August 10, 2016
The Why Conversation
At some point in your initial meeting with a prospective client, they will brain dump about the proposed project for about 15-30 minutes.
There is usually very little useful information in this monologue, but you have to let them get it off their chest before you can get down to the heart of the matter, which is this:
Why they want to do the project at all.
Questioning the premise of the project before they do the dump will frustrate or confuse them. They will gloss over the answer so they can jump to the dump.
So... you have to let them get it out of their system. Keep your mouth shut and let them vent. When they finally come up for air, you say:
“Thanks for that. Lots of helpful information here. Can we back up for a sec?”
They’ll say, “Sure!”
And then you ask some variation of this:
“Why is this project becoming a priority now? Has something changed?”
Typically, they’ll have shared something in the dump that you can use to make this question more specific, like:
- “You mentioned that your cart abandonment rate has been over 80% for 18 months. Why is it becoming a priority now?”
- “You mentioned that your main competitor just launched this new feature yesterday. Why not wait a month to see if it’s adopted by the market before rushing to copy it?”
- “You mentioned that you’re not 100% sure what caused the drop off in traffic. Would it make sense to take a few months to research the issue before proceeding with this project?”
Once you’ve started asking these sorts of “Why” questions, you keep doing it...
- “Why do this now? Wouldn’t it be better to keep an eye on the issue for a few months?”
- “Why hire someone like me? Couldn’t you save a ton of money by outsourcing this to India?”
- “Why not use something off-the-shelf? Wouldn’t that be cheaper than paying for custom code?”
- etc etc etc
Don’t stop asking Why questions until you are convinced that you are - or are not - a good fit for the project.
The Why Conversation
For obvious reasons, I refer to this as the “Why Conversation”. Having a Why Conversation sort of feels like trying to talk the prospect out of hiring you, because... well, you kind of are trying to talk the prospect out of hiring you.
If you CAN talk them out of hiring you, then they didn’t need you that badly (i.e., the perceived value of your engagement was low, which means you couldn’t have charged much).
If you CAN NOT talk them out of hiring you, then as they answer each Why question, one by one, they’ll be convincing themselves that you are the best option.
By the end of a successful Why conversation, you’ll have something to base your fee on because you’ll have learned:
- Why the project is urgent to the client
- What they think will happen if they don’t do the project
- The feared business impact of failing to act now
- Why they think you’re a good fit for the project
- Why they don’t want to do with a cheaper option
Once you have this info, you can start to wrap the meeting up. At which point, it’s pretty common for the prospect ask:
“Can you give me a ballpark on what this might cost?”
We’ll tackle that doozie in the next installment of “Learn Your Lines” :)