It seems to have been a reoccurring theme with a couple of my clients (you know who you are!) in the past week so thought I would write about it.
Let’s set the scene…
You have been in discussions with this potential new client for a while, building great rapport and getting excited by the opportunity.
At the start the told you they had short timescales, so you rushed to get your proposal completed, working late into the night to meet their short deadline.
You chase, and you chase.
Eventually they get back to you apologising profusely for their tardiness, they have been super busy, yada, yada, yada…. but now they are ready to go full steam ahead so please can you get started.
At this stage you need to lock down the brief. DO NOT START WORK UNLESS YOU HAVE ONE!! It is a recipe for disaster because if you are not entirely clear what the client wants (often because they are not entirely clear themselves) then you know it will ultimately result in an unhappy customer and no long-term relationship.
As an expert you should have a set of questions that you must have answered before you begin a project. This must always be the case.
Now just sending these questions to an already busy client, isn’t going to work and I guarantee you that they will not answer them, and you will be frustrated (since you can see into the crystal ball and know the consequences of this….even if they can’t).
As a side note, I have been on the receiving end of this recently because my financial advisor is trying to get some financial info from me and just sent me a long questionnaire to complete.
Guess what? I didn’t complete it!
And it’s doubtful I will because I am always ‘too busy’ and the honest truth is it feels a little daunting and too much like hard work!
This spurred me on to write this blog because clearly just requesting a brief or sending a questionnaire to clients, doesn’t work!
The reality is that in your rapport building at the start of your relationship you need to work out the best way to communicate with clients and the best way to get the info.
Some detail ‘thinking’ people will love a set a questions. But most won’t! So work out how best to get this insight and sow the seeds early on that you will need the info.
Recognise that part of this process might be that you ask your client questions they had not thought of and this helps them evolve their thinking and may even change the outcome of what they need from you – but this is good.
Better to find this out BEFORE you start the project than once you have started because this leads to scope creep and unprofitable work, and unsatisfactory client relationships.
So if sending a set of questions doesn’t work, what does?
Well obviously, talking to clients, weaving the questions into your conversation so that you get answers to your ‘must have answered’ questions before you start work. You could do this in a specific briefing meeting or phone call or as I said you can just weave them into a conversation.
I find that explaining to my clients my briefing process is what helps me look different and credible. It shows the client that I have a robust, tried and tested process for eliciting exactly what a client needs that results in me delivering my best work in the agreeable timescales.
So what are the must have questions and how do you pitch this in the early days of building new client relationships?
Well give me a shout and let’s have a chat about it.