What I wish someone had told me when I was first starting out in my business, is there are very specific steps you take when someone says they’re interested in working with you. It’s such an important, delicate time in your business – the hang time between someone expressing interest to becoming a paying client can be intense for the business owner.
There is so much resistance to talking about money and process, I wish someone had spelled it out for me, because once I figured it out, everything in my business started running so much smoother.
Because the truth is, you’re being evaluated throughout the entire process. If someone is considering investing money in your services, they are looking at you and your business from all angles, trying to decide if it feels safe and good for them to invest in or not.
If you run a service based business, it’s likely you talk to your clients before they book with you. (Sidenote: This is a really common thing these days, and if you don’t already do this, and wish you had more clients, you might consider opening up some sample sessions so people can get a feel for you, your work and your style.) What happens when they say yes to a sample session is critical to them deciding if they are going to work with you are not. Here’s my step by step guide to rocking your intake sessions to book yourself solid.
1. From reading your website, to talking on the phone with you
Make it easy for them to book the intro session with you. Don’t say “Email me if you’re interested….” hardly anyone goes from reading that sentence to actually emailing someone. Don’t have the mail application on their computer open to send you an email, most of these are linked to programs we don’t regularly use and it is just clunky. Do link to an online scheduler, one that you control what hours and days are available. Let them book directly on your site without a ton of back and forth emails. Most online schedulers worth their salt convert between timezones and sync with googlecalendar. If you don’t already have this, it’s a must. Scheduleonce, Appointlet and Acuity are all rock solid options.
2. Before you talk on the phone (or over skype)
Be really clear on how they contact you and if there is any pre-work needed. What number do they call you at? Do you call them? Make sure that that process is clearly laid out in the confirmation email and reminder email. Nothing is more awkward than both people waiting for the phone to ring.
Is there an intake form for your sample session? I use one because it helps me get to know my potential clients and their businesses quickly so that when we hop on the phone, I’m already up to speed. If you do use one, make sure it’s simple. There’s nothing worse than a 15 question intake form for something you’re not sold on yet. What are the 5 questions you need to know the answer to that will help you get to know your client best? Make it simple and clear, and an online form they can just click into, fill out and submit. Googleforms, typeform and wufoo are all great free options if this is something you want to add into to your intake process.
3. The Call
This is highly custom to your work, but what works best no matter what you’re selling is the age old formula “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them you told them.” This is true for public speaking and it’s a great template for intake calls.
When I hop on the phone with my potential clients, the first thing I do is tell them what to expect. It puts them at ease and lets them know that I’m directing the conversation – which is GREAT since most of them are the directors in their work lives. We talk about their business, their vision and desires, and then I share if and how I can support them in that. By the end of the call, there’s generally a clear yes or no to the question “should we work together.”
If it’s a yes, I give them next steps, payment, scheduling, what to expect. I want them to feel supported and connected throughout the entire process. They’re making a big decision to hire me, I want to honor and respect that and make them feel totally comfortable doing so.
3a. A word about money
If you are weird about your prices on these calls, they will pick up on it. You want to be able to rattle off your prices as easily as your shoe size, with about as much emotional attachment. This is not to say you don’t want to take a strong stand for your work and how it can help, but you don’t want to be saying how much you charge and waiting for their approval, or apologizing for the price with your tone.
4. Follow up
More people will say yes on the phone than will actually work with you. That’s normal. You want to maintain your emotional un-attachment as you follow up with them. Follow up if you said you would, be open, but if they change their mind it’s ok. It has to be – it’s their mind and you can’t control it.
I’ve heard of experiences where someone was on the fence about hiring someone and their follow up was so aggressive it completely turned them off. Don’t be that person.
5. They say YES!
Wonderful! Know what happens next. Do they pay on your site? Do you send them a link or invoice? Make it easy for them to pay you and be clear about what they can expect to happen next. This is a big pothole I’ve seen people fall into where they book the clients then the clients are left confused and floundering, wondering what’s happening next. Make sure to take care of your clients the entire way through the process – just because YOU know what’s going to happen next, doesn’t mean they do.
The more you get comfortable with your client intake process, the easier it is to run your business, because you stop reinventing the wheel every time someone expresses interest in working with you. There are loads of places to create custom client experiences, your intake flow should not be one of them – it should a standard, professional process that guides your people to a YES, so you can get on to the best part, working with your clients and changing lives.