Choosing A Client

Doing presentations to potential clients is part and parcel of being a freelance trainer. The conventional view says that it is at this occasion that the client will evaluate or assess your training proposal. I beg to differ. I believe there is no way a training proposal can be assessed well on that occasion and I believe the client know this too. This is done and should be done before the presentation. In that case, why the presentation?

The occasion is actually an opportunity to size you up; to have a feel of who you are and what you are all about. It is to assess and evaluate you as the provider. The technicality of the training is already done prior to the presentation.

Because the context of the presentation is assessment or evaluation of you, it is no wonder that it can be nerve-wracking especially when we are in need of work.

Intuitively, I have always felt there is more to this for us trainers.

As time goes by, I realised that these occasions are not only an opportunity for us to be assessed but also for us to assess the client! Yes. It is also our right as much as the client’s to do our due diligence whether the client is someone we want to work with or not.

I notice that this context changes my level of confidence and certainty as a solution provider during these sessions. Automatically, the nerve wrecking-ness of the situation disappears and a new sense of purpose emerges. At the same time, I see these sessions as a sharing session to look for a certain type of client that we want to work with.

This new situation immediately begs an answer to the question “What are the various types of clients to choose from?”.

Based on our experience, we came up with a matrix describing various types of clients.
On the x-axis is L&D Practitioner. The L&D Practitioner label indicates how much of an L&D practitioner is the client. This includes the client’s depth of knowledge, competency and practice in L&D. The further to the right, the more of a practitioner the client is.

On the y-axis is Autonomy. This alludes to how much autonomy does the client give us to design, develop and deliver the work. Does the client allow us, as a solution provider, the freedom to advise and suggest the most appropriate and effective solution for their needs? This particular element has a direct correlation to other elements such as trust, certainty and vulnerability level of the client.
This matrix gives us 4 types of clients. All the quadrants are eligible to be chosen; not one is better than the other. It all depends on your preference.

Each quadrant has its very own personality. The key for us as a provider is to be aware of what we are getting into when we choose a certain type of client because each one has their very own expectation of us.

My favourite clients are the partners; MUTUAL partners and TRANSFORMATIONAL partners.

A MUTUAL partner is a partner-client that adds value to what you are doing. They are committed to co-create with you. Both your and the clients enrich one another throughout the relationship. For me, these partner clients are a joy to work with.

A TRANSFORMATIONAL partner is a partner-client that have a high level of trust in your ability to lead the project. They are also hungry to learn and transform from the relationship they have with you. They are there throughout the journey learning and contributing as we go along. For me, these partner clients are the most rewarding to work with. In the long run, eventually, they will become a MUTUAL partner.

A COMMENSAL client that knows what they want and that is all there is to it. You as a provider is just there to carry out their agenda the way they want it. There is no room for innovation or creativity what more experimentation in the work. This would be the ideal client for trainers that provides off the shelf solutions; a one fit all type.

A TRANSACTIONAL client more often than not has a lower level of commitment to the effectiveness of the solution. They are more interested in you conducting the program and finishing it. As long as you do what is deem to be needed is all that they care about. They are all about getting it done. Again, this would be ideal for trainers who are not really focused on learning impact and are looking for one-off gigs.

The question “How do you choose a job?” has been asked of me a couple of times. My answer has always been “Depends on whether we like the job and the client or not.” For us in neOOne, being selective of our clientele and the job is fundamental. It is important for us to be vested in the work more than just delivering it. We want to be able to create an impact and feel proud of what we are doing. However lucrative or easy the job is, if it is not going to create impact and leave a sense of pride, we will not take it. We also want a client that can be a partner to us; enriching each other along the way in all aspects of the work.

Each to his own is what I would say. Choose your job and client wisely because we do not have endless work to do. There is only so much work we can handle. Therefore, isn’t it prudent for us to be selective in what we spend our time with?

If a human is a sum of all his experience, then a training provider is a sum of all his work and clientele.

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