Call It Out: How To Handle Bad Fit Clients As An Architect

February 12, 2023

Tyler Suomala

Founder of Growthitect

Ever find yourself in the middle of a conversation with a prospective client that just doesn’t seem to click?

If you’ve dealt with enough prospective clients then you know the feeling. Maybe the conversation began awkwardly. Or it started well but then, at some unidentified juncture, it seemed to deflate. You’re trying to engage and simultaneously replay the conversation in your head to try to figure out what happened.

Sometimes you can bring great energy and ask all the right questions only to find yourself 10-20 minutes into a conversation that just feels…meh.

No jive. No pizzazz. No connection.

Well, guess what? The person or people you’re speaking to probably feel the same way.

So what should you do?

I can tell you what I used to do. (Just promise not to tell anyone else…)

Absolutely nothing.

Seriously. I’d sledge through the conversation with a big smile on my face hoping that, at some point, it would just click. ”Maybe this is just the way they are,” I’d think to myself.

You can probably guess how this panned out. Not very well.

I’d either continue to invest my time chasing a prospective client that wasn’t the right fit or I’d actually land a client that wasn’t the right fit. Both are bad - it either wastes my time or sucks my energy.

If you’ve ever made this mistake then you can relate. If not, let me save you the displeasure by telling you a much better way to handle these situations.

Call it out!

Say whaaaaattt?? Yes. 100%. Call. It. Out.

Not rudely, obviously. Remember, you always want to lead with genuine curiosity.

So, curiously call it out.

Best-case scenario: You find out what they’re actually thinking. They appreciate your honesty and awareness, which helps to course correct the conversation.

Worst-case scenario: Your feelings are confirmed and you save yourself the time and energy suck of a bad client.

How do you curiously call it out?

  1. Pause the conversation.

  2. Label the feeling.

  3. Provide an open-ended opportunity to respond.

Bonus points if you can do this with a smile and light-hearted tone.

For example:

  • "Seems like you might not be interested anymore. What did I miss?"

  • "I’m sensing that you’re hesitant. Can you tell me more about that?"

  • "I want to pause real quick. Looks like your skeptical. What’re your thoughts on what we’ve discussed?"

Anecdotally, I can tell you that this is far more successful that sledging through the conversation as is.

Half of the time, I uncover an objection or misunderstanding that can easily be overcome, which allows the conversation to move forward. The other half, it leads to short but honest conversation where both parties mutually agree that it’s not the right fit. Both outcomes are wins for me.

Your time and expertise are too valuable to be spent pursuing clients that aren’t a good fit.

So next time you sense the “meh”, don’t be afraid to curiously call it out.

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