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7 Qualifying Questions to Ask Your Potential Client in the Meeting

Look, getting leads into your business is very hard. Like, really very very hard.

Ads, marketing campaigns, cold calls, chasing, emailing, networking, early starts, late nights, doing work cheap. It's endless. Why waste that effort?

Every single lead you need to grind out. Okay, when you're super established you can relax a little but until then, which can take years and years, you need to scratch and claw for every single glimmer of a potential deal. Now, when you do get a lead, what do you do? How do you give yourself the best possible chance at winning that deal? Let's lay out a foolproof meeting plan, shall we? As a business owner myself (founder of the proposal writing software called Better Proposals - simple yet powerful tool which can skyrocket your sales), not only I've been through a lot of various client meetings but I've also talked with lots of my customers about this. By collecting experiences and feedbacks, I've divided a successful client meeting in 3 major steps:

  1. First impressions
  2. Questions
  3. Next steps

You don't need to be a world class sales expert to do well. You just need to recognise these stages and have a loose plan for each. Let's dive in. Best Proposal Software

1. First Impressions

Most of this is common sense. Good firm handshake, look sharp and speak clearly. Agreed completely but I think there's something you can do in addition to this which will help you on a bunch of fronts. The meeting location. It's a complete trap to book a meeting with the client at their place. Think about it, it’s riddled with distractions from phones, to employees to general office stuff. It also requires absolutely zero effort on their part. You just turn up. There’s an alternative which will help you massively and that is simply getting them to meet somewhere neutral. Most people will have no issue with this whatsoever and will in most cases actually welcome it. It’s where you choose that you can really set yourself apart. If you choose to meet in a Starbucks or some equally trash coffee place it’s rubbish and you might as well have gone to their place. Choose a luxury hotel reception area or lobby though and it paints an entirely different picture, these places are often massive, really beautifully decorated and set out. Better than it simply looking nice, it puts them in a different state and puts you in control of the situation. This is good for a number of reasons but mainly because you get to run the meeting instead of them. In practical terms, you want to be arriving a good 15-20 minutes early and settling in, get a nice table with space away from any walkways, get your drink ordered and chill and get settled. You’ll be far calmer which will come across really well which somewhat levels the playing field. Once the meeting is over, see them on their way and you can stay there, get yourself a coffee and get the proposal written. The exception to all of this would be if you need to actually see their office or building in which case the following suggestion might not work brilliantly well but you might be able to incorporate some of it.

2. Questions you should ask in the meeting

I’ll give you a set of questions you can ask but it’s better to be fluid and simply go with a direction and a general plan of action. If you’ve not been conducting client meetings for a long time or it’s new to you then going in with a set of questions is great. The general direction is you want to find out 3 things:

  1. What issue they’re trying to fix (obviously) and the real reason they’re trying to buy
  2. What the cost of them not doing anything and leaving the problem as it is
  3. What the benefits are if it’s fixed and works perfectly.

If you can find out these three things then you’re going to be in a pretty good position to work out to what extent you can help them. If you’re super stuck though, use this line of questioning to get you through. Cheat Sheet of Client Meeting Questions

  1. What made you investigate this as something you wanted to change in your business?
  2. What made you choose to sit down with me instead of others? (this is key because they tell you why you’re good and you also find out who else they’re looking at. If they’re not looking at anyone else, your question implies they shouldn’t even bother).
  3. What have you tried yourself or internally to fix this?
  4. How long has it been going on for?
  5. If you continue to leave it as it is for another 3 months, 6 months, a year, 2 years etc, what will it cost you?
  6. On the flip side, if it were fixed 6 months ago, how would life look now? (Or phrased differently if that isn’t appropriate - What would life look like in 6 months if it was fixed today.
  7. Why haven’t you done anything about this sooner? (This gets your objections spat out earlier).
  8. Do you have an allocated budget? If they pull a funny face and don’t want to tell you, just say “I don’t need you to tell me what the number is, I’m just wondering if you have a budget set aside”. Thanks to Troy Dean at WP Elevation for that one.
  9. In an ideal world, when would you have this sorted by?
  10. When are you looking to make a decision and get started.
BONUS QUESTION: “Can you tell me how you’re going to make your decision? Are you going for the cheapest option or?”

I used to love suggesting they’d make their decision based on the cheapest provider because they’ll immediately say that's not how they’re going to make their decision and will tell you something else. If you don’t suggest it, they can easily skirt it. Suggest it and they have to correct it with something really. They might even say they are going with the cheapest in which case you can stop them and tell them you’re not going to be the cheapest. At that point you can have a frank discussion about money. I do think if you can, have the money conversation. Even if you end up telling them what a project like theirs could cost. Another gem from Troy at WP Elevation is to say “Typically projects like this can range from $20,000 to $7,000.” If you can deliver this slowly enough you can gauge their reaction on the high number. You’ll often find they will be happy to talk about budget at that point. They might say “We certainly don’t want to be spending $20k but can probably stretch to $15k.”. Brilliant, now you know their top end. Using those questions will help you gleam serious information from them and hopefully enough to be able to mount a solid case for choosing you in your proposal. Win Proposal

3. Agreeing Next Steps

This is fairly straight forward but skipping it means you’re always backpedaling and scraping for info. In terms of next steps you should already know from the questions above when they want this done by, and also when they want to make a decision. That means you can work backwards and agree a time to follow up that fits with them. Remember, it’s not about you following up for your sake, it’s about making sure their project is delivered on time. So just work it backwards and tell them. You might say something like this: “You want to be done by Christmas so we can launch 1st Jan which is a great plan. It’s going to take around 8 weeks, let’s say 10 for contingency. This means we need to have all the information we need from you and be starting work on 15th October. It’s the 5th now so really, we need to be signed and sorted in a week from now. Are you happy for me to help you keep to these timeframes?” You’re helping them get what they want. That's it. It’s not about you, it’s just about giving them their wow moment as quick as you can.

Wrapping up

In closing, this stuff isn’t tricky. If you have no guidance and no idea what you’re doing you’ll find yourself bumbling through meeting after meeting with no plan, not asking the budget, giving your hand away and generally making a complete mess of things. Use these ideas and combine them with your personality and style and you’ll be leagues ahead of your competition when it comes to qualifying clients and helping them choose the right provider. With time and experience, after you set up your 'discovery process' well, running the client meetings will become an easy job for you, just like general client communication, which is best described in Foundr's Freelancer guide. Ebook Price of Freelancing After gathering all the information, you're already half way closer to writing the perfect proposal. The other half belongs to an outstanding proposal design, which can be easily found in our proposal tool. Sign up for free and check out all the benefits of this simple yet so effective proposal writing software.

Adam Hempenstall's profile image
Adam Hempenstall is the CEO and Founder of Better Proposals. He started his first web design business at 14 and has since written four books and built an international movement around sending better proposals. Having helped his customers win $500,000,000 in the last 12 months alone, he’s launched the first ever Proposal University where he shares best practices on writing and designing proposals. He co-runs a once-a-year festival called UltraMeet and is a massive FC Barcelona fan.