My first intake call went something like this:
Me: Hi! It's me, Lauren. The copywriter. I'm excited to talk to you.
Client: Oh, hey Lauren. Good to hear from you. Where do you want to start?
*cue deep fear of self-doubt that I was actually qualified to be a business owner*
Getting through a client call or an intake meeting can be a REALLY scary process for new business owners, and can even trickle on up to the seasoned business owner who is looking to garner a wholesale account for their product, looking to get funding from investors, or otherwise pitch something that will take their business and life to the next level.
These are some of the best tips that have gotten me through prospective client calls, but can also work for people who sell products and get requests for custom work or for larger, more specific product projects.
Focus on getting to know this person and their needs
A lot of business owners glaze over this portion and instead skip to the "This is how I do business" spiel first.
If you get to know the client a little bit better, you may be able to create a more tailored "pitch" to them than you would if you define your process first. The key here is listening to what they need and really finding out why they're contacting you.
You can do that by asking them some version of these four questions:
Where are you now? This is the "Getting to Know You" phase of a client intake call. You're sussing out their business or where they are in their life and identifying possible areas of struggle that they're running into
Where do you want to be in the next six months/What do you need to accomplish in the future? This can help you identify where they need help and how you can lean in to do that. Or, if you're even a good fit for them.
What is your biggest obstacle to getting there? Having clients self-identify their biggest obstacles will help you suss out what is most important to them in their journey, and then possibly help you decide how you can help them. Sometimes, clients don't even know their biggest obstacles, which will help you figure out how you can help them get clear on what's holding them back.
How can I help you do that? This is a great way to help clients connect the dots from what they think you do to what you can actually do for them. Let's say a client comes to you and says they need a new website, but really they just want help with defining their brand. You can help them connect the dots from what they want to what they actually need.
Explain to them your background
After you've learned a little bit about the client, it's good to give them an overview of your business and background, the clients you've worked with, how you help clients, and other clients that you've worked with in the past that had similar needs to the client you're currently working with.
This also helps them get a little comfortable with you and is a good way to connect over some shared experiences (perhaps where you're from, friends or colleagues you may have in common, etc.).
Give them a call to action or a glimpse into your process of hire
Usually, once a client knows a little bit about you, it's good to tell them how the process works so that they know what to expect, even if it's simply "I'll take this information, write a proposal, and send it to you in the next few days. After that, you sign the contract, we'll set up a time to chat, and then I'll start work. I require 50% payment up front with new clients, as an FYI."
This gives clients a set of expectations before you even start working with them, and trains them in how to work with you. You may think this is a LOT of hand holding, but trust me, clients love this WAY more than the alternative, which is usually less communication.
Keep it brief
No more than 30 minutes. The client intake call or meeting is SIMPLY a sales tool to get them to book you. Any more than 30 minutes and you're spending time that doesn't need to be spent. Clients are busy and they also want to know that you're an efficient worker.
Sometimes, you'll have clients who want your opinions on things like their current logo, current website, etc. If you feel comfortable giving them some pointers, that's a good way to get them to trust you and your opinion. But don't get sucked into the trap of giving them a ton of advice that makes you obsolete.
At the end, make sure you give them a time frame during which you'll contact them so that they know when to expect to hear from you.
Your turn! What are some tips that you have for nailing an initial client consultation?