A Prospect is NOT a Client – Do You Know the Difference?

A Prospect is NOT a Client – Do You Know the Difference?

Recruiters and Business Owners: Do you ever find yourself using the terms prospect and client interchangeably? It’s an easy mistake to make, but it can cost you. 

A client is a company that has hired one of your candidates and paid the bill in full. Period. No exceptions. 

A prospect is someone who you’d like to do business with, you’re calling on, or maybe you already have a fee agreement with and a search assignment from. But remember that until they actually hire a candidate from you and fully pay the fee: THEY ARE NOT YOUR CLIENT. 

“Well, I’ve been calling on this company every week for the past six months…” -Not a client.

“A buddy of mine from high school is a hiring manager now and he says he thinks he can push some job orders out to me next quarter.” -Not a client.

“I’ve been working on this search assignment for the past month and can’t seem to get good feedback from the client.”
“Is this someone who has hired from you in the past and paid the bill?”
“No.”
-Not a client.

It’s OK to be optimistic and say, “This company is not a client yet.” But it remains crucial to keep a clear distinction in your head between companies you are marketing to versus companies you have already done business with. A former colleague of mine used to say, “It’s not serious until the money changes hands.” I have watched talented recruiters and staffing business owners throw away a lot of precious time and money twisting themselves into a pretzel over prospects– people who aren’t even paying clients and may not ever be! Treating prospects well and representing your company respectfully does not = accepting verbal abuse, allowing ghosting on feedback, accepting constant moving targets on search assignments, etc. 

When in doubt, remember: “It’s not serious until the money changes hands.” 

Are you struggling to distinguish a client from a prospect? Do you feel yourself getting stuck with prospects, unable to convert them to paying clients? Let me know.

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