When is a Client not a Client?

When is a Client not a Client?

You know you have those phrases that you find yourself saying so often that they almost become one of your personal mantras?

Well, this is a post about one of mine.

You see, I frequently have clients that post in one of my private Facebook groups something like this:

“Yay!  I’ve got a new client!  I met her at networking on Tuesday, I took her through your process, it felt so comfortable and easy – and she’s actually signed up.  I’m so excited!”

This is always great news. But those words “signed up” often ring an alarm bell for me as their coach – because what is meant by them is different to different people.

You see, I know that many of my clients are very new to having structured sales conversations. They are very new to the idea of guiding someone to come to the decision that’s best for them. And so when at the end of that conversation the potential client says “Yes please! I’d love to work with you”  I know it’s easy to almost faint with delight and want to go off and celebrate.

But here’s the bad news (and where I get to use my mantra):

Your client is not a client until they’ve paid

paying client

There is a huge psychological difference in the level of commitment someone has made when they have actually paid you something versus when they have just verbally said yes.

You see, if a client pays you something, even if it’s just a deposit, when they leave that call with you they know that they’ve made a clear decision.  They have committed.   They are doing this.

client not a clientSo I normally recommend my clients don’t leave a “Yes!” decision without booking the client in for their first session, and getting a payment from them to secure that booking.   And if it’s not possible to get a payment there and then, to clearly agree when you will send an invoice and when they will pay it.  This removes any awkwardness from the process later because if they don’t pay it by the time they’ve agreed you know it’s OK to follow up with them (you also know that something might be wrong).

Whereas, no matter how excited a client is to work with you, when they leave that call as a “Yes please!” but no money has changed hands, somewhere, even if it’s tucked away at the very back of their mind they know they are not fully committed.

They might think they are:

  • But what if they go home that night and tell their husband and he says:  “homeopathy?  It’s all mumbo jumbo, remember Tracy from accounts she tried it, she said it was a huge waste of money”
  • Or they wake up the next morning full of doubt about their decision (which is completely normal when someone makes this sort of decision)
  • Or they meet a friend who says “homeopathy?  Wow, that’s great news – I’ve been  having it for years.  You really must go to see my lady instead”
  • They might even go googling for information and find stories of where it didn’t work

And because they haven’t actually paid you anything yet, in their mind they are not yet committed, so it feels easy for them to contact you and tell you that they’ve changed their mind.   Or in fact what happens more frequently is that they do feel a bit awkward about it – and so they don’t even contact you at all, and you are just left wondering what went wrong – and I know that it is very painful for my clients when this happens.

So you must get a financial commitment to back up their verbal commitment.

Of course there are other things you can do to prevent an outburst of “buyer’s remorse” and have your client stay really excited about working with you even in the days following their decision – these are called “stick strategies” and I cover them fully in my “Get More Clients Saying Yes!” programme.

When they’ve paid you something – even if it’s only a deposit – this is a lot less likely to happen.

So remember, your client is not your client until they’ve paid.

You need to pause and open that champagne when the money is actually in your bank account.


Has this ever happened to you?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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  1. Helen Reynolds on March 2, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    I used to get caught out with this one. Never again, even if its just a £50 deposit, I get it before I call them a client. It gets easier the more you do it too :)

    • Catherine on March 2, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      You are right Helen, it does get easier. The reason a lot of people don’t ask for the payment is because it doesn’t feel comfortable – they prefer to get off the phone on the high of a “Yes!”. But it soon gets a lot more uncomfortable when they’ve got no payment and are left wondering if the client is really going ahead.

  2. Ginny Carter on March 2, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Such a good point you’re making here. I always talk about payment details with a new client and have never had a problem, but I can see how it could turn into one if you didn’t take a deposit asap.

    • Catherine on March 2, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Sounds like you’ve already got good habits in place Ginny!

  3. linda on March 2, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Thanks for this Catherine. It is really disappointing when you think you have a sale and you haven’t. Happened to me at the weekend but rescued it by selling a different arrangement.

    • Catherine on March 2, 2016 at 10:55 am

      You are in good company Linda – it happens surprisingly often. I’m delighted that in this case you managed to turn it around – well done!

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