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Low end clients

© December 2005 Tony Lawrence

What do you do with clients who can't afford what they really need?

Sometimes you know that a customer really needs certain hardware or that several hundred hours of your time will be needed to put them in good shape. But what if they just don't have the money? Maybe they are a startup struggling for position or maybe it's just that times are hard for them. But whatever the reason, they just can't afford what they need.

You could just walk away. There are other fish in the sea and you may not want to get involved. Sometimes I feel like that and sometimes that is just what I do: walk away.

But I do like a challenge. It can be fun to try to find a way to "get by" with less, and the other nice thing about this kind of customer is a definite lack of competition: most of your competitors don't want this guy at all. He's all yours, assuming you can find a solution he can afford.

It is important to be direct and completely honest in these cases. If you can offer a less expensive way to solve a problem, be sure to fully explain why it isn't the ideal solution, what drawbacks will be seen, what weaknesses and problems will be experienced. If the company recovers from its cash problems later, make sure you remind them of the band-aids you put on when things were tight. I've been embarrassed now and then by forgetting to do that and having someone else come in with loud disdain for what I had done out of economic necessity that had past long ago.

Working with income challenged customers can be stimulating and rewarding. You get to be creative, and you may be able to do good for them. Just be careful that they understand the trade offs and everyone should be happy.

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