I have a love/hate relationship with my phone, especially when it comes to new clients.
In fact, I used to be so bad that my boyfriend would listen to my end of the conversation so that he could give me a list of improvements to make once the call was over!
Thankfully Sheila, a longtime Millo reader and fellow designer, let me know I’m not alone. Preston shared with me this note from her recently:
“…with established clients or in person, I’m great with getting my message across and closing the sale, so to speak, but when a new client gets a hold of me out of the blue I’m tongue-tied…Any type of direction, tips, or insight into the secret script you follow would be amazing!”
I still prefer email or face-to-face conversations, but through practice, critiques (thanks, dear!), and trial-and-error, I’ve made significant progress in my new client phone skills and compiled the following tips to help you become masters of the new client phone call.
Be Prepared – Make a Cheat Sheet
Make an outline of the information you want to cover with a new client and following during your phone call. This helps keep you focused and reduces any freelancing fear that may creep in.
My cheat sheet includes:
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- My 15-second business pitch
- Questions I commonly ask new clients
- Project scope
- Time frame
- Contact information
- Previous experience with freelance designers
- Locations and types of recent clients
- My work flow and process
- My general pricing and availability
If you really get tongue-tied, make sure to note even the obvious things like your web address, portfolio URL, and phone number as well as reminders that help you relax. Just be sure you’re not reading a script…you should sound natural when talking!
Start Off on the Right Foot
Answer the phone with a professional, positive voice to make a great first impression. “Good morning! This is April Greer.” or “Greer Genius, April speaking. How may I help you?”
If you don’t have a dedicated line just for business, you may want to stick with just your name lest you confuse your personal contacts. Note that if I don’t specify my business name, I use my first and last name so that the client knows they’ve reached the right person. This is especially true if you have a common first name.
Write Down the Client’s Name and Company
Assuming the call is for you, the new client will mostly likely respond with something like, “Hi, my name is Jane Doe from Company XYZ.” Write this information down now.
Using the client’s name throughout the conversation makes the client more likely to feel comfortable with you and improves your chances of landing the contract. “Yes, Jane, I am taking on new clients right now.” or “Ms. Doe, may I ask you just a few questions regarding your project so that I might be able to understand your needs and expectations?”
Also, if you’re at a computer, Google the company name and glance over their website to familiarize yourself with their existing style. “Jane, I see on your website that your primary colors are blue and red. Will you be wanting to mirror this color scheme for this project as well?” Sounds professional, doesn’t it?
Based on your personality, be genuinely cheerful, pleasant, positive, and happy to hear from them. Smile – it will be reflected in your voice!
Ask Them About Money First
The hardest part of any conversation with a new client is always pricing, right? Get them to commit first. Ask them about their project, and then ask them about their budget. “Okay, Jane. Let me see if I understand you correctly. You’d like a tri-fold brochure highlighting the new reptiles at the zoo. What sort of budget do you have in mind for this project?”
Now of course, 9 times out of 10 they’re not going to give you a straight answer. However, their response will often provide clues as to how realistic (or misguided) they are, and I use this to determine how to tailor my quote if I’m interested in the project.
Don’t Let Them Put You on the Spot
I never, NEVER, provide an actual estimate over the phone. I’m happy to discuss general pricing, but I always ask for an email to send my design quote after the phone conversation (and I always provide a solid date when it will be provided.)
Why? A smooth talker will try to talk you down or make you feel embarrassed about your “high” prices. Phone calls aren’t recorded, so you have no proof of what you told them for future reference. Finally and personally, I need time to review my notes on the project, review my availability, and determine what price would make the project worth taking for me.
Final Words of Wisdom
Remember your client is a person, too. They’re calling you because they think you might be the solution to their problem. Be yourself and be proud of your business!
If you’re having trouble, practice!
Talk to your dog, your spouse, your best friend, your bathroom mirror, or your steering wheel.
Use your cheat sheet, reword tongue-twisters, and if possible, get feedback. Let someone listen to your end of the phone conversation (I know, it’s really awkward and uncomfortable!).
Finally, don’t forget that it’s just one phone call. It’s not going to make or break your career.
So let’s hear it – what did I miss? How do you nail that new client phone call? And Sheila, did I answer your question? Leave a comment on this post and let me know!
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