Should you break an NDA to woo a client?

You’re in the middle of a meeting with a prospective client. You want this client’s business so bad it hurts. But the prospect has asked the million dollar question: "Who are your clients and what have you done for them?"

It’s tempting to rattle off the names of your clients, the problems they faced and the things you’ve achieved for them. But providing too much detail may put you in ethical, if not legal, hot water.

If you’re under a non-disclosure agreement, you can’t identify your client or provide identifying information about their business problems. Even if you’re not under NDA, it’s not really right to talk behind your clients’ backs. So what can you do about this?

How to win clients while respecting client confidentiality

  • Describe the client, not their name. "I worked on a project for a major brand name beverage company".
  • Deflect requests for the client’s name. Say "I’m under NDA and I need to respect my client’s confidentiality" or "I’m not in a position to name the client, but I can provide some examples of what I did for them…."
  • Collect testimonials from existing clients.
  • Ask your existing clients to provide references — but rotate them, so that you don’t end up with annoyed clients.
  • Stick to your guns. If you’re protecting a client’s privacy, you shouldn’t reveal details, no matter what the means of communication. If you wouldn’t write it in an email or proposal, you shouldn’t be willing to divulge it in person either.