Clients or Grinders: The Choice Is Yours — Understanding the Three Market Types

In this article, Creative COW co-founder Ronald Lindeboom explores a concept that can empower your negotiations, streamline your client acceptance policy, give you a near-failsafe system for spotting winning clients, and a quick method for avoiding time-consuming grinders. This simple formula is so basic and easy to understand that once you see the concept, you will probably say: “I know this!” — and you do, you see it working every day in your business and in your life.

Over the decades I’ve seen one thing in my sales and marketing career that rarely if ever changes. In fact, it is so predictable that you can easily spot it during your negotiation cycles. In doing so, you will not only make more money but you will avoid those heartache customers that drain you of not only your enthusiasm and time but your monetary resources as well.

What is this marketing and negotiation secret that has so much power? There’s a trait locked away in human nature, which if you understand, gives you a powerful key to make your business interactions much more successful. It’s a principle that I call “Clients or Grinders” and in the next few paragraphs, I will explain why.

At the heart of this concept is a principle that I call “The Three Basic Personality Types of The Market” and if you take the time to understand how these three personality types build their different kinds of relationships, you will be able to spot each of them in just minutes — giving you the insight to fine-tune and adjust your sales efforts when dealing with each of the three basic personality types. Using this principle, you will rarely find yourself in a frustrating negotiation again.

Here’s how it works…

Understanding the “The Market’s Three Basic Personalities”

All markets can be broken up into three layers because there are three basic kinds of people. Sure, there are infinite nuances of human personality but there are three basic personality types and here’s how they work…

  1. At the very top end of the market are those I call “Clients.” They are the Top 15% of the market that everyone wants. Clients rely on your judgment and expertise and value your experience. They always pay on time and never haggle about price. Yes, they’re rare but they’re out there. They are the Top 15% of the market that I call the “clients” and everyone wants them. But they rarely shop projects once they find someone they trust and once they learn that they can trust, respect, and get good service from you, nine times out of ten, they’ll not even send out an RFP looking for bids. You see, these people are all about trust and relationships and once you build that trust it’s something that no “low-baller” could ever come in and supplant. Clients know what they are worth and they do business with you because you know what you are worth as well — and they’ll send a “low-baller” packing because it’s clear to them that the low-baller knows what they are worth, too! These people are quick to recommend you to their friends and associates — usually, people just like them as “birds of a feather really do flock together” — and they will actively try to help your business grow (just as they see you offering ideas to help them grow their own business).
  2. In a large swath of the middle of the market is what I call the 70% “middle market.” As a group, they are mostly fair-minded, honest and they do not usually beat on you for a cheap price — though they do appreciate a good but fair price. They may not have the sense of loyalty that the top 15% of the market have but they do try to be fair (they know they are not perfect and they have made their peace with themselves and they treat you the same). They will try to work within relationships wherever possible. Within this middle 70% group, you can fine-tune their reactions by their proximity to either the Top 15% of the market or the Bottom 15% of the market. As these middle-market people get closer to the top or the bottom, they act accordingly and take on traits of excellence or traits of ugliness. You will find them in either the upper-middle or the lower-middle of the market. As you learn to spot where within this majority 70% market area they stand, you will quickly be able to spot those “near clients” you wish to work with or those “mostly grinders” that you want to send packing — nicely of course, but packing nonetheless!
  3. At the very bottom of the market are the people I call “Grinders” and for good reason: They will grind you and demand that you treat them like the people in the Top 15% category — and they will expect that treatment from you as they push and push to get things cheaper and cheaper, even expecting you to often work below your costs. They’ll promise you more jobs down the road and that just this one job needs a deal — the others will make you some money. Yeah, right! The truth is: they’ll never let you make a dime off them while you suffer through insults, mistrust, constant changes and arguments over what you agreed to or didn’t — and no matter how well you do, nine times out of ten there will almost always be something wrong with the job you did. They will never be happy. They do not recommend you to their associates and this is probably due to the fact that they know themselves quite well and think that everyone is like that creep they see in the mirror every morning. If they need to invent a reason not to pay you, they can get incredibly creative! The Net is full of stories of people trying to collect on debts made by these people. I am always amazed that the low-end 15% of the market is the first part of the market that most new businesses set out to work with. “We’ll set our price low and get a bunch of clients that way!” No you won’t, you will get a portfolio full of grinders. Some set out to attract the low-end consciously and others do it unconsciously. Sadly, the end result is the same: a lot of work for very little money, if any. This often happens because some people think that you have to undercut existing businesses to build a new business. That is simply not true. But if you believe that you do have to undercut the market and you price yourself as a “low-ball” artist, you have just set yourself up to attract the people that occupy the very lowest 15% of the market.

Applying Your Newfound Knowledge In the Real World

Now that you know how these basic personality traits manifest in the business world, what can you do with this information to help you in the days ahead — what’s the “real world” application of this knowledge? When you set out in your next negotiation or even a job interview — it nearly always works the same — watch how the three market types are something that you can count on like clockwork.

As people reveal the category that they are dominant in, adjust your presentation as you interact with these people. If they are a Top 15% personality, focus on things you can do for them. Build your stock in their eyes by letting them know what you can add to their business — now that doesn’t mean sell yourself, it means sell their story and how you can empower it. They really do not care about your expertise EXCEPT in how it applies to them and the value it brings to your understanding of how you plan to add value to their story. Sell them on the research you have done on their company without telling them you’ve done so — make their story come alive to them. After all, you are a communicator and you are there to sell them on your abilities to champion their cause, are you not?

If they are in the middle-market and it’s a job you want to take, then work with them so that they understand that you have a vision for their project. If you do have to give something away to get the deal, then do so by taking something else away from the project — it doesn’t have to be something huge, just something that establishes that they cannot get something for nothing. (They understand this and will respect it.) I like to use some type of paperwork in which as they add things, I remove others. You cannot have everything on a middle-market budget. If you play it well, they will almost never fight you as most middle-market buyers are realists.

Way down in the bottom 15% of the market are the Grinders. They want it all below your cost and they’ll demand fast delivery, and while the change-orders will be many, they’ll refuse to pay them all. Hell, they’ll often refuse to pay anything, citing a long list of let-downs that they see in their view. As I mentioned earlier, they will almost never be satisfied and you will suffer a long and ugly litany of insults and cast aspersions that demean your character and your artistry and skills.

A happy grinder is an oxymoron. They do not exist. Do not go there. Do not think that the afore promised jobs “after this one for cost because our budget is shot,” is going to materialize — they won’t. There will be no further jobs unless you are willing to work for the same paltry low-ball sum. After all, to a grinder, you just told them that you are willing to work for next to nothing and on their terms. They have your number, now.



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