Newsletter - Five Questions To Ask A Potential Client

  • MDG
  • February 13, 2015

“Golly,” I say to myself as I’m driving down the highway, “that’s a huge factory. I wonder if our new wastewater programs would be of value to them?” But then I get a little anxious. ‘How to figure out their needs and how we might be able to help them?” This article describes the initial five questions to ask when screening a potential wastewater client.

Every industrial operation makes wastewater, bar none. But not every facility can effectively use our program to help them meet their treatment needs. To screen a facility we have summarized the initial five questions to ask a client to determine if a sales opportunity exists:

  1. Do they have an organic load?
  2. Do they have biological wastewater treatment?
  3. What do they measure?
  4. What is their wastewater flow rate?
  5. What are their tank volumes?


1)     Organic load?

This question explores the possibility that the client facility generates a liquid waste stream that has the potential to be biologically degraded. Organic wastes common in the food industry, some manufacturing, wood processing, and some petrochemical.

Probing questions:

Do they have aerators? Do they have problems with odors/smells? Can something rot or smell rotten? Are they required to measure either biological oxygen demand (BOD) or chemical oxygen demand (COD)?


2)     Do they have biological treatment?

May or may not even have onsite treatment. Even if they do have onsite treatment their system still might not have a biological component. For example pH adjustment, dissolved air floatation (DAF), coagulation/flocculation, and some precipitation reactions can all look complex but do not have inherent biological treatment. Keep in mind that a complex wastewater treatment system does not imply the presence of biological treatment.

Probing questions:

Do they have aeration or sludge handling systems? Do they talk of “maintaining their bugs” or similar jargon? Do they have before and after laboratory measurements of their organic load?


3)     What do they measure?

The final “management-type” question is if and how they quantify their treatment results? Industries can quantify their treatment using a range of methods. These methods are dependent on how they are regulated, where they send their wastewater, what type of contaminants they have, and what type(s) of treatment processes they currently use.

For example, they might have a lab perform water quality testing, the local POTW might assess sewer surcharges based on discharge concentrations, or the facility might have internal cost metrics such as sludge hauling or power consumption.

Probing questions:

What are their influent and discharge concentrations? What drives changes at the plant? What are their permit limits? Who has decision-making authority over operational changes? (Good for determining if the operators get support or if they are just “making-do”). Do they have a spreadsheet of operational data available for sharing? What’s ON the spreadsheet? If they don’t have easy access to a key parameter, then that parameter is probably not that important.

The final two questions deal specifically with the information needed for a successful proposal.


4)     What is their wastewater flow rate?

Their flow rates might be fairly consistent or might vary throughout the day or week. In any case the flow rate must be known so that the proper dosing concentration can be determined. Don’t worry about the flow units, you can convert later. (And please feel free to call for assistance!)

Probing questions:

What are your daily and weekly flow rates? What sort of flow variation does your plant experience from day to day? Week to week?


5)     What are their tank volumes?

Flow rates and volumes are critical to determine the time available for biological treatment. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – PFD’s are never obvious at first! Satellite views can ALSO be very helpful to figure out the sizes of lagoons and other large process components.

Probing questions:

How much of the flow goes through each process? What is your system resident time? Do you have as-built plans of your facility?

An initial client assessment will allow sales staff to focus on winning opportunities and to avoid wasting time and resources on lost causes. The following flowchart matches the questions discussed above to help guide the initial client assessment.

WW Newsletter April (v.1).


Please note: The steps do not replace a thorough onsite assessment and will not suffice to develop a business proposal to an end user.

John is the Business Unit Manager of MDG’s Environmental Segment. Please email him at