Does anyone have a prescreening process to avoid wack jobs?

23 replies
I was in talks with a guy in a very professional industry.. he wanted me to do up a site for him. I usually accept up front payment in full and work with them on different ideas etc., this guy wanted me to do up a mock site, I accepted and I'll never do that again..and he ended up bailing out (yes, I know.. shocker).

I put the mock site on a domain of his name that I purchased and I got an email from him today saying I hacked him etc. (lol wat?) and I have to take it down because he knows where I live and I don't want to mess with him. A strong part of me wanted to tell him too bad and just leave the page up but I've come to learn that drama isn't necessary and neither is ego, I just want to make money.. so I dropped the page and told him never to contact me again.

I'm sure we've all had experiences like this but what have you done to avoid this? I'm thinking now I won't work with someone unless they follow my process in full.. I can't meet everyone I work with to prescreen them as I don't just focus on the local area. Any advice would be great..

Also feel free to throw in your stories about crazy clients.
#avoid #jobs #prescreening #process #wack
  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    Get an up front payment for demo/mockup sites. That way you're covered for your work.

    Search for "monkey's paw" here on the forum to see how to do it.

    Two things you didn't do:

    Qualify your prospect. You just said "sure I'll do the work". Next time, find out about their need, budget and personality before accepting them as a client.

    Set up a strong up front contract between you and the client, describing terms and expected behavior. You didn't tell him what was OK and what wasn't. Nor from what is written here was the next step clear to both of you.

    There is a lot to a consistent sales process. "Winging it" brings poor results.
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    • Profile picture of the author thomharvey87
      Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

      Get an up front payment for demo/mockup sites. That way you're covered for your work.

      Search for "monkey's paw" here on the forum to see how to do it.

      Two things you didn't do:

      Qualify your prospect. You just said "sure I'll do the work". Next time, find out about their need, budget and personality before accepting them as a client.

      Set up a strong up front contract between you and the client, describing terms and expected behavior. You didn't tell him what was OK and what wasn't. Nor from what is written here was the next step clear to both of you.

      There is a lot to a consistent sales process. "Winging it" brings poor results.
      Hey Jason, yeah I didn't mention this in the OP but we had setup a budget for the site, talked about their needs ( I offered other services but he only wanted the site, that's where he was lacking).

      I didn't talk about expected behavior etc. can you touch on this a bit more and mention what you tell your prospects? I'm assuming you don't mention no threats but more along the lines of how you'll work with them, how you do things according to what you know brings results etc.

      This is my first month in offline so I'm definitely learning a lot.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    Personality fit issues can be the toughest to detect. Your radar should always be on, and you should always be ready to walk away.

    The basic rule is, if there's something you feel you should ask about, you should ask.

    Even if asking the question makes you feel uncomfortable.

    Say you are talking to a guy, and while he's nice to you, every time an employee or sub calls him on his cell phone and interrupts your talk, he screams at them.

    You're in the "wooing" phase now, when he might be trying to get you to take him on as a client (oh yes, it can work that direction). So he's nice now. But how long do you think it will be once you've taken his money until he's screaming at you, just like you're one of his employees?

    Time to man up and say something about that.

    Wouldn't you rather he flips out at you now, and you can move on in search of a better prospect, than two weeks from now after you've taken his money?

    Or maybe he'll realize what he's doing and be shocked at his own behavior.

    Selling takes guts. The difference between a mediocre salesperson and a great one is often the ability to suck it up for 10 seconds and ask the uncomfortable question.

    The best client is almost always the one we never had.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rus Sells
    I do. Its called, my way or the highway and if you don't want to do it my way I don't want you for a client. I also use pricing as well. Higher pricing.
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    • Profile picture of the author shockwave
      Originally Posted by Rus Sells View Post

      I do. Its called, my way or the highway and if you don't want to do it my way I don't want you for a client. I also use pricing as well. Higher pricing.
      .....I like how you think Rus!
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    • I've always had a hard and fast rule I learned many years ago. "Money Talks, BS Walks!"

      The very second I'm asked to employ my talent, trade or skill pro bono that person(s) are informed that money up front is required to get me to start.

      If they won't cut a check, then anything they say or suggest for me to do is an excuse to waste my time.

      I've walked away from many "We're ready to do business with you, IF YOU DO THIS FOR US FIRST....." CRAPOLA!"

      My advise, keep it simple, be professional and show me the money.
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      • Profile picture of the author thomharvey87
        Great advice in this thread, as a beginner it can be difficult to turn down money. I've had a good first month but stuff like this can be a huge turn off no matter how much you make.
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        • Profile picture of the author ronr
          Another red flag is they tell you a story about how bad their experience was with another web design company, how they couldn't get anything right, didn't give them what they wanted, still expected payment,etc.

          Your first instinct is to agree with them and start selling yourself and tell them how you will do a better job. However what it often means is that they an SOB to work with and they are hard to please.

          This happened to me years ago. Guess what the result was. They were terrible to work with and ended up doing web work that they kept changing it and were never satisfied and it ended badly.

          A few months later I was talking to another prospect who started telling me how bad another company was, blah, blah, blah same stuff. Usually I don't get fooled twice, so that and some other warning signs and I told them I didn't think we were a good fit.

          There are plenty of good clients to work with, no need to work with the hard ones that will make your life miserable just to make a buck.

          Ron
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          • Profile picture of the author rickwill71
            stick to your guns, "some will some won't - some do some don't"
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          • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
            Originally Posted by ronr View Post

            Another red flag is they tell you a story about how bad their experience was with another web design company, how they couldn't get anything right, didn't give them what they wanted, still expected payment,etc.

            Your first instinct is to agree with them and start selling yourself and tell them how you will do a better job. However what it often means is that they an SOB to work with and they are hard to please.

            This happened to me years ago. Guess what the result was. They were terrible to work with and ended up doing web work that they kept changing it and were never satisfied and it ended badly.

            A few months later I was talking to another prospect who started telling me how bad another company was, blah, blah, blah same stuff. Usually I don't get fooled twice, so that and some other warning signs and I told them I didn't think we were a good fit.

            There are plenty of good clients to work with, no need to work with the hard ones that will make your life miserable just to make a buck.

            Ron
            Totally agree, Ron. Great point. A complaining prospect doesn't instantly mean the last contractor was lousy...but it raises the flag.

            Some kinds of questions to ask in this situation:

            "So...does this mean you're never working with another designer ever again?"

            "Based on what you learned from the last experience, what would you do differently next time?"

            "If there was one thing you could go back and change, what would it be and why?" (If they tell you, "I wish that darn designer would jump to it and answer my emails instantly, even in the middle of the night!", Warning.)

            "Here's how I work with my clients..." (lay it out there) "...any concerns?" (Again, if they do...the Reasonable Person test applies--Would a reasonable person think what the prospect wants is OK?)

            It's easy to forget that WE as Salespeople have the FINAL word on whether any prospect, no matter how badly they may want to, becomes a client or not.
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            • Profile picture of the author TheC4Report
              Congrats to all you guys who can cherry pick your clients. There are some out there who have to take whatever comes their way, because getting the phone ringing is the biggest challenge for anyone starting out.

              That said, whenever someone has asked me to do spec work of any kind in any of the fields I've worked in, my approach has always been summed up by a sign I once saw hanging over a bar -- "In God we trust .... all others pay cash".

              Another piece of advice is to thoroughly vet your clients, and/or at least get them on the phone and have them send you a few faxes or view a website they're involved with or something, anything that offers evidence that they're not just an unemployed loser sitting around their mom's basement in their underwear and trying desperately to piece together some harebrained online business on the cheap.

              There's also what I like to call the "hit man" client billing model: half up front, half when the job's done. ;-)

              Hope this helps. I don't post here much.
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            • Profile picture of the author Scott Stevens
              Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

              Totally agree, Ron. Great point. A complaining prospect doesn't instantly mean the last contractor was lousy...but it raises the flag.

              Some kinds of questions to ask in this situation:

              "So...does this mean you're never working with another designer ever again?"

              "Based on what you learned from the last experience, what would you do differently next time?"

              "If there was one thing you could go back and change, what would it be and why?" (If they tell you, "I wish that darn designer would jump to it and answer my emails instantly, even in the middle of the night!", Warning.)

              "Here's how I work with my clients..." (lay it out there) "...any concerns?" (Again, if they do...the Reasonable Person test applies--Would a reasonable person think this is OK?)

              It's easy to forget that WE as Salespeople have the FINAL word on whether any prospect, no matter how badly they may want to, becomes a client or not.
              Jason, what would be some effective screening/qualifying questions to a prospect over a cold call, in advance of setting up a sit-down appointment - if selling websites, say?

              I'm getting the impression that just going into a pitch over the phone, and going straight into setting up an appointment, doesn't cut it.
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              • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
                Originally Posted by Scotty Stevens View Post

                Jason, what would be some effective screening/qualifying questions to a prospect over a cold call, in advance of setting up a sit-down appointment - if selling websites, say?

                I'm getting the impression that just going into a pitch over the phone, and going straight into setting up an appointment, doesn't cut it.
                I share this every so often but nobody thanks me for it (except Claude), because they don't 'get' it:

                You need to qualify your prospects on 3 things. And only these 3. They must be a fit on all 3, or else they are not a good prospect.

                Need

                Budget

                Personality.

                Lack of fit on one means you throw them away.

                Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and find out about these 3 things with your prospect. Write them down on a post-it note and keep it by your phone. Use them to guide your questioning. Only pitch (I dislike that word but everyone uses it) after you've qualified.

                Hint: newbies, and many experienced salespeople, barely qualify on 1 thing and 1 thing only: Need. But Need is insufficient. You will get into a lot of trouble qualifying on the basis of Need/Want only. People rush into the presentation phase. Mistake! Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat. How does that make you feel? Different, right? Not at all like rushing in. Be cautious. Find out about this prospect before you try to leap into a deal with them. Slow down to speed up. Again, the desperate throng is not going to understand. The "I'll Take Anything" crowd grasps for everything and gets nothing.
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                • Profile picture of the author misterme
                  Originally Posted by ronr View Post

                  Another red flag is they tell you a story about how bad their experience was with another web design company, how they couldn't get anything right, didn't give them what they wanted, still expected payment,etc.

                  Your first instinct is to agree with them and start selling yourself and tell them how you will do a better job. However what it often means is that they an SOB to work with and they are hard to please.
                  Absolutely. And it ALSO can mean the last web design company fired them as a client.

                  Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

                  I share this every so often but nobody thanks me for it (except Claude), because they don't 'get' it:

                  You need to qualify your prospects on 3 things. And only these 3. They must be a fit on all 3, or else they are not a good prospect.

                  Need

                  Budget

                  Personality.

                  Lack of fit on one means you throw them away.
                  I'll thank you too. Maybe this is a subtopic under "Personality" but I'd also add to screen that the prospect shows that they are able and willing to follow your directions. You don't want people to buck what you ask them to do, or wrestle control over your work process from you.

                  Then also maybe under "Personality" is that they don't disrespect you or belittle you.
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                  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
                    Originally Posted by misterme View Post

                    Absolutely. And it ALSO can mean the last web design company fired them as a client.



                    I'll thank you too. Maybe this is a subtopic under "Personality" but I'd also add to screen that the prospect shows that they are able and willing to follow your directions. You don't want people to buck what you ask them to do, or wrestle control over your work process from you.

                    Then also maybe under "Personality" is that they don't disrespect you or belittle you.
                    Yes those are definitely Personality Fit issues.

                    The client you have to keep selling on what to do and how to do it after they're on board is not worth having. You know, the one who questions every move you want to make.

                    The one who berates you is not worth bringing into your life at any price, either.

                    It is faster and better to move on and find good prospects who you can turn into great clients.
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                • Profile picture of the author Scott Stevens
                  Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

                  I share this every so often but nobody thanks me for it (except Claude), because they don't 'get' it:

                  You need to qualify your prospects on 3 things. And only these 3. They must be a fit on all 3, or else they are not a good prospect.

                  Need

                  Budget

                  Personality.

                  Lack of fit on one means you throw them away.

                  Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and find out about these 3 things with your prospect. Write them down on a post-it note and keep it by your phone. Use them to guide your questioning. Only pitch (I dislike that word but everyone uses it) after you've qualified.

                  Hint: newbies, and many experienced salespeople, barely qualify on 1 thing and 1 thing only: Need. But Need is insufficient. You will get into a lot of trouble qualifying on the basis of Need/Want only. People rush into the presentation phase. Mistake! Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat. How does that make you feel? Different, right? Not at all like rushing in. Be cautious. Find out about this prospect before you try to leap into a deal with them. Slow down to speed up. Again, the desperate throng is not going to understand. The "I'll Take Anything" crowd grasps for everything and gets nothing.
                  Thanks again Jason. Great advice.
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                  Skochy - The Musical Salesman

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                  • Profile picture of the author OnlineStoreHelp
                    Everyone gives good pointers. I will no longer do a job without half up front and an engagement letter that at least outlines major points and makes the point that anything not mentioned in the contract accrues to the developer (i.e. me). I also explicitly state that the remaining 50% is due at completion or 60 days, what ever comes first. I have had clients that string things out over 6 months before I learned.

                    Over time your gut will start telling you things and when it does, listen. In our eagerness to help and work, we ignore it but after a while you can pick up on a lot of things.
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                    • Profile picture of the author RyanLester
                      Originally Posted by OnlineStoreHelp View Post

                      Everyone gives good pointers. I will no longer do a job without half up front and an engagement letter that at least outlines major points and makes the point that anything not mentioned in the contract accrues to the developer (i.e. me). I also explicitly state that the remaining 50% is due at completion or 60 days, what ever comes first. I have had clients that string things out over 6 months before I learned.

                      Over time your gut will start telling you things and when it does, listen. In our eagerness to help and work, we ignore it but after a while you can pick up on a lot of things.
                      WHAT????

                      I cannot imagine waiting 60 days for the balance. Maybe it wouldbe a better idea to ask for payment 14 after and make the extention negotiable, so that the client feels he/she hasroom to manouvre to maybe 21/28 days. In this case you wont get your money so "late".
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                      • Profile picture of the author ronr
                        I suggest taking a credit card number and charging 1/2 before you start and remainder 1/2 when it's completed. That puts you in control. Of course you need a merchant account to do this but it's worth it if you are serious. Not all company's will do this (especially the bigger ones) but I wouldn't suggest working with a small company without doing this.
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                        • Profile picture of the author Matthew Iannotti
                          Originally Posted by ronr View Post

                          I suggest taking a credit card number and charging 1/2 before you start and remainder 1/2 when it's completed. That puts you in control.
                          Ron,

                          Your exactly right about that, but the buyer is also trying to have control. I can't tell you how many times I had a website or something else done and when you make a payment up front, the seller takes their sweet as* time getting the rest of it done and just stacks customers, to get more clients (which is not a bad thing for the seller) but often misses deadlines big time. Why are they going to rush? They already got half the payment and they know you ain't going anywhere because you already provided half the payment. Myself, don't have time for that & often I don't pay for a thing up front anymore. Just as the seller can be burned, the buyer can as well equally the same.


                          So, I would suggest a payment progression system, as work gets done payments are made. IE; Mile Stones.

                          Not a 100% fool proof method, but it's a compromise for both parties.
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                          • Profile picture of the author ronr
                            Matthew I can understand what you are saying from a buyer perspective. Most of the sites we make are fairly simple sites so there usually aren't a lot of milestones so it's worked out so far just taking the initial 1/2 down. I would do the payment methods you suggest for larger sites

                            Ron


                            Originally Posted by Matthew Iannotti View Post

                            Ron,

                            Your exactly right about that, but the buyer is also trying to have control. I can't tell you how many times I had a website or something else done and when you make a payment up front, the seller takes their sweet as* time getting the rest of it done and just stacks customers, to get more clients (which is not a bad thing for the seller) but often misses deadlines big time. Why are they going to rush? They already got half the payment and they know you ain't going anywhere because you already provided half the payment. Myself, don't have time for that & often I don't pay for a thing up front anymore. Just as the seller can be burned, the buyer can as well equally the same.


                            So, I would suggest a payment progression system, as work gets done payments are made. IE; Mile Stones.

                            Not a 100% fool proof method, but it's a compromise for both parties.
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                      • Profile picture of the author OnlineStoreHelp
                        Originally Posted by RyanLester View Post

                        WHAT????

                        I cannot imagine waiting 60 days for the balance. Maybe it wouldbe a better idea to ask for payment 14 after and make the extention negotiable, so that the client feels he/she hasroom to manouvre to maybe 21/28 days. In this case you wont get your money so "late".
                        You have a point but part of the 60 days is my ability to finish it with in that time frame. Sometimes (ecommerce clients) it takes me a little longer if I have to research carts that work well for them. Usually I am developing a long term relationship with them so if I get paid a little later, doesn't bother me.
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  • Profile picture of the author SassDiva
    Always ask for your money up front, that separates the winners from the losers.........Anybody who is not even willing to give you a deposit is wasting your time.

    He took advantage of your eagerness to do the job........Always qualify your prospects....Ask them questions such as, "How long have you been looking to do this? What is your budget? Have you worked with anyone else previously on this job? What did you like/not like about their work?"

    Questions like this show you're serious and not so eager to work that you'll take anything.

    If the person gets offended or takes too long (after all a customer should be delighted! you're asking questions) then you know they're not the one.

    The questions: "Have you had anyone previously work on..........and "What did you like/dislike" are particularly good because you can hone in on their pain points and see what they're really after.

    He'll get his.
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