Originally published on Inc Magazine’s Process Playbook by Chris Ronzio
When you see these traits while selling, run. But if you see them while recruiting, you’ve found someone great.
There is a cliche saying in marketing that it takes eight or 11 or 17 impressions — it gets longer every time marketers say it — before a customer is ready to buy from you. While some version of that is undoubtedly true, it’s easy to confuse those passive marketing impressions with your more intentional sales follow ups.
So, how hard should you try to convince someone else to buy from you? In my opinion, not hard at all. The hardest customers for you to close will be the hardest customers for you to satisfy.
I’ve seen this over and over again. When a prospective customer is skeptical of your product or service, it’s tempting to want to spin your conversation in a dozen ways so that they finally see the value that you provide.
And, when you’ve persisted long enough for them to convert, they look for every opportunity to prove you wrong — to convince you that they weren’t actually a fit after all. Cue the cancellations, refunds, and over-and-beyond support to try to make things right.
While you shouldn’t waste time trying to close those picky customers, you should definitely invest time recruiting picky employees. The same traits that make for the worst customers are often found in the best employees.
Here’s how to spot them.
They have options, and they are the prize.
The worst customers come to you with 10 other companies that are vying for their business. One of my consulting clients, a printing brokerage, was bombarded with estimate requests from companies that seldom intended to buy; they just needed at least three bids to appease management.
Rather than connecting with your messaging or seeing something unique in your product or service, the customer has put you on a long list of possible providers. Red flag.
But, when a prospective hire has multiple companies pursuing them, it gives you confidence about their value in the marketplace. And, it moves the process along faster, because if you don’t get them, someone else will.
They’re price shopping.
When a customer shops solely on price instead of value, that’s a recipe for disaster. Unless you’re selling a commodity or reselling a product against an identical supplier, a great customer would weigh the pros and cons of the full relationship and not just select the lowest price.
The best applicants, however, know their value and are willing to ask for it. Likely, they have multiple opportunities, and the price that you’re willing to pay is a key part of the equation.
They come in with obscure questions.
If a customer is asking extremely specific questions during the sales process, rest assured that they will have extremely specific customer support tickets as well. When I demo our software at Trainual, a customer with a few clarifying questions about the product is good. A customer that asks about modifying the printing margins on a PDF export makes me raise an eyebrow.
But, the best employees ask a lot of questions during the hiring process. They want to know about your products and services, your team, your benefits, your mission — everything that will help them determine if your company is the right fit for them.
They want to make it a group process.
When a customer requests a demo, and then another demo with a different set of people, and then starts an email thread with a larger group, it shows that they aren’t the decision maker, and the sale is going to take a while.
When an employee is interviewing, however, they should want to meet as many people as possible to make sure they’re a good fit with your team. They should ask questions about your teammates outside of town, introduce themselves to others when touring the office, and give everyone a chance to weigh in on the hiring process.
They don’t make quick decisions.
Some customers are decisive. They recognize the value of your solution and they pull the trigger. Other customers don’t make quick decisions, and can take weeks, months, or even years to convert, taking up a lot of your resources in the process.
When you’re hiring, a quick decision or quick start date can show a lack of options, so a slightly longer decision process is actually a good thing. It can be frustrating when a transaction with a customer takes a long time to cultivate, and there are several red flags along the way. But, learn to recognize these same characteristics as positive with potential hires.
The customers that are hardest to sell are the hardest to please. The applicants that are hardest to sell are the hardest to live without.