Podcast

Episode: 129 |
Will Bachman:
Client Experience – 2 of 6:
Episode
129

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Will Bachman

Client Experience – 2 of 6

Show Notes

This is part 2 in a six-part podcast miniseries on how to improve the client experience. Episode 128 introduces the series.

In this episode I discuss 29 suggestions for how to improve the client experience during the proposal phase.

In Episodes 130-133, I’ll be covering the next four phases in a project lifecycle:

  1. The proposal phase
  2. Onboarding / kickoff phase
  3. Project execution
  4. Wrap-up
  5. Post-project

I learned this five-part framework from David A. Fields, and encourage everyone to visit his website:

https://www.davidafields.com/

If you subscribe to the weekly Unleashed email, you’ll receive a summary checklist that includes the points from the whole miniseries.

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:01
Welcome to Unleashed. I’m your host Will Bachman. In the last episode number 128, we kicked off a six part mini series on how we consultants can enhance the experience of our clients over the life cycle of a project. Yesterday was the introduction. Today’s episode is about things we can do during the proposal phase to provide a better client experience. And by the proposal phase, I’m including all the interactions from our first introduction to the client, to the point where we have a signed contract. And Episode 30, we’ll explore steps we can take during phase two, the onboarding or kickoff phase. Across this whole series, we’re focusing on aspects of the experience, other than the actual content of the work itself. And if you sign up for the weekly Unleashed email at Umbrex comm slash Unleashed, you’ll get a checklist with all these suggestions. Alright, so we got 29 different recommendations here. So let’s go. Okay, number one, imagine that you are seeking to engage an attorney or a tax accountant, or some other professional, and you are in the process of having discussions with two or three to select the one that you want to work with? How would you want those professionals to interact with you? Well, just do that. And you can ignore the rest of these suggestions.

01:27
Okay, if you’re still with me, number two, in the proposal phase, don’t try to win the work. Instead, try to get real work done. treat this period as the phase zero of your project. If the client thinks, wow, we actually made progress towards a solution in that meeting, that is far more powerful than if the client thinks, wow, that consultant really impressed me with those five case examples that we walked through.

Will Bachman 01:56
Number three, your LinkedIn profile. First impressions count, the potential client will probably check your LinkedIn profile before meeting with you. So do a tough review of your own profile, and upgrade if necessary. Number four, your website. If you have a website, does it clearly communicate who you are and what services you provide and what clients you serve? Great. Number five branded email address would you hire an attorney or a tax accountant who uses a personal aol.com email address, I wouldn’t register domain and get a branded email address. Number six responsiveness. When you are first introduced to this client, or when the potential client reaches out, respond within eight hours, two hours would be even better. In the proposal phase, you’re signaling how responsive you’ll be during the project itself. And your client will assume that this is the most responsive you’ll ever be as you’re trying to get hired. A day or two delay and getting back to a client just won’t cut it. Number seven email signature. When you do respond, your email should include an email signature that has your cell phone number. Number eight, make it easy to schedule time with you provide the potential client with a link to book time on your calendar. I use and recommend calendly and I discussed how I use that tool in Episode 73. Number nine, context discussion hold a context discussion with a potential client. For details on what to cover. Check out the irresistible consultants guide to winning clients by David A. Fields, chapters 18 and 19. David outlines six topics that you should cover the situation, desired outcomes, indicators of success, perceived risks, and concerns, and the value that the client expects to obtain from the project and the parameters which covers people time, geography and budget. I also interviewed David in Episode One of this podcast and we do discuss the context discussion in that show. Number 10. If possible, do the context discussion in person. At the client’s office, you’ll learn an enormous amount about the organization by just seeing the physical space. If an in person isn’t feasible, see if you can do a video conference. And if that is impossible, then do a phone call if you must, but consider just refusing to participate in our proposal phase. There’ll be done purely over email or some other electronic communication when you can’t have a live back and forth. Chapter 11 number 11 in the context discussion, try to spend about 75% of your time listening and 25% of the time talking and of the time you spend talking thing about 75% should be asking questions. The client cares about her problem. And honestly, she just doesn’t care that much about our background and the school he went to, and the consulting firm that we used to be at, even if she asked number 12. After the context discussion, and after every discussion with the client, send a follow up note that summarizes the interaction, including the action items that you’ve agreed to, and the action items a client agreed to, and the due dates discussed. capture any decisions made any open questions keep topic covered? Wouldn’t you like to work with someone who does that every time you meet with them? chapter number 13. If a formal proposal is requested, then send the proposal well before the due date and call it a draft scheduled time to go through their proposal with the client to get feedback. So you can iterate and resubmit. Number 14. If there was an RFP, or a list of things the client specifically wants you to address in the proposal, then consider structuring your proposal in the same order as that list. So it’s painfully obvious that you’ve met all the requirements. You might even include that list of requirements on the first page, and show the page number of your proposal on which that item is addressed. Number 15. Your proposal should be formatted nicely with the branding of your firm. And if you don’t have a template, get one use Upwork or some other design service. Number 16. In your proposal include a sentence at the end that says this proposal is your intellectual property, and may not be shared outside the client firm, and specifically not with other professional services firms. Without your written consent. You’ve put hard work into the proposal, and a client respects a provider who politely assert her rights. Number 17. Maintain a sanitized project list that lists out all the projects that you’ve ever done. Then, when you’re asked to provide some relevant examples, it will be quick and easy. Number 18. file names should be right side up, namely, written from your clients perspective. So the file name of your proposal should not be proposal for ABC Company dot PDF. It should be instead something like office supplies procurement project proposal from consulting firm XYZ dot PDF, check out Episode 118. For more my thoughts on right side up filenames. Number 19 sample work product. I spoke about this in Episode 121. It’s far more powerful to show than to tell. So have some sanitized sample work that you can say here, you’re going to get something similar to this at the end of this project. Number 20 references, you might be reluctant to provide client references casually, even in the early proposal process because you don’t want to call too frequently on these important relationships. That’s understandable. So one way to proceed is to help potential clients that you’d prefer to delay sharing references until the end of the process but provide sanitized titles and companies and say something like the references that I’ll be able to provide will include the CEO of a Fortune 500 retail bank, or the head of sales at a $1 billion b2b tech services provider, or you know, whatever the title is, you get the picture. And ahead of time, obviously, you should have asked these previous clients if they’re willing to serve as a future reference so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute. Number 21. be pleasantly persistent. There may be times when the potential client goes radio silent. Hey, we all get busy and distracted and don’t take it personally. Don’t assume the worst or get annoyed. At least don’t reveal that you are annoyed. instead be pleasantly persistent follow up perhaps once a week varied up a little bit. Not in a way to make the potential client feel bad or embarrassed about not getting back to you very or emails. So you might say hi, Cheryl wanted to check in any updates on potential next steps. Or Cheryl? Last time we spoke you mentioned that you’d be discussing the proposal with the senior leadership team in the news, or Cheryl, want to touch base on the project we discussed three weeks ago. How’s your thinking evolving on that as a priority versus other goals this spring. In some cases, maybe most cases if the client goes radio silent, that means the project is dead however, In a few cases, the persistent bird gets the worm. I’ve had cases where I follow it up like this for four months, and then boom, the project confirmed. Number 22 CRM tool, it’s easier to be pleasantly persistent. If you are using a CRM tool that tracks all the deals you have in progress. And when the last time was that you followed up, I recommend pipe drive for consultants. But that’s a subject for a future episode. Number 23. rates. Let’s say that you are interviewing attorneys and you find one that you like, and you ask her rate, and she tells you $500 per hour. If you say, wow, that’s more than I expected. And she comes back to will tell you what, for you special price, I’ll make it for 35 per hour.

10:52
Would that make you more or less likely to hire that particular attorney?

Will Bachman 10:58
For me, I’d be, I’d be a little put off. So know what a fair rate is for your time, if you’re charging by the day, or what a fair rate is for the project. If you’re doing it for a fixed fee, and try to avoid an exercise of haggling over the rate just doesn’t present you in a great light. If the client legitimately pushes back and just doesn’t have the budget, then work together to see if you can adjust the scope to reduce the fees. Number 24. Over prepare, but then be indifferent to results. Be prepared to tell the client something like from what I’m hearing, I might not be the consultant who’s best positioned to address your needs. In this case, you might want to talk to consultant XYZ instead, who I know does great work on this type of project. It’s always painful to walk away from one particular project. But something like that is a huge trust builder, when you don’t pretend to be the perfect consultant for every scenario. And why do I say you should be indifferent to results. You don’t want to appear desperate for work, even if you are no client wants to hire a consultant who has no other sign of any other work on the horizon and has a rent payment past due even if that is the case. So no one wants to go to the prom with that person who can’t get a date to the prom, apparently. So I’ve been told. Number 25 contract. First of all, you should have a contract template. Some clients will have their own boilerplate that they want to use, and that’s fine. But if they don’t, you should have ready to go your own template that you can quickly fill out. Number 26 contract review. If the client wants to use their boilerplate, and send it to you for review or signature, then review it quickly and get back same day. If you’re going to propose changes, be reasonable and pick your battles. Any changes that you propose are, after all going to have to go get approved by their legal team. Number 27. If you are the ones sending out the contract for signature, then use DocuSign or some other e signature tool. Don’t ask a client to print sign, scan and email the document. Number 28. If you don’t get the project, politely ask for feedback. You won’t always get it but you can ask. And number 29. If you don’t get the project, send a written thank you note. Ideally on branded stationery, you might write something like thanks for the opportunity to be considered to support you on this important effort. I’m deeply appreciative of the time you spent with me helping to unmeet understand your situation and considering the proposal I shared. While I’m of course disappointed not to be able to support your team on this particular effort. I hope our discussions over the past few weeks marked the beginning of an ongoing relationship and I look forward to continuing the conversation. Would that be nice to get a note like that? Not many of these ideas came from the dozens of Umbrex members who attended one of the workshops that I ran last year with David A. Fields. So thanks to all those Umbrex members who participated in those sessions. Tune in to the next four episodes, where I’ll be discussing the next four phases of a project, namely phase two, the onboarding kickoff phase, phase three, project execution, phase four wrap up, and phase five host project. If you found this episode helpful, please share it with a friend or on social media, or write a review on iTunes that helps other people discover the show.

14:46
I’d love to hear from you. Your thoughts on this episode or a question you’d like me to answer in a future episode? You can email me at unleashed@umbrex.com Thanks for listening

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