In a previous article, "Know Your Anti-Customer," I introduced the concept of an anti-customer and an exercise for identifying your ideal customer. The anti-customer and ideal customer concepts have another use: assessing whether or not a sales lead is a good customer fit for your company.

The anti-customer and ideal customer can be considered as two opposite ends of a spectrum. While you want to ensure that you’re attracting ideal customers, you’ll likely need to work with some customers who are less-than-ideal. You may even need to head a little uncomfortably close to the anti-customer end of the spectrum, depending on your need for revenue and other benefits.

The anti-to-ideal-customer spectrum can be looked at as a spectrum of debt. If you’re assessing a deal with an anti-customer because you need the revenue, you’re essentially considering whether or not you should borrow revenue at an unusually high-interest rate.

Anti-to-ideal Customer Spectrum

The debt that you accrue with an anti-customer is manyfold; the costs may include extra implementation time, the addition of unplanned features, employee frustration. There are also opportunity costs—all of the time, energy, and resources could be spent on other work that would bring you closer to your company’s goals.

When considering a sales lead on the anti-customer end of the spectrum, consider the amount and type of debt that will be accrued, the benefits that you will receive, and whether or not these are true benefits, as measured by their ability to help you reach your goals.

The due diligence of assessing your customers against the anti-to-ideal-customer spectrum can help you avoid the bias of optimism and—should you decide to take on a high-debt customer—help you better prepare your organization to weather the challenge and continue to make progress toward your vision.

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