So, if most proposals fail due to a lack of understanding, what you’re probably asking yourself is “How can I understand what the client needs?” And that’s what today’s post is about. Client interviews…
I’m sure when you’re first contacted by a prospective client you have some sort of screening process. Maybe you use a PDF or Word document that contains a list of simple questions. These questions help you to avoid spending more time than is necessary on tire kickers.
A winning proposal starts with the client. You can’t do anything without talking to the client. A questionnaire will help with screening, but little else. Use the above mentioned questionnaire and turn it into the basis for a live client interview. Meet in person or via Skype (I prefer Skype) if you work remotely. What comes next is as easy as getting to know someone. Talk…talk some more, and then talk some more again. The longer you can engage a client on their favourite topic; that of themselves and their business, the better the insight you’ll have into their goals, expectations and needs.
So what should you be looking for, what should you be asking? It’s not always easy to start from scratch so I’ve put together a small list of questions to get the ball running. But remember the questions are only a starting point; the answers can take you anywhere. If the conversation goes in a direction you hadn’t anticipated that’s OK. You want to get to the core of the client’s problem. Ask questions, but above all actively listen and don’t forget to record the conversation. You’ll need it as a reference while writing your proposal. Repeating a client’s problems back to them, using language they’ve actually used is very powerful.
Don’t be afraid to be quiet. Ask your questions and let the client do all the talking…Seriously. (You don’t need to ask all of these questions
List of starter questions:
These questions aim to start a conversation that goes a little further than “When do you need it by”. So keep asking. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn with just a few simple questions. And don’t think you’re being nosy or too pushy. If a client doesn’t want the best for their project, well…there’s only one solution for that.
A final note: If your client asks for a price at this point, no matter how hard they push for it resist the temptation to quote on the spot. A lot goes into any project and until you understand just how you can bring value to the project it’s best to err on the side of caution. If they really need a number, offer a ballpark figure. Just be very careful not to box yourself in early on.