Okay, so far in this course, we’ve covered among other things, getting clients, creating proposals, valuing our work, and a gripping 21 minute summary about how Star Trek: First Contact reimagined the zombie genre. A topic Grimur promised yet again not to cut from this course. And what we’re doing here is taking the concepts we’ve covered so far, and preparing for our first scheduled client meeting. Because we want to prepare for client interactions like we would a debate, and that kind of preparation helps us stay focused, and of course, the better we prepare, the less likely we’ll be caught off-guard. So we’ll break this into four parts: scheduling the first meeting, prepping the right questions, planning to give the right answers, and then we’ll go through the actual interaction with Rebecca from Hayes Valley Interior Design.
The thing that's different between debate prep on a political stage and negotiation prep with a client is in most ways you’re not adversaries. Our goal is to empathize with them and answer their questions respectfully. Because once you’ve sent out proposals to potential clients, you’ll often get responses. And how you do this is different with everyone. Some people prefer to talk over-the-phone, some over video chat, some people want to meet in-person, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. In the last part of this course, we set up a call with Rebecca. Why? Because one of the best things to organize your thoughts and make sure you have your research down before any type of formal interaction with a client is to schedule. You get a call or an email wanting to learn more, sometimes we immediately jump at the chance. But, if we slow down, and offer to schedule a short call to talk about what they’re looking to achieve, that gives us time to prep and organize. And it’s a good signal to your potential client that you value and respect your own time. Since the call is set for later this morning at 10:30, that gives us a pretty short window to prep. But what we need to prep isn’t just questions our potential client might ask us. We need to prep questions to ask our potential client, and that’s the key. The goal of this call isn’t to sell them on our ability to work for them, the goal of this call is to going in deeper, to better understand their business. Because so far we only have the information we found ourselves. This is a great opportunity, and again, the better we understand their needs, the needs of their business, the better we can recommend a course of action, services we can offer them. Fortunately, we already have a foundation. The first questions come from the proposal: how do clients find them, what happens when clients get to their site, and how can we as a freelancer help them out. Up until now, our research was mainly guessing based on what we could find, so the questions we ask have to start where that research ends. And some of our research is based on assumptions. What we need to do is build on that, just like Care Plus, which we covered earlier in the course. We’re going to ask questions of our potential client, to understand not how it is, but how they want it to be. The very act of calling or emailing us is already an indication. They’re interested. They’re looking to you and reaching out, most likely because they’re looking to grow their business. But, now is not the time to sell. Now is the time to go deeper. So let’s cover the questions you can ask them. And to do that, Grimur has volunteered to hop on a call and help us prep.
[McGuire] Hey thanks so much for taking the time Rebecca.
[Grimur in falsetto] My pleasure.
[McGuire] So before we get started, I want to make sure we’re on the same page.
[Grimur in falsetto] Sounds great.
[McGuire] You know Grimur this is really great.
[Grimur in falsetto] I know.
[McGuire] You’re really into this.
[Grimur in falsetto] Yeah.
[McGuire] You don’t have to do the voice.
[Grimur] I’m going for authentic.
[McGuire] If you’re feeling pressure-
[Grimur] This is breaking character.
[McGuire] Can you talk about the types of clients you have today?
[Grimur] Me, Grimur, or do you mean?
[McGuire] No, Rebecca.
[Grimur] So, you don’t want like do the voice?
[McGuire] You can play Rebecca but just maybe not so much.
[Grimur] Sure, we really focus on high-end interior design. Most of our clients are remodeling or building a home from scratch.
[McGuire] So mainly residential?
[Grimur] We’ve done a few commercial clients, some businesses, but yeah mainly residential.
[McGuire] And how does that compare to the clients you want?
[Grimur] Why are you asking her that?
[Grimur] Why are you asking her that question?
[McGuire] Now you’re breaking character.
[Grimur] Okay, pretend I’m Rebecca again. Why are you asking me, Rebecca, about the clients I want.
[McGuire] Because their current site only talks about residential work, if they’re interested in commercial work too-
[Grimur] Ah, got it.
[McGuire] Residential now, are you looking to get more commercial clients?
[Grimur] We’d love more commercial clients.
[McGuire] Great, thanks Rebecca. So, I want to shift to bigger goals. What are you looking to achieve in terms of growing your business? What’s a slam dunk for you? Sports metaphors are the worst.
[Grimur] Yeah, I think right now we’re learning a lot about what it takes to scale our business. It started back in 1943, and back then (fades out)
[McGuire] Grimur is really selling this. Prepping for a call with a friend or colleague is a great way to try this out and prepare. Okay, so, one of the things we want to understand is the process, the process your clients go through. Now, Grimur’s making this stuff up, but we want to make a list of questions you could ask during your call. What’s your goal for the website? What do you like about your current website? What would you want to improve about your website?
[Grimur] Can I answer?
[Grimur] Well I think a lot of people look at our site and think its trash. I’m not particularly proud of it. My nephew (fades out)
[McGuire] It’s the answers to the questions we’ll write down during that first scheduled interaction that are going to give us not only a better understanding of their business and their customers but all the information we need to tailor our approach, to make all our recommendations custom to what they’re looking to achieve.
[Grimur] Am I good to go?
[McGuire] Yeah, thanks Grimur.
[Grimur] You bet.
And this understanding, reaching deeper than specifications for the kind of site you’re going to build, that’s what gives you value. You’re not just building them website, you’re helping them achieve a goal. And the more you take the time to understand where they’re coming from, what the needs of their customers are, how they feel about their business, and their business goals, the better experience you can build for them. This extends so far beyond what most people offer, and making sure your potential client gets the sense that you really do care about what they’re looking to achieve, that’s what separates good freelancers from great freelancers.
Now, just because we have questions for them, doesn’t mean they don’t have questions for us. And this is where you don’t just need great questions, you need great answers. So, for this part, we’ll put ourselves in the client’s shoes. Write down all the questions this potential client might have. How much is this going to cost? Can you do this work for free? How long will this take? Come up with a list of the toughest questions you might get. These questions might be terrifying at first, but here’s the great thing: it’s better if we come up with the tough questions before the scheduled client interaction as opposed to waiting to figure out everything in real time. And by doing this, we’re able to better practice and prepare. And she might ask us anything. What’s your process like? How long does the process take? What if we want to change things later? All these questions can help us better prepare, and we can practice how we’d respond to it. So, the call is set, we’re well prepared, we have our notes, we’re taking more, let’s make the call. What’s the number?
Josh is going to transfer us to Rebecca’s assistant Eve, who will, after putting us on a brief hold to put out a literal fire, eventually connect us to-
[Rebecca] Hey, its Rebecca, thanks for calling.
[McGuire] No problem. It’s a pleasure to meet you over the phone. How’s your day going?
[Rebecca] Good! We got this brochure you made, and I wanted to figure out how much a website like this would cost.
[McGuire] Absolutely, and that’s one of the main things we want to figure out on this call. Now, at this point a lot of people might want to ask how much a client project from her firm costs, because that gives us a starting point. Nothing wrong with us saying something like, most of our client projects start at $3,000 dollars, but instead of going straight to the price, we want to first better understand their needs, so you can make recommendations based on those needs. And the point is a lot of this is based on the scope of what her firm wants to get done. Rebecca?
[McGuire] A lot of this is based on the scope of what your firm wants to get done.
[McGuire] Which is why the goal of this call is to make sure we’re on the same page regarding what your firm is looking to achieve. That way we can get you a full quote that's based on what it is we’re doing.
[Rebecca] Got it.
[McGuire] So, let’s start with your current site because there were some questions around this.
[McGuire] So we’re looking at your current website and the first question is, do you find a lot of your clients come from this site?
[Rebecca] It’s mainly word of mouth. We did our site back in, it was 2011.
[McGuire] Okay, by the way, details like this are great because I’m taking notes.
[Rebecca] Cool, so anyway, we get a lot of calls and emails but usually they’re from other clients who referred them to us.
[McGuire] Got it, so those calls, from the business side, what does that process look like?
[Rebecca] What do you mean?
[McGuire] Well, let’s say you get a call from a client wanting to work with you, what happens next?
[Rebecca] Well we usually get a client knowing they want something, they’re remodeling a kitchen or building a new house.
[McGuire] And this is residential clients, or do you also do commercial?
[Rebecca] Just residential, we’ve done some commercial work in the past but we’re trying to focus exclusively on residential clients.
[McGuire] We want to take notes here.
[Rebecca] So we get an understanding of what they're looking for, whether that's a new home build or a renovation. Then we work with them to get a quote.
[McGuire] Rebecca can you talk a little bit more about that? We want to make sure we’re on the same page about what happens from the first call to them getting a quote.
[Rebecca] Well they usually know what they want, so we’ll go out and do a consultation.
[McGuire] That’s if its a renovation?
[Rebecca] Reno or new build, either way we’ll go out and meet the client to get the measurements, look at the space-
[McGuire] And who does this?
[Rebecca] Usually one of our junior designers.
[McGuire] We’re really trying to understand what it's like, what the process is like for their clients. And the reason is, if we understand their process we can make sure we’re offering and later building a site that not only looks great but is super effective in communicating this process to their clients. Okay, Rebecca, so first they call, or email, then you get back to them and set up a consultation, the designer goes out, and then what?
[Rebecca] So when we start, we usually have a budget, so we work with them to price out the project. That’s basically the contract phase. We work with them to get a contract together, and then we actually do the work, all the design and development.
[McGuire] Okay great. This is really helpful because the better we understand about your process the better we can build a site that communicates this to your clients and sets expectations.
[Rebecca] Sounds great.
[McGuire] So, number one there’s a consult, number two there’s a contract-
[Rebecca] Actually if its on a site, we should call it letter of agreement.
[McGuire] Okay good to know. Consultation, letter of agreement, then the design work?
[Rebecca] Design and development.
[McGuire] Okay great, getting all this down.
[Rebecca] Then comes everything else, the last step is where we do the construction, the installation, and basically project completion.
[McGuire] Okay, so on the existing site, now that we understand a little more about your process, how does your current site do in helping to communicate this process to your clients?
[Rebecca] I really like that we can get all of the contact info from the contact form.
[McGuire] And what don’t you like about it?
[Rebecca] The contact form?
[McGuire] Well the website in general but it can be the form too.
[Rebecca] Well on the form, we get a lot of spam. For the whole site, and you pointed this out in the brochure, it's really tiny on the iPhone.
[Rebecca] That’s really what we’re concerned about. Also we have about a thousand photos of new work, new projects we’ve completed recently.
[McGuire] Well we can definitely work on that. The perfect website, what’s a home run for you? We have to stop using sports metaphors.
[Rebecca] Well, that’s why I’m talking to you.
[McGuire] Great point, but imagine for a second you have the perfect site. Forget the design, the contact form, what do you want that website doing for your business?
[Rebecca] Well, getting us more clients would be nice.
[McGuire] So you said word of mouth was pretty big, do you have an estimate of how many clients you’re getting, calls or emails you’re getting from the site?
[Rebecca] I’d say a couple a month, maybe two or three.
[McGuire] So the goal of your website, assuming you get a new one built for your design firm, is mainly to get clients.
[McGuire] Got it, okay. Getting a pretty good understanding so thank you.
[Rebecca] My pleasure.
[McGuire] Okay, let’s talk about what’s next. What I want to do after this call is take what we have here and give you a breakdown. So I want to write out exactly what we’re recommending based on what we’ve covered, and exactly how much we’re quoting you for that.
[Rebecca] Okay, so how long is that going to take?
[McGuire] Let’s aim to have it in your inbox this time tomorrow.
[Rebecca] Sounds good.
[McGuire] Great. Now, what questions do you have for me?
[Rebecca] For you?
[McGuire] Yes, what are the toughest questions you have.
[Rebecca] Well, how long will it take for you to build the site?
[McGuire] That’s actually the most common question, so we have a pretty standard answer for it. Usually three to six weeks, but it can really vary based on the scope of work, just like projects with your clients I can imagine.
[McGuire] How long do yours take?
[Rebecca] A lot more than three to six weeks, we have picky clients.
[McGuire] Picky is good. What’s the longest a client project has taken?
[Rebecca] For us?
[Rebecca] Oh God, there’s one now.
[McGuire] More than six weeks?
[Rebecca] It’s been two years.
[McGuire] The same client?
[Rebecca] We’ve been working on this project for two years.
[McGuire] I want to make you a promise. Now, none of this has to do with the design of their site, the price, the technical details, but clients want to know we understand them. And that’s what we’re doing here, we’re empathizing with someone based on something we have in common. That’s the basis for developing a rapport. We’re understanding each other’s feelings and frustrations, because we know what it’s like to have something take longer than expected. Up until this point we’ve gotten a pretty good understanding of the client’s business needs, but now we’re demonstrating to them we can relate to them personally. And that’s important because when we connect with the client like this, we’re not only showing that we understand the client’s business needs, but that we can relate to how they feel. And when we understand that, we can make recommendations and commitments to them based on those feelings. Rebecca.
[McGuire] If we decide this is a good fit, and we work on this project together, I promise to you now, it will not take two years.
[Rebecca] I’ll need that in writing.
[McGuire] We'll get that in writing.
[McGuire] Next tough question.
[Rebecca] Okay, what’s your process like?
[McGuire] For websites?
[McGuire] It helps to think about the full process beforehand. Numbers work well. Rebecca, we work together through four different phases. We’re in phase one right now. We start by having a conversation so we better understand the needs of your business, then we work on content, this is working with you on written content, and getting the assets together, like photos of your client work, projects your team has worked on.
[McGuire] Then for phase three we work on design and development of the actual site.
[McGuire] And finally we test it and deploy it.
[Rebecca] Not saying this is going to happen but, what if we don’t like it?
[McGuire] Good question, and the answer is we work together each step of the way. So we’ll have regular check-ins so we can get any feedback out in the open, and we’ll include revisions as part of what you get quoted for the project.
[Rebecca] What about changes? How can we change the site later?
[McGuire] Great question. We’ll set up a content management system.
[Rebecca] A CMS.
[McGuire] Right. After we set this up, you can login, your team can login, and make changes to text, to images, you can add client projects to your site, you can do any of this whenever you’d like.
[Rebecca] Okay great. What if we need design changes down the road?
[McGuire] Of course, sometimes there are things that fall outside our original scope of work and we’ll make sure to include an hourly rate upfront for additional work that falls outside of our original agreement. That way, if you need something else you’ll know exactly what that rate is.
[Rebecca] Got it, okay.
[McGuire] What else do you have?
[Rebecca] So, odd question and don’t take this the wrong way…
[McGuire] Never a good start.
[Rebecca] But my partners will ask, plus our admin has created some sites before, and I get your job is to sell me on a website, so something like this: why can’t we build this ourselves?
[McGuire] Let’s slow down. We’re on a call. We have about six more seconds until things get awkward and we can’t blame it on a bad connection. The question is this: why can’t they build a site themselves? And before we give an answer, we have to first understand the motivation. Let’s dissect. Five seconds left. What’s the motivation of the question? Why is she asking, why is she talking to us if doing it herself is even a consideration? Three possible reasons, four if she’s just being cruel. We could assume she doesn’t understand the complexity involved, if that’s the case, we can just tell her, say how complicated it is to build a bespoke website from scratch. But that could backfire, plus it sounds like we’re saying she can’t, her firm can’t do this, which isn’t the case. Maybe they want to learn. Four seconds. Possibility number two is that it’s about money. What if we’re too expensive? She wants all her options, that could be it. But then there’s number three. Number three is, she wants to know what’s different, what value would we add, what can’t her firm do themselves. We could go this route, point to her current site as a reflection of her business, and the clients they’re missing out on, how a one-size-fits-all template isn’t the best option. But it could be four: she’s testing us, she wants to see what our reaction is under pressure. Three seconds left. All these possibilities, a full board, we could ask a follow-up, pretend we don’t understand, buy us time, we wasted time on voices earlier with Grimur, we had a list of tough questions, never came up with this. But that doesn’t get us anywhere. So let’s reverse it, start in the future, pretend like we got the client, we already landed the deal, and now we’re going to recount exactly what we did to get there. Rule number one of client interactions, think like the client, if you’re thinking about yourself, you’ve already lost. Rule number two, never play defense. Two seconds. We got the client in the first place because there was some level of trust, and it seemed to her we knew what we were talking about. Each of these four options implies an answer that says: you can’t do it, you can’t make the website yourself. But that’s not how we got the client, because the answer isn’t that they can't do it for themselves, and we can approach this in either of two ways. One second left. We could say good question, we’ll get back to you. Safe. That buys us time. But the other option is this: jump into the fire. Tell them they can, then tell them why it should be you. Deep breath.
[Rebecca] So what’s stopping my team from building this, is this something my firm can do?
[McGuire] So, it’s a really good question and I can understand why you're asking and the answer is, you can.
[Rebecca] I’m sorry?
[McGuire] Of course you can, that’s the answer. If you want to go through the process in-house I can respect that, but I’ll tell you one thing I know both you and I can relate to. I think there are a lot of your clients who have the same question you just asked me. They ask themselves that same thing when they're budgeting their own projects because it’s a perfectly valid question. And at the end of the day I’d argue your clients get way more value out of the quality of work your firm does and out of the time they save by not having to become experts in interior design, and the same thing applies here. My job is to have the expertise, and do all the heavy lifting in my area so you and your firm can focus on doing the same for your clients.
[Rebecca] Good point.
[McGuire] And, as we’re working on this, we’re here each step of the way to answer any questions you might have about how what we’re working on delivers that value.
[Rebecca] Great. That’s all I can think of, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something as soon as I hang up the phone.
[McGuire] Well if you have any questions between today and tomorrow please feel free to reach out.
[Rebecca] Will do.
[McGuire] In the meantime, let’s get started on that quote, twenty-three hours and fifty-four minutes.
[Rebecca] Sounds great.
[McGuire] Thanks so much for your time Rebecca, it was great talking to you.
[Rebecca] Great talking with you McGuire, have a good one.
That’s a lot of notes, which is good, because we're going to use them. Now, you’ll notice we didn’t cover everything we practiced in the call. That’s okay. We covered enough to get a better idea of what the firm is looking to achieve and we built a dialogue. From here, we list what’s included and what we’ll charge, but we’ll go further into that in the next part of this course. Now, one more note, this call contained a lot of real-world questions. Real questions we’ve gotten from real clients while doing real freelancing. But it’s only one way things can go. The best way to get better at this, and to grow over time is to practice. Get more and more clients, take notes, see what works well, and just as importantly, see what doesn’t. But let’s recap what we did here.
When first contact is made, we take the time to schedule the meeting. Between first contact and the meeting itself we can come up with questions we want to ask the potential client. Then come up with questions the potential client might ask you. This way you can walk into the call confident that you have an answer to some of the most difficult questions. But, that’s all for now. That’s preparing for and meeting our potential client.