The word “client” is often used with very little precision. In order for a business to make money, the business needs clients who will pay the business to provide the services the business is selling. The business then sells the services to make money.

Seems simple and completely obvious, right? Not according to what I hear from some business owners.

When a salesperson goes to visit someone who may or may not be interested in what the business is selling the salesperson is NOT visiting a “client.” The salesperson is visiting a “potential client.”

A salesperson presents a design agreement to a person who will be engaging the company in designing, scoping and pricing the actual real project. That person is not yet a client, as the design agreement work is not the actual real work the company does to make money. The design agreement work is a way of figuring out if the potential client is truly a fit for what the company does to make money.

Why is it important to be clear about the use of the words “potential client” and “client”?  Because a business does not make money until a contract to provide the services that the company considers is its main business is signed by a “client,”--someone who will write large checks to the company.

Everyone else is a “potential client.”  

Be clear about the two terms. Be ruthlessly clear. By doing so, you will avoid fooling yourself and the rest of the folks at your company about the amount (or lack thereof!) of business for which you actually have signed contracts.