When I first started my freelance journey back in 2015, I went to one of those sales-y marketing events where a “Sales Expert” wrote down 4 words on the board that terrified me:
As someone who spent so much time behind the screen at my old corporate job, I hated calling people. And being an introvert to the core didn’t help with that either.
But hey, everyone around me was saying: “You gotta call people to get clients”, “You gotta do 100 cold calls a day”, “You gotta pick up that phone and just DO IT”.
Yeah… I didn’t do that.
I never did cold calling. I never walked into my local cafe and gave them an elevator pitch. I never made a list of X reasons to hire me.
But what I did do was completely change my onboarding process, so that I could speak with every qualified lead that landed in my inbox.
It wasn’t a walk in the park at first. In fact, I would spend hours preparing before each call panicking trying to remember all of those “how to pitch” trainings I attended – only ever to forget it all on the call, and leave a butt-shaped sweat mark on the seat (yeah, I sweat quite a lot. #noshame).
But over the years, thankfully it got easier and I finally found myself loving client discovery calls. For me, it’s just like having a coffee with a friend of a friend now, because I have a nailed-down strategy that helps me transform those sweat-through-your-tshirt (or in my case, my trousers) conversations into lets-make-amazing-things-happen discussions.
And today, I’m sharing 5 things I’ve learned throughout the years on how to book more clients through your discovery calls.
If there’s one thing I want you to take from this post is this – you’ve gotta lead the conversation.
I learned this tip at that same sales-y marketing event I mentioned at the beginning of this post, and thought it was genius. But it did take me years to learn how to implement it properly.
When I first started these calls, every time I talked to a prospective client I felt like I had to convince them I’m good enough. But hey, they already reached out to work with me – so they were already sold on that! My job now is to show that I know my stuff, that I’m ready to take charge, and I’m here to help them achieve success.
So, when you jump on that discovery call, remember – you’re the boss.
You lead the conversation. As soon as you give away your power to a client, you become a subordinate and lose the lead. That’s when you often find justifying yourself and trying to find all the reasons they should hire you.
Start the conversation with:
“Thank you for reaching out and taking the time to speak with me today. The purpose of this call is to [set your purpose] and to see if we’d be a good fit for working together. Now, let’s begin with you telling me about yourself and your business and why you contacted me to help you?”
I know, I know, this seems like common sense. BUT it’s still very important to talk about!
There’s nothing worse than having that awkward moment during a discovery call where you’re not too sure what to say or ask next. That’s just setting yourself up for failure before you even got a chance to shine.
Therefore, preparing yourself before a client call is essential. You need to ensure you have all the right tools and information in place to do that!
Here’s what “getting prepared” means to me:
By having detailed contact forms and a pre-made checklist, I can ensure that I have all the information I need on the client, and from there I can easily command the structure of the call. No awkward silences!
If you do end up having a “crap-what-do-I-say-next!?” moment, simply listen to your lead and engage in the conversation with follow up questions. Even though I have a checklist, this doesn’t mean that I have to limit myself to just these predetermined prompts.
Make sure you actively listen to what your lead is saying and try to identify new, deeper questions in their answers.
Oh, we know that moment too well… The moment when you feel the topic of pricing is approaching… *cue sweat drops are running down your back*… you’re already choking.
First of all, if that’s how you feel about your prices, then you need to do some mindset work around that. You set your prices because that’s what you think your work is worth. Respect it. If you can’t respect it yourself, then how can you expect your clients to do it?
Secondly, don’t talk about your prices until you’ve talked about your client’s goals. There’s a reason why your clients hire you (i.e. grow leads, increase turnover, land bigger projects, etc.) so get them talking about that and get specific!
What’s their income goal?
How much money do they want their new site to generate?
How many clients they want to have?
What’s the average value of their projects?
And then hit them with the big Q: “And where are you at right now?”
Make them realise the importance of investing in your services. How essential is it for them to make a change if they want to achieve their goals? Only then can you start talking about your value.
Sometimes, clients try to get prices out of you as soon as possible. Don’t let them do that! Simply tell them that before you can give them an estimate, you need to gather some more information about their business and how you can help them – then proceed with talking about their goals.
Remember earlier when I said that for me, discovery calls are like going for a coffee with a friend of a friend? That’s because I shifted the way I think about calls from a “must make the sale” mindset to a “must get to know them better” mindset.
If you’re a service-based business, then the number one factor – which you may find surprising – for people to hire you isn’t your price. It’s trust.
Your clients must trust that you’ll do a good job, that they’ll be able to work with you and be a good fit for each other. If they completely and utterly trust that you’re the one, money won’t become an issue. They will do all they can to work with you (I have clients ready to wait 4-5 months just to work with me – although initially, they said they need their new site ASAP!)
So, don’t be afraid to show your own personality and try to get to know your future clients as well as possible.
Ask them personal questions (but still be mindful and polite about it) about their business, or even their life. Try to bond over something they mentioned or something you saw on their social media (I booked a client recently because we bonded over our complete heartache when we finished watching all seasons of The Office).
Going into business together doesn’t have to be all serious, make it fun too and work with people who you truly connect with!
Here are some questions to get a bit more personal with your clients:
“Tell me why you started your business in the first place?”
“What does your business mean to you on a personal level?”
“Why is it important?”
If they have a personal brand, try: ”Tell me 3 quirky facts about you, I want to really get a feel of who you personally are.”
Congrats! You survived your Discovery Call! You did everything right – you bonded with them, and you have a really good feeling about it – so now what?
What you do after your Discovery Call is just as important as the call itself – as this is the moment to put the cherry on top of the cake, and bring it to your client on a silver platter.
First of all, make sure right after the call, you send a quick recap email and let them know when can they expect to hear from you.
Yes, you may have mentioned it on the call, but a written record is just a polite way to reconfirm that you’re both on the same page.
Once you’ve done that, put together a stellar proposal outlining the project goals, process, timeline, investment, and everything you think is important for your client to know. Remember, this is your make-it-or-break-it document. It needs to create a wow effect and really confirm to your client that you’re the one they want to work with.
For my own business, I use branded pre-designed templates for my Proposals, and I edit them for each client based on our conversation and their expectations.
Spend some time to craft the perfect Proposal that you can adapt and use over and over for each new Client. Make sure it stands out visually as much as with its content. Remember that your prices need to be reflected in everything you do and any communication you sent out – so make sure it’s on point!
If you’re looking to streamline your process, uplevel your client experience and grow your design business with confidence, then I’d like to invite you to Design Biz Powerhouse!
Design Biz Powerhouse is my new 6-week live program starting on May 4th, focused on helping designers for to streamline their business and create a red-carpet client experience.
And yay! Now you have all the tools you need to really nail down your client discovery call and convert those leads into clients!
Did you find this helpful, friend?
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