Evaluating Your Clients: Why You Should and How To Do It!

by Shelby Armstrong on February 1, 2015

It’s already February of 2015, time for celebrating the New Year, new opportunities, and hopefully new clients. In this new year, you may find yourself needed to take a step back and really look at your clients; who are your best clients and best referrals? Evaluating who your best clients are is sometimes a very challenging and difficult task; however, if you develop a client evaluation tool to assess your client base, the process becomes much easier. A client evaluation tool can help you to:

  • establish what “really” makes a client great
  • help you gain new perspective about existing clients
  • learn who has significant potential
  • identify “true” key clients
  • decide where to invest your precious resources
  • measure improvement over time

Definition of a “great” client

During the client evaluation process, the first action item is to determine what instigates a “great” client. A great client in your firm’s eyes may be different than another firm’s definition. This may also be defined differently between members of your firm, so a clarification process is essential. So, let’s start by discussing potential objectives and selective criteria questions.

Objective:

  • Does this client have potential to produce over $20K (your number here) in firm revenue?
  • Does this client provide high quality referrals?
  • Do they accept your fee structure?
  • What is the client’s profitability / stability?
  • What are the client’s current average fees?
  • Does this client pay on time?
  • Does this client provide leveragable work?

Subjective:

  • Does the client accept / applies your advice?
  • Is there an allowance for a teaching opportunity?
  • Does the client call you first?
  • What’s the client’s reputation in the community?
  • Is the client ethical / honest?
  • What is the client’s level of business sophistication?
  • Is there potential for longevity / loyalty?
  • Is the client organized (not always in crisis mode)?

These questions (and others devised by you or your team) can put you on track to determining which clients fall into “great client / bad client” categories. Once you have established the “great client / bad client” criteria, it’s time to file your clients.

Looking at the client database is not enough!

As you begin categorizing clients, be sure to incorporate the criteria mentioned above to identify what is important to your firm’s management team before proceeding with the client evaluation process. Once your management team has buy-in on why the process is so important, it’s time to assess each client in your roster. If you started the process by printing your client database in order of highest revenue, you would not get an accurate account of the value of the client. By creating criteria, the revenue becomes only a small portion of the evaluation criteria.

In any industry, the importance of knowing which clients are overall “great” clients is key. However, a thorough evaluation is not complete until you weigh the reputation, client relationship, and other subjective factors. For a viewpoint about keeping those clients who are worth the effort, check out Jennifer Wolfe’s article, “Keep those clients that are worth the effort” from the Cincinnati Business Courier back in 2002 (yes, still very relevant)!

As your firm determines whether to adopt a measurement tool for evaluating your clients, keep in mind that a team approach is the most effective way of moving forward. If you involve all necessary parties, you will find collaboration, buy in and ownership from your team members. Also remember during the process, there is no wrong answer – it’s just data collection – in order to find the clients who are “worth the effort.”

Do you have a client evaluation process? If so, tell us what other important factors come in to play when choosing which clients are “great” versus which ones are on the chopping block.

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