Captain’s log, stardate 20160810
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:
Once you’ve started asking these sorts of “Why” questions, you keep doing it...
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:
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” :)
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