As a business owner, your success depends on your ability to continually acquire new clientele. And if your business serves other businesses (B2B) such as consulting, accounting, or legal services, then taking the time to find the right clients can save you a lot of hassle down the road. After all, the last thing you need is to wind up with a client who can’t afford to pay your bill, or one who ends up sucking up all of your work hours and minutes, leaving you little to no time in your schedule to tend to anyone or anything else.
While there’s no way to know with 100% certainty that a client is going to be a good fit for you until you actually work one-on-one, there are some things you can do qualify or vet prospective clients to increase the odds in your favor.
Research the Company Online
Do a little bit of research on the potential client up front and the information you find may tell you, at least on paper, whether a potential client is one that you want to work with. Some factors to consider include how established the company is, its size, and what type of personality it portrays.
One website that can help you find some of this information (if the company you’re checking out is a small business) is Manta.com. This free online search site gives you a company’s address, a little bit about its services, how long it’s been in business, its estimated annual revenue, and even the number of people it employs. This type of information can be beneficial if you’re interested in targeting businesses in a certain revenue range or that have been around a specific number of years, for instance.
Another online search site is Hoovers.com, a Dun & Bradstreet Company. While this site isn’t free like Manta, as you pay per lead, it may be of interest to you if you want them to do all of the research and simply provide the names of companies that meet your specific parameters. It all depends on how much work you want to do yourself and how much you want to farm out.
Speak to Others Who Do Business with the Company
Another way to learn whether a company might be a good fit for you involves reaching out to others who either currently do business with them or have in the past. This way, you get a firsthand account of what it is like to work with them straight from the mouths of those who know.
As far as who to contact, some businesses list this information right on their website, either by posting affiliate company’s logos or testimonials. This gives you an idea of who to contact specifically to see what they think about working one-on-one with the company that you’re interested in possibly doing business with.
Now, if the company has approached you to start a business relationship, you can also always ask for a list of references. It’s likely that most will provide glowing words of praise since they’re coming from the company itself, but you can always ask questions to help bring out the not-so-great aspects of the company. Some to consider asking include:
- “If there was one thing you could change about XYZ, what would it be?”
- “Has there ever been a time that XYZ let you down or didn’t live up to your expectations?
- “No company is perfect, so if you could point out one imperfection about XYZ, what would it be?”
Any of these types of questions can help you get more honest information about the company so you can make an intelligent and informed decision.
Speak to the Business Directly
A third option is to call someone within the business you’d like to work with and speak to them directly. Usually you can tell pretty early on in the conversation how easy the company would be to work closely with based on how they treat you and the way they talk about their business.
Sometimes people will say something that makes the hair on your neck stand on end, which is a clear sign that they’re probably a company you should walk away from. Other times, you’ll feel almost as if you’ve been lifelong friends, which tells you that it might be a business match made in heaven.
These are just three ways to help you qualify or vet a prospective B2B client. Any that I’ve missed? Feel free to share them below!
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