hiring an employee my team members may have to work with or supervise. I work with my employees daily and long term, vendors don't.

          Just an organizational dynamic perspective for you to think about and be respectful and aware of in the future. You may be coming across negative and disrespectful to this owner. And, the Office Manager will likely be the person you have the most contact with during the project.

          Dan
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          "If you think you're the smartest person in the room, then you're probably in the wrong room."

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          • Profile picture of the author Rus Sells
            Dan, you make some good points however I've found that most business owners especially the smaller ones do not operate with this perspective.

            The excuse, and that's what I'm calling it an excuse; to get with the office manager was just a way to not sign up.

            My suggestion to stop the presentation right then and there comes with many years of sales experience. If true and the office manager is indeed a part of the decision or even makes the decision then I'm wasting my time pitching my services if they aren't present. I say this because I see my time as valuable and I don't like to waste it pitching the wrong people or pitching when not all decision makers are present.

            I NEVER leave it to my prospect to go back to some one else and then pitch them if you will. I rarely ends in a sale and if I go back I have to usually pitch the whole thing over again because things were left out leaving the other person with the wrong perceptions.



            Originally Posted by bizgrower View Post

            As a manager and business owner, I bring employees in on certain decisions that will impact them. It is more motivating and team oriented than making decisions and dumping that decision and vendor on them. Ditto for hiring an employee my team members may have to work with or supervise. I work with my employees daily and long term, vendors don't.

            Just an organizational dynamic perspective for you to think about and be respectful and aware of in the future. You may be coming across negative and disrespectful to this owner. And, the Office Manager will likely be the person you have the most contact with during the project.

            Dan
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            • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
              Originally Posted by Rus Sells View Post

              Dan, you make some good points however I've found that most business owners especially the smaller ones do not operate with this perspective.

              The excuse, and that's what I'm calling it an excuse; to get with the office manager was just a way to not sign up.

              My suggestion to stop the presentation right then and there comes with many years of sales experience. If true and the office manager is indeed a part of the decision or even makes the decision then I'm wasting my time pitching my services if they aren't present. I say this because I see my time as valuable and I don't like to waste it pitching the wrong people or pitching when not all decision makers are present.

              I NEVER leave it to my prospect to go back to some one else and then pitch them if you will. I rarely ends in a sale and if I go back I have to usually pitch the whole thing over again because things were left out leaving the other person with the wrong perceptions.
              Agreed.

              I mean it is one thing if the owner says we will go with you and tells me if you need anything to complete the project you can get in contact with my OM. But if they are leaving the final decision to the OM or like you said they go back and pitch again to the OM to let them make the final call then it is wasting my time since if they are a decision maker then he should havevhad this person at the time of meeting.

              Also I find it weird that he mentioned in his email that he and his OM were meeting with a few other companies, but then why wasn't the OM not present during my presentation. To me it seems this OM has all the say in these decisions because he also said I have to check with the OM about budget and so forth. Now that I think abou it seems like this guy has no real say in any of day to day decisions about his business and seems to relay everyrhing to the OM.
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              • Profile picture of the author misterme
                Originally Posted by mrtrance View Post

                Also I find it weird that he mentioned in his email that he and his OM were meeting with a few other companies, but then why wasn't the OM not present during my presentation.
                When things seem "weird" it's not because strange, nor nonsensical, crazy, irrational things are going on. They seem "weird" or strange or that they don't make sense or any reason, because you don't comprehend what's going on. The reasons are unknown to you. The reasoning of what they're doing is also both unknown to you and doesn't resonate with your reasoning and logic. Get it? It's a big world and there are many ways people think which do not align or make sense with our own.

                So to figure it out, you have to think like a detective and abandon your thinking, your reasoning, the way you do things... to think like the criminal, so to speak. It's like solving a puzzle: you need to find the motive that makes sense with all the clues. Because when you don't have that right, some of the clues can't make sense.

                So what makes sense if the OM makes all the other meetings - but not the ones with you? To me, it means you're out. To me, it means the OM not making your meetings could've been an attempt to frustrate and block your sale. Does that fit the clues? I think it does. Does that make their behavior make sense and not weird? It does for me. I may not agree with their behavior or reasoning, but it makes sense because it fits the clues.

                To me it seems this OM has all the say in these decisions because he also said I have to check with the OM about budget and so forth. Now that I think abou it seems like this guy has no real say in any of day to day decisions about his business and seems to relay everyrhing to the OM.
                It "seems." You said it "seems" three times.

                Again, things aren't always what they seem.

                I still hold that the owner is possibly just as much a partner in the OM's actions even though he portrays himself as beholden to the OM. But you know what? It doesn't matter, except maybe to be more aware next time that things might not be what they seem to be.

                That's one takeaway to get out of this. Here's the other.

                When you get a small flag, like when the owner asked you for references and you waved that off and you though he was ok with your answer merely because he said ok and didn't bring it up again, don't put blinders on and dismiss what happened so fast. Make a mental note of these little flags, file them in the back of your brain, observe what happens next, be open to that what happens next may not be how you expect, and be proactive: directly do something about these flags. Because it's those little flags that rise up and bite you on the ass.

                This is true in business, in relationships and in life.
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    • Profile picture of the author mrtrance
      Originally Posted by Dan McCoy View Post

      Inside almost any business you have the boss...and then someone the boss trusts. These people can tank a deal very, very fast. In the future, make certain that all the decision makers are there. If you hear the owner referring to someone (anyone) else, like the wife or husband, manager, or cousins uncle, that is where you should stop and ask about this person and the role they play.

      Before you go further, you try and get that person in the room. Otherwise, you are usually wasting your time.

      Another lesson:

      Don't let yourself be in this situation. You spent a lot of time worrying about this client. That is a VERY clear signal to me that your sales funnel is empty.

      You need to be actively prospecting more so you are not in this situation. Spend 80% prospecting, 20% fulfilling.
      I guess you are right and that I am putting way too much time into this one prospect and not out there more trying to drum more prospects. I have to start doing what you said and keep the pipeline full so in a prospect like this one is an issue I can just move on to the next prospect.
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      • Profile picture of the author RonnieJSmith
        Originally Posted by mrtrance View Post

        I guess you are right and that I am putting way too much time into this one prospect and not out there more trying to drum more prospects. I have to start doing what you said and keep the pipeline full so in a prospect like this one is an issue I can just move on to the next prospect.
        Do not think like this. What if your other prospects do the same? You will keep ignoring them and then realize one day that you lost 10 maybe-long-time clients due to ignorance.

        Potential clients are what they sound - POTENTIAL

        Try to please him a little more otherwise just discard it and move along. Your time is money too. He can be a internet troll too.
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  • Profile picture of the author misterme
    Originally Posted by mrtrance View Post

    I don't know, but to me it seems like the OM that is running the show here since you would think the owner would be the one with final decisions here and what not. As a recall in the meeting he mentioned about discussing with the OM as well and also made that point in the email that he and OM were meeting with a few other companies as well before making a decision. Weird thing is the OM was never present during my meeting with the OM.
    Does seem to make sense according to the scenario I proposed in post #24. Maybe I hit it right? It happens now and then. Did you get back to them to offer up case studies? See what happens next.
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  • Profile picture of the author DaniMc
    Another thought...do NOT throw this contact away.

    Go get some other clients, and then come back to them. Get some case studies "I helped this business earn more revenue" and send it.

    Keep all of your lost sales on a list. If it got to the point where you pitched, then they are a prospect. Follow up with them on a semi-regular basis to talk about new services and see how things are going.

    Put in your mind that you will eventually sell them SOMETHING. Before long, you will have a warm list of leads to work. Once you get a few hundred on there, this can become a significant source of ongoing income.
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  • Profile picture of the author bizgrower
    Rus,

    I agree that presentations should be with all DM's and that this is likely to
    be an excuse. Maybe OM should have been present (if not) at the first meeting
    and has hesitancy because he or she was not involved from the get go and
    is looking for a way to support their recommendation to the boss.

    So a take away would be for offliners to ask who decides and if the team can be there from the start, "In my experience, I've found it goes better when..." It might also subtly remind owners to bring all DMs in so there is buy in from the get go and re-selling is not needed.

    Dan
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    "If you think you're the smartest person in the room, then you're probably in the wrong room."

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  • Profile picture of the author Defacto
    If you use an outsourcer reference be sure to include that you are dba (doing business as) the company that got the credit with your outsourcer. At this time I usually also give them my other businesses/websites so as to bore them with details they don't really want... This strategy works as long as the reference is really a Good one.
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