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4 Questions to Answer Before Talking to a Prospective Client

4 Questions to Answer Before Talking to a Prospective Client

Who am I is not a philosophical question for small business owners – it’s the first step to converting a lead.

To prepare to engage with clients and prospects, you have to start with the basics.  While some of these essential questions might seem obvious, it is important to lock down your answers to understand who you are and what value you provide as a business and to enable you to pass along that information seamlessly.  As you are building your small business, in the context of your marketing plan and your communication outreach goals, it is important to consider the kinds of conversations you need to have with prospective clients, the questions they will ask, and the answers you need to have at the ready.

So much of small business success, especially early in the stages of your company, depends upon being able to answer questions quickly and clearly and being able to get to the “yes.”  That “yes” can be from a client or customer or it can be the “yes” from you that moves you from prospective service provider to active partner.  There is a crossover here between marketing/communication strategies and business plans, and there should be.  A cornerstone of both your marketing plan and your business plan is the clear assertion of identity and function: who you are, what you do and why it matters.

The more nuanced aspects that differentiate your small business from the competition and make it uniquely special or uniquely valuable build from these basic pieces.  What you need to be aware of as you get ready to market your business – as you prepare to speak, write and answer questions about who you are and what you do – is that all of the information you provide is new to your audience, to your prospective customer or client.

Though you are living and breathing your small business at this stage of development, the information you are giving your prospect is new to him or her.  Start at the beginning, orient your audience, and build from there.  And always do so with the understanding that who you are and what you do needs to be connected to the value that you bring them.

1. Who am I?

If you have created a mission statement or an about section that you are using on company press releases, you should have a solid sense of who you are.  If you have not done these things, you should.  Knowing who you are as a small business, or as an independent professional, is the first and most important step in creating marketing content, building a communications strategy, and connecting to prospects in meaningful ways.

Even though you spend time and energy designing and planning your business, not to mention doing the work that you do, the answer to the question “who are you” can catch many small business owners off guard.  Articulate this clearly.  Build an answer that is straightforward, simple and relevant to your audience and to your industry.

2. What do I do?

Remember the old elevator pitch exercise?  It’s a good one.  Even if you are a service provider or a consultant, a professional who provides a less tangible service, you need to be able to boil down what you do for your clients clearly and quickly.  Whether you are connecting online or in person, in the form of a passive content piece or an active conversation, identify what you do in a way that is easy to understand in their own context and easy for them to act on in the moment.

Your prospective customers need to know how what you do brings value to them and they need to know how to engage your services.

3. Who do I want?

The answer is not “everyone” or “whoever will contract me/purchase from me.”  Understanding your audience helps you to articulate your position, explain your product or services, and connect your work to the value that it brings to your prospective customer.

Understanding your audience conserves marketing energy and saves marketing dollars. It allows you to target your marketing and communications for message and for placement so you can ensure that the audience that most needs to hear from you is hearing from you in a way that makes sense for them and makes it easy for them to act.

4. What do I want them to do?

The question “what do I want” is an important one, and it is more difficult to answer than you might think.  Long-term, you want a viable, sustainable business.  You want enough revenue to stay in the black and grow your business over time.  Your client does not care about this.  And he or she should not care about this.  Your personal goals, your immediate financial goals and your long-term business objectives are neither the domain of nor the responsibility of your clients.

In developing your marketing plan, engaging in conversations and creating content for prospective customers, you need to answer the question “what do I want them to do.”  At the end of your conversation, do you want the client to hire you for a specific project?  Do you want him to place a single order?  Do you want her to put you on retainer?

Knowing what you want them to do makes it easier for your prospective client to say yes.  It improves conversion, it orients your conversation, and it prevents you from missing the opportunities that your quality marketing and communications brought you.

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by Elizabeth Eames // Owner of Brooklyn, New York-based Contemporary Communications Consulting, a full service communications and marketing firm established in 2007. Over 10 years experience in content writing, editing, communications strategy, media relations, training and presentations.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.