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You Want Clients and Not Customers


In this article we discuss changing the way you think about the people who buy your services or products.


While operating an online printing business I talked with a lot of our customers who were located all over the United States. Since they didn’t walk into our establishment and meet us face-to-face, customers who contacted us by phone or email were usually cautious. They wanted assurances that we were competent and experienced, and that their job would be printed correctly. They wanted to make sure we would stand behind our work before handing over their credit card number to total strangers.

I can’t even count the number of times I told a caller, “Don’t worry about it. I get that you don’t know us or haven’t worked with our company before. You have a right to be cautious or even a bit suspicious, because I know I would. I suggest you call or email a few other places that do what we do and talk to them also. But let me tell you a couple things before you make your decision.”

I would take the time to explain that we wanted was customers and not jobs, and explain our satisfaction guarantee policy. “We will guarantee our work. If you get your package, and are unhappy — If you don’t like the quality of the printing, or even if you don’t like the box it was delivered in — send it back and we’ll give you your money back. No problem.”

I would also give them my email and direct phone number, so they could contact me if there were any problems with their order. This usually led to a long and profitable relationship with customers. We enjoyed their repeat business, and many referrals when they would tell their contacts and colleagues about us.

My situation and perspective has changed somewhat now. Since moving on from online printing to business coaching and consulting, and I have come to realize that what I really want is clients and not customers.

In his book, Getting Everything You Can Out Of Everything You Got,  Jay Abraham sums up the difference between customer and client perfectly:

“The Webster’s Dictionary definition of these two, seemingly identical words is:

Customer: One who purchases a commodity or service.
Client: One who is under the protection of another.

The difference in the meaning is massive. And there’s a massive difference in the way a person who does business with you could or should be treated.”

Do you see the difference? It seems like a simple shift in thinking, but the result of changing your company philosophy to this way of thinking could have far-reaching results in whatever business you have. To treat people that choose to do business with you as “being under your protection” seems to be a natural evolution and, when applied would influence many choices made as to policy and customer service: Not only putting their needs first, but actually protecting them from harm.

This philosophy is now a cornerstone of my consulting / coaching business. The bottom line is that I don’t want to have a client’s back - I want to have their front. To stand in front of them and protect them from harm and bad business decisions. Sort of a bodyguard that keeps the riff-raff away from a celebrity, or maybe a hired gunslinger that protects a rancher in a western movie. 

In theory it seems wonderful, but to put into practice every day is much harder. But as with anything else, practice make perfect and the reward of your self-sacrifice would be not only a client for life, but an active sponsor or advocate of your business or services. This thinking is what I look for in my employees, vendors, strategic partnerships and others I choose to do business with. Wouldn’t you rather work with others that put your interests and needs first? Of course you would!

I would encourage you to do the same in your daily business dealings by always putting the client needs and interests first and just see what happens.

Ken Seaney

Contributor, Bravio Group, LLC

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