Getting a really thorough understanding of who they are, what they like, what they value, what they do on a daily basis, how long they’ve been in business, etc will help build the relationship and make the client more comfortable with paying you.

The more you know about a prospective client, the more you’ll be able to help them communicate their vision with their audience. In the same respect, misunderstanding can be costly.

This also gives you an opportunity to over-deliver on your promises. You need to find out what they wan your product or service to do, and make sure you’re on the same page about deadlines, objectives, etc.

Do they want the site to:

  • Get more leads / quote requests / scheduled appointments?
  • Increase brand exposure?
  • Educate and inform their buyers?
  • Improve sales?
  • Collect information about their prospects?
  • Improve social media outreach or interaction?
  • Gain publicity?
  • Re-brand or recover their reputation?

2. What do they want to accomplish?

This is one of the primary missteps that could cost you a lot of money and time in the long-run. Sometimes we’re blindsided by our desire to make the sale.

DO NOT go into a project without having an idea of what the prospect wants.

On numerous occasions, I’ve aborted deals where I couldn’t get specific enough with a prospect. The last thing you want is to spend 6 months on a miniature package.

Every project should accomplish something, and hopefully that something is lucrative for everyone involved.

If your client doesn’t know what they want, and you don’t want to lose the sale, try to suggest a few options to get on the same page.

If your client already has what they want, ask them about it in further detail. Are they looking to save money, expand, upgrade, etc?

3. Do they have what you offer already?

  • Do you find anything easy about the way you’ve been doing things?
  • What do you like about it? (hopefully, they’ll say “Not much.”)
  • What DON’T you like about it?
  • What CMS or CRM are you using?
  • How many leads are you currently getting? From where? 
  • Are you under or over-achieving for your industry?
  • Have you got Google Analytics setup? If so, can you generate a report for us so we can see what’s going on?
  • What would you like to see carry over to the new service?

Try to learn from your client’s past, likes and dislikes, priorities, and metrics.

4. What makes your company special?

No everyone is not special. And that’s okay. They may be special technically, but the “special” I’m talking about here is the thing that differentiates the prospect from others in a favorable way. Always try and figure out what makes their brand/product unique to everyone else.

A lot of people become complacent which provides ample opportunity for change and hopefully improvement.

You must educate clients on what’s missing from their current recipe for success, and why it’s so important to position themselves properly. Examples:

  • affordability
  • customer service
  • money-back guarantee
  • exclusivity
  • quality
  • free delivery

Offering free consulting on this is yet another opportunity to earn the prospect’s trust.

5. Who’s your competition?

Everyone has competitors. The most annoying response a prospect can give is that they “don’t have any competitors.” Everyone has competitors if they have a business, or really a successful recipe in any area of life. There is always someone faster, stronger, smarter, richer, younger, more hard-working, more attractive, more optimistic, more ambitious… the list goes on.

I once had a prospect tell me that he was just focused on his business (a startup) and that he didn’t see anyone as his competition because he has a different energy he brings to the table. That nearly disqualified him right there because a response like that comes across immature. I can tell you that I have thousands of competitors in web design and SEO. Just like physicians and lawyers and restaurants have tons of competition. It’s a sign of a healthy business or healthy lifestyle.

It boils down to supply in demand. If a prospect can’t tell you who their competitors are, it’s time to do some research.

There will be obvious and less obvious competitors in multiple areas. People will compete on price, quality, accessibility, etc. I wouldn’t reinvent the wheel – just pick an area, and be consistent. No matter how different they are from the next guy, there will always be competition.

6. What other options do you like and why?

Most likely a prospect is already solving the problem they’re asking you to solve. Rarely is someone going to live in misery waiting for the day your paths cross.

They have a solution to their problem. If they reach out to you they are probably shopping around, or unhappy with their current solution and have heard good things about what you can offer.  If you reached out to them, they’re not in enough pain to change the old pattern, but the fact that you got them on the phone means there’s some interest.

Sure, you may know what seems best for the prospect but as far as they’re concerned, you have vested interest in having your way with them.

Rather than trying to preach to the choir, agree and learn and listen to the prospect’s problems. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent on the phone listening to a prospect rant about problems with their old tech guy, botched business deals, their ungrateful heir, or the weather even. I guess we all just have a deep yearning to move away from pain and toward pleasure.

Being a good listener automatically adds pleasure to any interaction the prospect has with you, regardless of the product you’re selling them. Make sure to bite your tongue when you’re investigating, there’s nothing more unattractive than a chatterbox.

7. Who are your targets and what are their pains?

The top 3 keys to communication:

  1. Problem
  2. Agitate
  3. Solve

Business is done on 3 basic principles all around the world, whether B2B, B2C, it doesn’t matter. There are no cultural boundaries that interfere with this. There is no grand expertise required. Whether you’re selling a $1 cheeseburger, or $5 million marketing package – it’s all the same.

Call out the problems and whatever is painful to the prospect, agitate the pain and really bring it to the surface, and then offer a solution.

Everyone in business solves problems, yes even Donald Trump.

Whether you want to judge a solution is up to you, but you might as well judge the prospect’s pain also. Having a reliable pair of heels might be like having pain medication for a mastectomy patient.

The best question to ask a prospect is:

“If you could describe your perfect target (height, religion, locality, favorite color, etc just get really specific)… what would he/she be like?”

In your solutions, express imagery and context that shows the prospect you know what you’re talking about.

8. What features do you find most important?

Seems obvious, but you don’t want to miss the mark on this one. We just welcomed a new client and luckily in the information gathering stage, we found out that the client didn’t want an email list. They were afraid that implementing a live chat would make it too easy for their customers to access decision makers.

For most of our clients adding a live chat makes the user experience better which ultimately increases conversion. But not for this client.

Clarify and then clarify again what your clients value most. Whether you find their values worthwhile or not, they’re expecting you to solve a very specific problem and to provide very specific features.

Clients aren’t always going to explain things clearly, they’ve got their own set of obligations to fulfill so make sure you ask very detailed, thoughtful questions.

9. How will you record your results?

At the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to set the proper expectations and how things are going to go once the project is completed.

If your work delivers the results you’ve promised, the prospect will expect what they get and that;s it. They probably won’t leave a raving review, and you may never cross paths again.

If you can over-deliver with solid gains, you’ll be more likely to get the client to recommend you for future work and come back for more services. If you do this enough, they’ll become a lifelong customer. Remember, it takes years to build a reputation that can be ruined in one day.

Ultimately your client expects to get something new and exciting out of you. This is something you NEED to remember so you can add that to your pitch. Anticipate then deliver, then over-deliver.

That should really be what you expect of yourself. Always set the expectation higher than the prospect so you can never fall short.

10. What content do you have right now?

You’d be surprised how many prospects are thinking about starting a business or starting a diet or buying xyz item… It’s important to get to the bottom of things and figure out how committed they are. They may already have your product or service, or they may have component parts. OR they may not be committed at all.

They likely won’t mention any of this, so it’s important that you ask. Once you get everything, find the holes and figure out what’s missing.

Remember, you’re not just a service provider or manufacturer, you’re a salesperson. To the client, you’re no different than your competitor’s. Make sure you jot everything down on paper.

I keep a pile of old notes I took while conversing with prospects, and after they shop around I’m sure glad I wrote everything down. Whether they call you back in 6 days or 6 months, if you planted the seed correctly – it will germinate. Two reasons to do this are:

  1. To have something to refer back to with your exact wording. Often we remember things differently than they happened. It’s good to have important exchanges in email or writing so you can’t forget what was said.
  2. To avoid disagreements and miscommunication. I don’t have a perfect memory. If you’re like me, this will help you stay calm and confident that you won’t get caught up.

Bonus question: Do you have an estimated start date?

Don’t forget to ask for the sale.

You’ve done the most important work, now it’s time to close. If the prospect seems committed, I often just assume they’re on board and start sending visually appealing content without asking for the sale.

In other cases, it’s necessary to ask because it’s hard for people to be direct if they want to shop around.

To be honest, I’ve been told no so many times, it doesn’t really bother me to clarify things with a prospect. I don’t feel awkward, and it saves the both of us a lot of time.

One way to do this is by asking:
“What’s the estimated timeline you have for the project?”

The annoying part about NOT asking for the sale is that it actually encourages procrastination and shopping around.

Unless your service or product is going to get results immediately (I mean within 24 hours) – most modern consumers will be a bit impatient. To compliment impatience, we’ve grown to me masters at procrastination. To avoid long hours, delays, and hard work – we never start things.

Quite interesting isn’t it? By asking for the sale, you force the prospect to make a decision. Sure, if you’re a woman they’ll call you pushy but it’s quite necessary.

Just like taking your first few steps as a baby, asking out your first girlfriend, or learning to drive a stick shift – they need some encouragement to jump and develop wings in flight.

After a meeting, a new practice that we’ve implemented is to take notes while we’re conversing with the client, and then to send a “meeting minutes” document. This ensures that we’re on the same page as the client. It looks thoughtful, as well as organized, and keeps the contact fresh. It’s best to send this by email as a follow-up about 15 minutes after the call. ; )

Asking these questions saved us from a lot of confusion, and built trust within the first few conversations with clients.