"FEED ME!" When Prospects Become Parasites!
When you hear the word "leech", most often you think about squiggly, squirmy, slimy little bloodsuckers that don't really offer you very much in return for using your body as a twisted sort of beer-tap. After all, that's what leeches do, and while they have practical applications (such as assisting in the re-attachment of various appendages - eeeeewwwww), for the most part, these are creatures that you're better off avoiding. If for no other reason than they're just really creepy members of the animal kingdom.
In business, leeches exist as well. Both in human form, and in an intangible form. "Resource leech" is a term often used in the programming industry to describe an application on your computer that somehow saps it of every bit of energy. "Resource leeches" in the business world are people or things that take up huge amounts of your time without offering you anything in return. And they are downright dangerous.
When you deprive your business of YOU, you might as well be draining your business' life blood indefinitely. Resource leeches do that. By no means should you abandon good customer service at any time, but that doesn't mean that you can't realize a situation where someone is taking advantage of your kindness and sapping your business of precious energy. A resource leech doesn't necessarily have to be a customer - after all, many great business relationships are created with people that have never bought a thing from you, and perhaps never will. A resource leech will, however, keep taking your time and energy as long as you're offering it.
Here are three common signs of a resource leech:
Being repeatedly queried about free giveaways, free resources, and anything else attached to that four-letter word.
Getting drilled with off-topic questions not related to your products, services or business, even though it may have started that way.
Individuals intent on actively discussing everything with you, regardless of the availability of the information elsewhere.
While all three of those might be considered mere nuisances, consider the consequences of their constant presence. By allowing someone to latch on and drain your time and productivity, you're not gaining anything. There comes a point where you stand to lose - and lose big. Real squiggly, squirmy, slimy little bloodsuckers can be removed by lighting them on fire, or pouring salt on them. The trick here is that you can't exactly do that to someone who's only offense is asking you lots of questions through email.
Here are three ways you can deal with resource leeches, without setting them on fire or pouring salt on them:
Make the meal short! Answer questions directly and efficiently. Don't compose emails for hours and over-indulge someone who's simply looking to squeeze information from you.
Offer alternatives! Point them in the direction of resources that they may not know are available. This not only saves you from having your business sucked dry, but it's also fantastic customer service, and is a winning situation for everyone. Comprehensive FAQ pages and forums are perfect examples.
Backbone! If someone is continually asking for freebies, or free copies of your products and is not willing to have any sort of alternate exchange, it's okay to say no. Reasonable people understand that when you're running a business, you can't afford to run it without gaining income in return. Explaining this kindly is one way to give great customer service, and get your point across.
Using variations of these simple techniques is an easy way to deal with your productivity being drained from your business into the razor-sharp maw of the bloodsucking resource leech. Now, if none of it happens to work, and a resource leech is still determined to stick around, just be increasingly firm in standing up for yourself and your business.
If that still doesn't work, try not to resort to setting them on fire and throwing salt on them.