I’ll never forget what landed us one of the worst clients we ever got, years ago.
Back then we didn’t have many clients, so we fought for each one that came our way. We fought for this particular project too which boiled down to us and one other company.
“I liked them a lot – but I felt like you really ‘got’ me,” she said.
And while that landed us this nightmare of a client – that same idea landed us every one of our other clients too. Including the great ones.
Back then we did our initial consults based on intuition. It didn’t take us long to realize we had a very different process than most.
It also didn’t take us long to realize that if we could get someone to that initial consult – there was about a 90% chance they’d become our client.
So that’s what this post is really about – what we did in our consults, and why, if you don’t do this, and someone else does…
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… clients will choose someone else.
When I was 14 or 15 I read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and it changed my life.
It opened my eyes to how people work.
More than anything – it acknowledged and brought to light things I’d vaguely felt about people all along but couldn’t quite put my finger on.
And that’s that people “crave” recognition, appreciation, and understanding.
Dale was very precise in choosing the word “crave.” They don’t “want” it or “would like” it… they crave it, like you crave water after a hard run or like a baby craves his mother’s arms.
Thoreau tapped into this too in “Walden,” stating, “All men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
To me, Carnegie’s and Thoreau’s ideas go hand in hand:
I believe people experience that quiet desperation because most of us don’t get the recognition and understanding we need.
We’re always yearning. Never satisfied.
But if you give people that feeling, even for a moment, it’s pretty magical.
[Tweet “If you make your #clients feel important, it can be magical. #freelancing”]The relief and joy they experience is like nothing else.
It’s not the joy you get when you get a cool birthday present or when that Amazon package finally arrives at your door…
It’s more like an itch that’s been nagging them for years just got scratched.
It feels like… “Yes, finally, thank you.”
When I really understood this about people, it changed the way I interacted with them.
It made it crystal clear what they really wanted. And, being a pretty caring person, I tried to give it to them.
This poured over into client interactions too. Including that first all-important consult.
Because without realizing it, subconsciously, I had a goal bigger than getting a new client:
I wanted to make the person I was speaking with feel acknowledged, and understood, and heard.
[Tweet “Making our clients feel heard & understood is what landed us 90% of prospects. #agency”]But as I quickly came to see – that was just the thing that landed us 90% of those consults.
I’ll get back to that in a second, but first…
About a half a year ago we looked for someone to help us with our Google campaigns at Reliable.
I came across a guy I actually found through a Millo comment.
I set up a call with him. We spoke. I left the call frustrated.
But, being experienced in business, I had a feeling this guy was good at advertising… just bad at sales.
So I wrote him a message.
I told him I was on the fence after our call because he didn’t spend any time learning about me or my problems or my goals.
He just talked for 45 minutes straight, hardly asking me a question.
I told him it made me wonder how he could possibly help me if he didn’t take the time to truly understand what I need help with.
He apologized and we started over and he did great the second time around.
The thing is… if I didn’t have the experience I do – I would’ve chosen someone else.
Because as much as I like to think the reason was that practical.
The truth is it boiled down to this:
He didn’t make me feel heard or understood. He made me feel the opposite.
Now just because I understand what Carnegie and Thoreau were saying doesn’t mean I’m immune to it. It’s something I believe every person on this planet battles on a daily basis – even if they don’t consciously realize it.
And that’s what it comes down to:
When clients choose someone else – 9 times out of 10 it’s because you did the same thing to them.
[Tweet “If a client didn’t choose you, it’s probably because you didn’t show them you cared. #clients”]They might not have the words for it or they might say it was for this and that… but really, it’s because you didn’t establish the kind of bond that comes with making them feel cared for.
But that’s why people seek help.
They’re looking for someone to take care of them.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a gardener or a dentist or a designer – you want someone who makes you feel like: “Wow, this person is really going to take good care of me.”
That’s why, if a consult with a new client is 60 minutes long, we spend 40 of those minutes simply listening and asking questions.
Because nothing makes people feel that more than being heard.
We ask questions like:
- So what brings you here today? What made you reach out?
- Why do you need a website (or whatever service they’re coming to you for) right now? What happened that made you realize now is the time?
- And how are those problems affecting your business?
- What goals do you have for your business?
- How did you get into this business anyway? There are thousands of ways you could spend your time – what about this is so important to you?
- How long have you been in business?
- What makes you different? If you and 10 of your competitors were standing side by side in a line, why would someone choose you over them?
- What kind of relationship are you looking for with a designer? What does your ideal relationship look like?
The questions naturally lead you to other questions.
Their answers spark more.
(Quick note: When I tell this to freelancers, they often say: “I save questions like these for the research process.”
My response: “If you don’t ask questions like these, you’ll never get that far.”)
We’d just follow the trail until we felt like we got a good picture of who they were and what they wanted and until they felt like we understood both those things as well.
[Tweet “Don’t forget, your clients are likely very passionate about the work they do.”]See, chances are, the people you’re working with are very passionate about what they do.
Only passion can make people crazy enough to start a business.
But how often do you think people get to talk this deeply about this thing they’re so passionate about?
Give them that gift – and you’ll get more clients.
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