Interviewing Potential Clients: Why You Need A System

What’s your system for interviewing potential clients and then closing the deal? Do you have one? It’s so important to have all your systems in place before you start working with clients, including a process that involves interviewing potential clients and closing the sale.

If you’d rather listen to this than reading it please check out the podcast below. 

I Call It The Discovery Session System

But you can call it whatever you want. Since this is a relationship-based business, you need to have an automated system for interviewing potential clients to find out if it’s a good fit for both of you. 

Remember, you’re interviewing each other, and it should be a mutual decision to either work together or not. If it’s not a good fit, say no and move on. The last thing you want to do is enter into a relationship that is not good for either of you.

The Goal Of The Discovery Session System

The idea is to say yes to your dream clients and create a long term relationship. My best advice is to trust your instincts. It’s so important to listen to yourself when you’re talking to somebody. Stop and listen to what your gut is telling you about this potential relationship. Your instincts are spot-on regardless of what you may think about it.

Trust Your Gut

If you say yes to a bad relationship, it’s not beneficial for you, and it’s not good for them. So if you’re talking to somebody and the hair on your arms stand up, it’s probably not a good fit for you. The last thing you want to do is get into a relationship with somebody that’s not a good fit. So trust your gut.

Have you ever taken on a client that you know you shouldn’t have? Maybe you saw the signs that they were not a good fit but ignored it. I know I have! I’m raising my hand here! I did it a few times before I learned to trust myself and say NO to potential clients that weren’t a good fit.

So remember saying NO is NOT a bad thing, and it’s also a complete sentence. No explanation needed! If you feel that you have to give them a reason, then do, but it’s not required. If you want to provide an excuse, then you could say, “I can’t meet your deadline, or I don’t have the expertise that you’re looking for.” Or be honest and tell them it’s just not a good fit.

OK… let’s talk about the system. The Discovery Session System, as I like to call it.

The Different Phases Of Interviewing Potential Clients

You see, it’s not enough to interview clients to find out if they’re a good fit. You need to know what kind of information you should ask for, plus how to overcome common sales objections to close the deal. During the call, you’re discovering what the client is all about and how you can help them. (And if you want too). 

#1 – Make It Easy

You don’t want to make it hard for potential clients to get on your calendar. For example, you have a 3-page questionnaire that they have to fill out before they can even get on the phone with you. You’re going to lose more people because they are:

  • Short on time
  • Intimated by the number of questions you’re asking
  • Frustrated by all the hoops they have to jump through just to have a call with you.

Why not make it simple for them to talk to you? The most important thing is to find out if they’re a good fit or not. Having a simple conversation can let you know pretty quickly whether they’re going to be a good fit for you or not.

Interviewing someone is the first step. If you have a questionnaire for new clients, don’t ask that on the initial interview, only ask what you need to know to decide if you want to move forward with this client or not. Once you make up your mind, you can ask all the questions you need because you’ve made the mutual decision to work together.

#2 – Ask Questions During The Discovery Call

OK, now let’s discuss the “standard” questions you should ask during the interview. For me, it’s simple. I just ask a couple of simple questions to get the conversation started and then let it flow. These are the questions I always ask:

  • How can I help you?
  • Have you worked with a VA before?

That’s it. The questions I ask after these depend on the conversation. It’s what works best for me. 

How Can I Help You?

Everyone is different and has specific needs, so I just let the conversation go where it needs to go. I don’t follow a particular script or questionnaire. I always start with “how can I help you” and then let them talk to get a sense of who they are and what they’re all about. Let the conversation flow and then listen to what your potential client is saying.

I want to know what problems they have that I can solve for them. That is why they reached out to me. Then I follow up with

Have You Worked With A Virtual Assistant Before?

It will give me more insight into their previous relationships. And I’ll learn if they worked with Virtual Assistants before.

Yes

If they say yes, then I want to know a little bit more. I ask a follow-up question that says, “how was that experience?” I want to find out if it was a good or bad experience because they’re going to have trust issues if they’ve been burned.

For example, if they hired somebody who took their money but didn’t deliver. Or they didn’t deliver quality and then fell off the face of the earth. You need to know that going in because you’re going to have to work harder to gain their trust because of their experience.

No

They may say no, and then this is an opportunity for you to educate your potential client on how to work with a VA. Share your systems and expertise with them! I’m all about simplicity, and it works for me. Remember, my motto is Your Business – Your Choice. Do what works for you.

If you like more structure or want a list of questions to help you get started, feel free to download my sample questionnaire to give you some ideas of what to ask.

Your Discovery Session system can be simple and tailored to fit your exact needs.

#3 – Look Out For Red Flags

One other thing I think is important to point out is what I call “red-flags.” These are things you’ll want to watch out for when interviewing potential clients. I’m listing the most common ones below. When it comes to red flags, everyone is different (you’re likely to have your list, I do). But these are a few common ones I recommend you watch out for:

Too Many Virtual Assistants In A Short Period Of Time

For instance, they’ve been through six Virtual Assistants in the last three months. What’s the common denominator in that? The client is. Now it could be that they were project-based, and each person did different things. But you’re going to have to ask a follow-up question to see if you can find out why. It could be that the client is difficult to work with – so don’t be afraid to dig a little deeper to get the answers you need.

They’re Negotiators

They want to negotiate everything. You’re rate, the deadline, and your boundaries, how you run your own business, etc. These can be the type of people that question everything and can be a drain on your energy.

Want To Dictate Your Schedule

They want to dictate when you do your work or when you’re available. For instance, your potential client might say, “you need to be available between 8:00 and 5:00, and you need to answer my calls whenever I call you. Plus, I’ll need to return my emails within 24 hours.” 

Not OK… you don’t work for your client. That’s an employer-employee relationship. The employer dictates when you work, how you work when you answer your phone, and when you don’t. When you’re working in your own business, YOU decide everything. They can’t dictate how you work and when you work, only you can. 

That’s a BIG no-no here in the U.S. They can get in big trouble for that with the IRS. If they try to dictate and tell you exactly what to do, that’s more employee and employer behavior. You can either educate them or walk away.

Won’t Sign An Agreement

They won’t sign your agreement for whatever reason. Never work without a signed agreement. It’s not only a protection for you; it’s also protection for your client. If they won’t sign it, there’s a reason. And there is NO logical reason why they wouldn’t sign it. 

It’s a huge red flag for me – I won’t work without a signed agreement.

Now you may have some of your red flags. If you don’t, I suggest you create one that you can refer to when you’re interviewing clients. You’re looking for traits that you know don’t work for you.

My Main Red Flags Are
  • Micro-managers
  • Firefighters (everything is always an emergency and on fire)
  • Negotiators

If, during the interview, you find out they have something on your Red Flag list, then you know it’s a “no.” Trust yourself – you know what’s best for you.

#4 – The Sales Conversation

OK… one last thing. That one thing most people dread about interviewing potential clients. It’s that part of the conversation where you have to start the “close.” You know, where you have to start talking about your rates and how you work with clients.

For so many people, they dread having to talk about their rates; it can make them nervous or sick to their stomach (that was me). But to close the deal, you have to talk about your rates.

You have to understand that you are the sales and marketing department. It’s up to you to get more comfortable with talking about what you charge because you’re worth it. Remember, they came to you for help, and they know you’re a business owner, and you don’t work for FREE! Go into each sales conversation, confident that you can help them, and you are worth whatever you are charging.

Work On Your Mindset

Here’s a little mindset tip to help you if you’re nervous about quoting your rates. Double your current rate and then recite it to yourself in the mirror for seven days. It works! 

For example, let’s say your current hourly rate is $25 an hour. So double it and then stand in front of the mirror and say, “My hourly rate is $50 an hour”. If you sell packages, then do the same thing – double it and recite it to yourself in the mirror. You may think I’m nuts, but it works. Next time you’re having that sales conversation, and it’s time to talk rates, it will be easier!

Remember, this is your business. It’s your choice. You have the freedom to say no to anyone that isn’t right for you. The reason we all started our business is that we want to be passionate about supporting the people we want to help.

So, make sure that when you’re interviewing potential clients, they fit what you’re looking for. Be clear on what you’re getting into going in. Trust yourself. You know what’s right for you because so this is not a one size fits all industry.

What’s your system for interviewing clients? 

Feel free to post below and let me know – I’d love to hear from you! All comments and questions are welcome.

Thanks for reading – Susan

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Written by Susan Mershon

Susan Mershon started The Techie Mentor™ in 2013 to teach Virtual Assistants her no-fluff approach to the systems and skills they need to build and automate a successful business.

With a strong base in project management, Susan brings her love of systems and teaching to offer in-depth training and mentoring to new and experienced Virtual Assistants.

She’s taught over 5,000 students her unique systems and strategies that focus on offering high-end skills that give you the freedom to work when and where you want.

To learn more about The Techie Mentor™ and the systems and skills she teaches without all the fluff or hype go to The Techie Mentor website.

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