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Are you wasting your time on the wrong customers?

No matter how much money you have, you can't buy yourself more time. The only thing you can do, is use the time you have better and actually regard your time for what it is - an invaluable, non-renewable resource.

Taking better care of potential customers is one of the smartest ways to make the most out of the time you have. But how do you determine if a customer is worth spending time on? Forgive the disrespect, but there are many customers out there that are just wasting your valuable time, who are just looking for the lowest price or to get information about something without thinking about purchasing from you.

There are three simple steps to determine if the person who contacted you is worth your time:

Step 1 - involves determining whether the customer really wants what you sell. Within the first few minutes of your call, you must be able to determine whether the customer is only looking to check your price or if he/she really wants to buy the benefits you offer. Price hunters are not your favorite customers. They’ll leave you immediately if they can get a better price elsewhere. It's rarely worthwhile to try to convince a person who just talks about prices, not about other qualities.

Step 2 - involves determining whether the client is ready NOW (or in the near future). Within the first few minutes of your conversation, it's important that you prioritize the client and the project. Customers who want your product, who can pay for it and are ready to buy now, always deserve your time and full attention. Prioritize these contacts after profit potential. Some of them bring in a lot of money, but little profit, while other smaller projects, can bring bigger profits. Have your “fishing rod” ready, but don't spend too much of your valuable time on people who aren't ready to buy NOW (or in the near future).

Step 3 - involves determining if the client intends to go all the way. You have, probably just like me, spent way too much time hoping for a customer to make a decision to buy. You've probably been through long decision-making processes that end with ... zero! And you've probably come across potential customers who are charismatic and have BIG plans for this and that, and of course you want to believe in them, because IF they will make a deal with you, you will get lots of business for your company. You have in most cases been disappointed and angry at yourself because you believed in this, but soon the phone rings again and at the other end there's a new person talking about their amazing plans in which your business is considered, and you'll be seduced again – at least if you're not as tough and mean as I am these days. It could be a super customer that you are talking to, even if that's just 1% of the cases, so keep in touch, but don't spend too much time on people who can't pay for what you sell. There are just too many of them out there.

I'm almost dangerously fond of my company's customers. I think of them 24/7, on holidays and sometimes even at night because they are worth it. I always wonder how I can make their lives easier and how we can come up with products and services that will make them cheer.

I can afford the time because I have a strict list: Do you want to hear it?

First “The Kind List”(which is for those who actually buy stuff from us and thus keep our business alive).

1. If my customers aren't happy with something, we will do everything in our power to correct it even if it costs us more money than the client paid us.

2. Customers who buy things from us (and pay for them) are our best friends and will always be treated as best friends.

3. Customers should get access to our time if we can afford it (I can't always make time to analyze websites, sales letters and other things that our customers want me to do, but I always try my best if at all possible).

4. Our customers are hungry and we love their hunger, so anyone who has a defined reason to meet with us and if our current plans suits his/her proposal, we will always try to set up a meeting.

Now “The Strict List”:

We never work with people who:

1. Want to meet me to talk about something undefined because I know from experience that it almost always will remain undefined (I will spend that time with my customers instead.)

2. Appear as dreaming chatterboxes. I want to work with hungry people who already have a solid foundation and things to do by themselves.

3. Is a whiner because nothing is fun and I want to have fun in order to function and provide real customers my best - that's what they pay me to do.

4. Have unrealistic expectations of our cooperation.

5. In an obvious way just wants free advice about their business.

6. Are not being professional in relation to my time (postponed meetings, delays, etc.)

7. Are not implying that both of us gain anything from a meeting/collaboration.

8. The project is not a priority and they keep changing the people who are in charge of the project all the time.

9. Want me to cut prices below our agreements because my competitors offer a certain price or rate.

10. Make me feel uneasy (the company may have a dubious nature or a product that feels like a scam.)

What will your ”Strict List” list look like? Make a list as quickly as you can and you'll see that you will reclaim some of your valuable time. Keep it secret, stick to it and see what happens. Thank me by sending an email to


About the author

Stefan Ekberg has worked in marketing for small business for 20 years and has written around 30 books on how small business owners can market themselves with limited resources. . In 2012 Stefan was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year in Stockholm.

230 000 prescribes to his free newsletter "The 5 minute marketer"
Every week some 230,000 prescribers gets his free newsletter about 5 minute marketing.

"The 5 minute marketer" - the book
You run a small business and you want to get ahead of the competition, but how can you give resources to marketing when you're short on time and the budget is tight? The solution is here! The 5-Minute Marketer is packed with 395 tried-and-tested ways to market your business in 5 minutes or less.