We’ve done a lot of talking about us on the blog lately, you and I. We’ve talked about our content, we’ve talked about our branding, and we’ve talked about our rates.
And while I love talking about us – I do – it is time for us to shift the focus of our little chats.
We’re going to shift our focus to someone who is, unbelievably, EVEN MORE AWESOME than you and I.
We’re actually going to take the perspective of the very coolest person in the whole, entire universe.
We’re going to think about…
…Your Next Client.
Most clients anyone gets will come in through some initial contact where they can talk to you about your services. There are a multitude of names for this.
The discovery call.
The free initial consultation.
A getting to know you session.
(In my industry, this is frequently referred to as the “clarity call”, which I hate, but I didn’t send my voter’s registration in time and I missed the referendum.)
Whatever you call it in your industry, today we’re looking at the conversation that takes place immediately prior to money changing hands.
There are two people involved in this conversation, and you’re both going through your own (fairly predictable) emotional rollercoaster.
At this point in the process, you’re experiencing two emotions, and those emotions are intrinsically in conflict.
You, in your head, or possibly out loud to a plant on your desk: “Oh Jesus, please let this person buy a big package. Tuition bills are getting terrifying and there’s a weird noise in the boiler room. PLEASE LET THIS PERSON BUY A BIG PACKAGE.”
Let’s call this experience HOPE.
You, to your plant, ten minutes later: “Dear God, please don’t make them a trainwreck. PLEASE don’t make them a trainwreck. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t make them a trainwreck.”
We’ll call that experience FEAR.
(Easy for him to say.)
So those are the 2 emotions.
Hope and fear.
Of course you do.
You’re clearly very clever.
But what’s happening for the prospect at this point?
At this point in the process, your prospect is ALSO experiencing two emotions, and those emotions are ALSO intrinsically in conflict.
Them, to THEIR plant, or perhaps the bobbly thing on their dashboard: “Oh please let them know what to do. Please let this work. Please, please, please let this work.”
We can also call this experience “hope”.
Them, same plant, same bobbly thing: “Oh, Lord. Please don’t this be weird. Please let me not not sound like an idiot. Please let them not upsell me on something I can’t afford.”
We can also call this experience “fear”.
You hope they’re a cool person, and that they recently came into a large inheritance, or perhaps alimony.
You fear they’re batshit crazy and bankrupt, to boot.
They hope you can solve their problems, ideally for a price they’re comfortable paying.
They fear that you cannot.
Fear and hope are pretty far apart on the emotion spectrum.
Feeling both at the same time tends to turn people into a hot mess.
So YOU are full of hope, and fear, and turning into a hot mess.
And THEY are full of hope, and fear, and turning into a hot mess.
You can perhaps see why everyone dreads these calls?
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m going to give you two words – TWO WORDS – that make it about 1000 times easier.
Now, let’s talk about that initial call.
The first few minutes of that meeting can be really weird.
(Well, the first few minutes are usually okay, because usually you’re talking about the weather.)
(Hot tip: Look up the weather online before you get on the call. It really is a surprisingly good icebreaker. “It’s pretty warm out there, right?”)
(Ten years in, and nobody has yet wondered aloud why I know the weather in Sioux Falls on a moment’s notice.)
You’re nervous, for all the obvious reasons.
But they’re nervous, too.
They’re nervous you’re going to think they’re an idiot. They’re nervous you’re going to gouge them. They’re nervous this is going to be a really awkward waste of time.
They’ll pretend they’ve got their shit together when they don’t, or they’ll pretend they’re a disaster when they’re not.
They put a social mask on, which makes any communication at all, let alone intimacy, near impossible.
They don’t mean to do this. It’s just the hopefear thing makes people crazy.
Someone has to stop the weirdness.
Since you’re the one asking for money, that someone has to be you.
You’ve got to do something to break the tension, get the masks off and the walls down, and you’ve got a very limited time in which to do it.
You’ve got to get to know this person well enough to accurately assess whether or not you can help them, and you’ve got to do it in about ten minutes.
Enter, the One Question Clarity Call.
I lead with one question.
I ask them what hurts.
I use a “let’s roll up our sleeves and see what we can do here” voice, not a “tell me about your wounded inner child” voice.
I bring my most present, grounded, practical self to the moment and ask, “What hurts?”
Very occasionally, I’ll ask, “What sucks?”
(A few times I’ve tried changing it to, “What seems to be the problem?” but that doesn’t ever get a good answer.)
When I ask, “What hurts?” people tell me what’s really going on.
They don’t give me the filtered, edited, curated version of the story. They don’t pretend it’s better, or worse, than it is.
Most importantly, they don’t feel they have to do my job for me.
They use perfectly comprehensible, buzz-word-free language. They answer directly. They use their own vocabulary, their own voice. They are 100% real.
Let’s put this into a more physical context.
Imagine you go to a doctor.
You have no energy in the mornings.
The doctor doesn’t expect you to tell her you think you have an underactive thyroid and low grade depression, you want 20 mg of citalopram, and weekly B12 shots.
That can, and frequently does, obscure the issue.
She wants you to say, “I have no energy in the mornings” and let her take it from there.
When you ask a big, open-ended, compassionate and genuine question like this, right at the outset, you give your prospective client a gift, one they may have never, ever received before.
You relieve them of the responsibility of self-diagnosis.
We hire service providers because we want them to take responsibility for the hard stuff.
Starting like this shows that I’m both willing and able to do so.
I take leadership for the situation.
I let them, sometimes for the very first time, put down the mantle of figuring it all out.
They tell me what hurts – I’ll take care of the rest.
That’s why I don’t use those big, 15-question essay style questionnaires before a prospective client even gets on the phone with me. Those things make the client think WAY too hard about something that’s not their job.
I want them to relax. I want them to know it’s SAFE to relax. I want them to know that I’ll take over from here.
Now what happens after that? I’ll give you the highlights here.
One, I ask questions. Specifically, I say, “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?” which lets people know they don’t have to keep thinking up things to say and that I’ll take over.
It generally doesn’t take too long to figure out if I can help. Usually I can, because my content, products and classes are targeted enough that I don’t get a lot of random internet weirdos coming in from left field.
If I can help, I’ll usually start right away. I’ll give them initial thoughts. I have no interest in the whole, “Don’t give them free coaching until they pay you” thing. Horsefeathers. I start now, to prove I can do it, and to provide a sense of hope. Usually there’s something really easy that I can resolve right now.
Then we’ll talk about money. My rates are posted on my coaching page, so nobody’s ever surprised. I don’t ask for budget. Budget is a scary word, and it brings the mask back. Instead, I say:
“Do you want to talk about money?”
By this point, they’re pretty relaxed and confident that I’m not going to take their home, so they’re happy to say yes. Plus, they’re curious. Then I say:
“I’m not going to ask you for your budget, because I know that’s a weird question. Instead I’m going to ask you, what were you envisioning paying for this?”
That always throws people for a loop, and it causes them to again, take a moment to think. They’re being asked, again possibly for the first time, what THEY feel comfortable with.
Then, because I don’t have set packages, I ask them how they envisioned working together, and I give them a few options. (Do you want a few calls close together at the beginning, and then reassess? Do you want weekly, biweekly, or monthly accountability? Do you want to call me when you need me?)
They tell me what they were kinda sorta thinking.
I tell them how that would work out, based on their budget.
I ask them if they want some time to think, or if they want to get started.
I tell them Kris will send them an invoice, or follow up in a few days.
And we’re done.
New client achieved.
Maybe take some of that new client money and get a new plant.)
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