In The Trenches
Client vs Customer

in an infomerical world
by Steve Pavent

   Often times we think of the word client and customer as interchangeable. This couldn't be further from the truth. According to Websters, the definition of customer is "One that buys goods or services." It sure is great when we get a customer to buy our equipment and sign up for our services. Many of the people in our industry make their living by obtaining customers. Maybe you're thinking "what's wrong with that?"
   Let's look at Websters definition of client, "One that depends upon the protection of another." This is more seen in professional relationships where the client depends on the work and trusted advice of the professional. This is an ongoing relationship with ongoing opportunities for both parties. Let's look at client professional relationships and one thing we will always see is trust. Do you trust your own attorney, accountant, insurance agent and realtor? We all have the choice as to whether we wish to create customers or clients. It's definitely the high road to take in a world of instant gratification and infomercials. Infomercials and mass media are a great way to market if you can afford it, and if you do it ethically. But if you're like me you can't afford it, and if you're like most of the infomercials, you're in the gray area of ethics. How many clients do you think are generated by Jane Doe's get rich quick scheme show? You know you can work from your home 5 to 10 minutes a d ay. There's no selling, book keeping, inventory or for that matter work involved. Jane says "anyone can do it" and she has a testimonial from a one- eyed, hunch-back, deaf mute with an IQ of 3 who is making 50K a week using her system!
   So let's look at what can make the difference between a customer and a client. First and foremost we must refrain from overselling someone. This breaks down into 4 sections;

  • You're the expert, don't sell people more equipment and services than they need and don't sell at a price that is much higher than the market unless you're providing value to justify it. Eventually they will realize what you've done to them and they will go become someone else's client. Now the infomercial guy doesn't care. Unless it's still within the 30 day full money back guarantee period. But for you and me, referrals should be the name of the game!
  • Don't over promise and under deliver. We live in a society where things seldom live up to our expectations. Did you ever look around and wonder why there are so many overweight people? I can't go through a day without seeing a product that promises you can look like Jean Claude Van Dam or Pamela Anderson by only taking a pill or working out 2 minutes a day 2 days a week? If you tell someone it will take 5 days to get set up and you deliver in 3 you are creating a client. If you tell them you'll have it in 2 and it takes 3 you'll be lucky to have a customer!
  • Let people know in easy to understand language the terms and warranties associated with your products and services. Let's take that diet pill infomercial. As they're parading hot model after model in front of us telling us they eat ice cream, fries and burgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner while losing 10 pounds a week, the fine print in the corner of the screen says "results not typical, must include proper diet and exercise." Your clients will appreciate the expertise and candor when you fill them in on the details.
  • Propose to your clients products and services that will actually fill a legitimate need and do your demonstrations accordingly. How many times do you see them light a car hood on fire with lighter fluid to show you how their wax will wipe it clean, or the vacuum sucking up large bolts to demonstrate how well it will clean your house or they pour iodine into the laundry to show how their cleaning crystals will clear it right up! Customers buy that stuff. Clients are more interested in knowing if your wax will get the bird crap off the car, or the vacuum will pick up dog hair without clogging and the cleaning crystals will clean grass stains from their kid's soccer uniform! As for me, my car has never been on fire, I've never vacuumed bolts from my living room floor and I've never spilled iodine on myself at lunch. How about you?

   As my business has grown over the years I am always astounded by the amount of people working so hard in this business, week after week, just to make a living. Their entire focus and business model is putting on new customers, making equipment sales and maybe even using infomercial strategies. Even after years in the business they search for ways to just do more of the same. Faster approvals, faxed leases, cheaper equipment, faster lease funding and more liberal underwriting just to name a few. I'm not going to say that new business isn't important, but it's only important if it's profitable, stable and placed with a dependable processor. I'm not even going to say that it's not shorter run work and less short run profit to create clients. What I am going to say is, that if I just wanted to maintain a little 20-30 deal a month office, I could do it working 20 hours a week with no cold calling, because I have lots of clients. That's not an infomercial pitch, that's a fact.