You’ve arranged to speak with a prospective client on the phone about a project.
And it all sounds very promising so far.
But then you start to wonder how to start the conversation — and what questions you should ask.
After all, if you just wing it you might blow it!
Fortunately, these kinds of calls follow a similar structure if you take control and keep the conversation focused.
And to do that, you should ask the following seven questions, preferably in the following order.
- “How did you hear about me?” questions
Generally, I like to start with the “How did you hear about me?” question.
It’s a great conversation starter and helps set the stage for the rest of the conversation.
It also provides me with valuable information.
Did they find me through my website? Good, then we’re pretty much starting from scratch.
Did they hear about me from a client or colleague? Great, then we probably have some measure of trust between us.
As a bonus, the “how did you hear about me?” question also gives me feedback on what’s working (and what’s not) in my marketing.
- Needs questions
Needs questions help you determine what the prospect is trying to do. You could ask, “What do you need to accomplish?” or “What are you looking for?” or “What do you need help with?”
As you listen to their response, think about whether this is something you can help with.
Also, assess whether the prospect really understands the full scope of their project and whether they seem motivated to get it done.
Project questions help you define a specific solution to the prospect’s challenges within the framework of a project or service you can deliver.
So you might ask, “How are you thinking about addressing this?” or “What options are you considering?”
If you have a solution in mind, you can test them out: “Have you considered creating a _________ to do _____________?”
At the same time, ask yourself if this is something you could do and whether the prospect’s expectations are realistic.
- Decision questions
Decision questions are easy to overlook, but they’re important.
You want to find out who will make the decision about whether to proceed with the project. Sometimes, you’ll find you’re talking to someone who’s keen to get a project moving but has no authority to do so.
Therefore, you can ask “How will you be making a decision?” and “Who else will be involved in making this decision?”
You can also ask, “When will you be making a decision?” to get a sense of the timing.
In addition to the timing of the decision to move forward, you will also want to know the timing of the project start and completion.
You can ask, “When will you be ready to get started on this?” and “When does this need to be wrapped up?” or “When does the __________ need to go live?”
Ask yourself whether these dates are realistic and whether you can fit them into your schedule.
- Budget questions
Budget questions are perhaps the most important questions. Yet, they can feel uncomfortable to ask. Still, you need to determine whether the prospect can afford you — otherwise you’re just wasting each other’s time.
I find the best way to ask is with a simple, “What budget are you working with?”
If you’re talking to a marketing director, he/she will probably just tell you outright.
Non-marketers may be less sure. In that case, you can give a ballpark range for your fees to make sure you’re on the same page. For example, “For this type of project, I typically charge $xxx to $xxx.”
Then, toss the ball back at them and ask, “Is that within your budget?”
Gage their reaction and then continue the conversation from there if they can work with your fee range.
- Next step questions
Before you get off the call, you want to confirm the next step. In many cases, they will tell you. But if they don’t, you need have to ask.
And if the next step is unclear, at least ask them when you can follow up with them.
Asking this question helps keep the momentum going and sets expectations all round.
Plan That First Prospect Call Carefully
No phone call will follow this structure exactly. But it’s a great way to keep the call on track and make sure you get all the information you need.
Because the more information you have, the better decisions you can make.
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