Qualifying Clients over the Phone like a Pro (Even If You Never Thought You Could)

From talking with freelancers for years I’ve found that qualifying clients is one of the most difficult challenges they face, in fact, most freelancers just skip this part of the sales process because it’s too awkward and uncomfortable.

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I am sure there are a few of your reading this right now thinking, “Yeah, I can’t stand doing that…” I used to be one of you – scared to really find out if meeting with a client was really worth MY time.

I did what many of you guys did (or are still doing): I didn’t qualify potential clients to see if they had the money to hire me. Instead I just hoped that when a client called me on the phone or emailed me, that she/he kind of knew how much I’d be charging and wouldn’t set up a live meeting unless they had some idea.

Bad plan guys, I wasted loads of time on potential clients that didn’t even have close to the money they needed to pay me. Many of these people were scrounging for bargains, and figured that since I DIDN’T qualify them on the phone that I’d be desperate to take on any project, no matter how cheap it was.

Perhaps many of you guys have done the same thing. Don’t beat yourself up over it, if you just couldn’t find the right words to say to a potential client to see if she/he is really serious about hiring you, I wanted to share this real-world back and forth between a freelancer and potential client that should help you out.

We’ll pick this up when the potential client has expressed that she/he wants to meet with you for a meeting.

YOU: Sounds great, I’d love to get together to learn more about what you’re doing with your business and how I can help. As I start looking at my schedule to see when I might be available let me ask you, do you have a budget you’d like me to stay within?

POTENTIAL CLIENT: No, not really.

YOU: Do you have a budget?

POTENTIAL CLIENT: No.

YOU: That’s okay, I have few clients that came to me without a budget, but it’s always a good idea to have one.

What I have found though is that a lot of clients have kind of an idea of how much they can spend or how much they think the project should run them…even though they’re not really sure how they came up with that cost figure? Do you have a number in your head?

POTENTIAL CLIENT: No, not really.

YOU: That’s okay too, not a problem. In working with clients for almost 5 years I’ve found that while some have worked with a designer before, most haven’t. The ones that haven’t typically have about $1000 in mind for the project, if you had a number in your head it might have been less than or more than that, right?

YOU: I’ve found that on the low end, you’ll be able to have one of these projects done for as little as $500 by a student or struggling designer. I have a few I can refer you to, but I honestly don’t feel you’re going to like the quality and service you’re going to receive. Clients have often told me the trouble with this route is that their focus on designing something that their design colleagues would be impressed with, not necessarily something that your customers would even understand or be attracted to – the result is your sales suffer and you end up feeling you wasted your time and money. Does that make sense?

POTENTIAL CLIENT: I suppose.

YOU: On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got designers charging upwards of $3500 for the same project. Make no mistake these designers are talented, but I don’t know any small business that has $3500 to drop on something like this, do you?

I am priced right in the middle of these two extremes, at $1500 my clients have found they get an outstanding value by not having to pay an exorbitant price, and they always comment that they got a good return on their investment and their customers rave about what I’ve come up with.

If I was able to get you the same great results for your project and still keep the price between $1250 and $1750 is that something that would be comfortable for you.

POTENTIAL CLIENT: I suppose.

The Bottom Line

Clients aren’t typically forthright with their budget. Most people have no idea what something should cost, and even the ones that have an idea won’t tell you because they don’t trust you enough to come right out and tell you what their budget is. It’s your responsibility (through intuitive, non-threatening questions, like the ones above) to get the information you need to make a decision on whether this potential client is worth meeting or not.

If you find the client gets defensive or belligerent when talking about her/his budget, or you get a strong sense that they aren’t telling the truth, you may consider passing on the meeting and suggesting they work with someone else. Make sure you’re looking after yourself and your time, the potential client won’t do it for you.

Jeremy Tuber is the author of two break-through books, “Being a Starving Artist Sucks” and “Verbal Kung Fu for Freelancers”, which have sold in over 25 countries around the world (they are available on Amazon, iTunes and at on his website/blog www.beingastarvingartistsucks.com).

 

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