How to talk to a prospective client

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You’re speaking with a prospective client. You ask questions to discover what brought them to you so you can tell them what you can do to help them.

Slow down. Too much, too soon.

Yes, ask questions. You need to know what they want or need, but before you go down that road, there’s something you should do first.

Make them feel good about their decision to contact you.

They’re probably nervous. They don’t know you or trust you. They’re worried about their problem and how much it’s going to cost to do something about it.

So you want them to relax. See you as someone they can talk to. Someone who wants to help them, and not just because they’re going to pay you.

We’re talking about building rapport.

This isn’t terribly difficult to do, if you’re willing to take a few minutes to talk to them before you put on your lawyer costume and demonstrate your super powers.

Make them feel comfortable and respected. Make them feel good about their decision to contact you.

Start by seeing them “on time”. Ask if they want something to drink. Treat them like a welcome house guest, not a walking checkbook. Ask if they had any trouble finding the office or parking or how their day is going.

Yes, small talk.

When you are both seated, ask them to tell you about their situation. Give them your undivided attention. No phone calls or texts. Make eye contact, listen to them, take notes, and don’t do anything else.

Ask follow-up questions to fill in the blanks. Take more notes. Taking notes shows them that what they’re saying has value and you want to hear it.

Let them do most of the talking. If they’re angry, let them get it out. Make appropriate noises or comments to validate how they feel.

When they’ve told you their story, repeat the salient points back to them. (Refer to your notes). Give them an opportunity to hear what they told you and how it sounds, and clarify and add things they might have forgotten.

Then you can shift into problem-solving mode. Tell them the options and ask what they’d like to do.

During the conversation, listen for “commonalities”—things you or your other clients have in common with them. Kids, school, pets, industry or market, or what they do for fun.

If you have something in common, mention it. It might be as simple as saying, “Me too” or “I love that show”.

People like to do business with people who are like them, or who represent people like them. Don’t underestimate the value of shared experience.

Finally, thank them for coming to see you and confirm the next step, even if that’s “I’ll email you a proposal” or “Let me know what you’d like to do”.

You probably do most of the above, maybe all of it, most of the time. But when you’re busy or distracted, it’s easy to forget something or let the client see you’ve got other things on your mind.

But this is their time, not yours. So make sure you get yourself out of the way and let them have center stage.

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How to talk to a prospective client

How to talk to a prospective client