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First Contact

This one’s for my creative brothers and sisters, but the small business community can use this one too.

I got a call out of the blue from a prospective client that found us on The Google. I love it when that happens. One of the most important conversations you will have with a client is the first call. Like a date, this is where you can determine whether there is compatibility between the two parties.

Here’s what I did:

Let them talk. One of the best things that you can do is listen. Most of my clients are owner/operators and have a lot of emotion wrapped up in their businesses. When you are actively listening to them lay out their business needs, you are also personally validating them. That goes a long way to establishing trust.

When you do speak, couch everything in terms of a benefit to the client. This is the time to process what the prospect has said and turn it into possible solutions. When I asked my latest prospect what his goals were, he said “I need to get some money coming in the door.” This tells me that he is price sensitive and that he is on a pretty tight timeline. I mention that the site that he has in mind is a simple brochure marketing site that will help people find him and pick up the phone to call him. I also said that based on the simplicity of his site (make sure you don’t use the word simplistic), he can be up and running fairly shortly. I also told him that part of building the site would entail search engine marketing which can help drive traffic.

Only promise things that you can control. Too often to get the sale, business over promise and then inevitably, under deliver. Make sure that you don’t fall into that trap. Tell him about your experience with similar clients. Tell her about the results of the project in emotional terms “You’ll have a site that you can be proud of”, “you’ll be well-represented on the web”. Specific numbers or results or dollar figures are out of your control and you’d best avoid giving them any specifics there.

You can offer information about past projects, but be careful to inform them that their results may vary.

Take them through the process. Your diligence and thoroughness as a creative professional is an asset. Briefly take them through the process and let them know how much thought will go into producing their web presence. Communicating your understanding of strategy and audience sets you apart from the run-of-the-mill designer.

Don’t weaponize your knowledge. Using acronyms, professional terms or idioms will only alienate your client, especially over the phone.

Give them a ballpark price. That’s the real reason that they called. The whole time that you’re talking, they are thinking, “This sounds great, but how much will it cost?” Prepare their expectations for what’s to come. If they want a proposal, then you’re looking good. Why blow it with sticker shock? Give them a ballpark and let them know that it is a ballpark figure. Chances are while you were talking, you had already formulated a price in your head. : )

Avoid yes or no questions. When I gave him the ballpark price, I asked, “How does that work with your budget?”. It implies cooperation and doesn’t put him/her on the defensive. Open-ended questions require more thought and you’ll get more information about how this project is going to work for both of you.

Recap and thanks. Tell them what to expect next and do it. Then thank them for calling and smile when you do so!

Hopefully, you can work these principles into your next First Contact conversation and generate a very favorable result.