August 17, 2016

How to respond to “Have you done work like this before?”

What should you say when a prospective client asks:

“Have you done work like this before?”

This is a pointed question. It is meant to disqualify you. But if you’re ready for it, you can use it to your advantage.

Here’s a recent example from my mobile strategy business:

I was contacted about a year and a half ago by an organization in the credit union space who was looking for some expert advice about mobile UX for banking applications. At a critical point in the sales cycle, I was asked “Have you done work like this before?”

Since I knew that this prospect was familiar with my expertise in mobile, I understood that the real question was:

“Have you done any mobile work for credit unions?”

The truth was that I had never worked with a credit union before. I had never even had an account at a credit union. To my knowledge, this was literally the very first time I had ever spoken to a “credit union person” of any kind. 

So here’s what I said:

“I have zero experience with credit unions, which is exactly why you need me. I’m a complete outsider. You’re looking for unbiased feedback and recommendations on your mobile initiative from the standpoint of the typical end user. Someone who understands the jargon and inner workings of a credit union could never deliver what you need.”

This type of “fresh eyes” approach won’t work in every case, but it works in many of them. As an added benefit, it serves to disarm your competitors who DO have experience in the vertical. They’ll pitch their experience as a strength, but it will be viewed by the prospect as a weakness. 

(BTW - I landed the gig, which ended up amounting to over $50k in revenue. I don’t track my hours, but I’d guess I spent about 30-40 hours on it, which amounts to an effective hourly rate of around $1300/hr. Even if I’m horribly wrong and it was more like 80 hours, my effective hourly rate was still north of $600/hr. And yes, the client was delighted with the outcome and has referred me to four other organizations in their space so far.)



What?! You don’t have my book yet? Fortunately, you can rectify that in about sixty seconds here: