Recently, I have ‘been on’ a few back-to-back consultations with potential clients. Each conversation had to be fine-tuned on the spot depending upon the clients’ expertise with working with a VA and in regard to his/her use of the internet. Since consults are not ‘one size fits all’ this post can help VAs to customize the conversation to achieve maximum results.
*note RFP used herein is a Request for Proposal. This is the form that potential clients complete with information regarding their virtual assistant needs.
*Letter of Intent is the reply letter a VA writes in response to the RFP.
1) Research, Research And More Research - If there is any tidbit of information you will take away from this post this will be it: Research the client’s website and business as much as possible before dialing the phone. I suggest going one step further and research as much as possible before hitting the send button to reply to the initial RFP itself. Although each Letter of Intent should be customized to the client’s requirements, take more time than usual to know the client because you may not have much time to do the research between the time you hit send and the time the client replies back to your customized letter of intent. I have been in close-timing situations and have had mere minutes to vamp-up my research before I called the client back. Being prepared ahead of time will thwart being caught off-guard because you may need to book an immediate consult. It happens.
2) Be Careful How You Phrase Your Opinions – Before making the consult call (and creating the Letter of Intent), make a list of what you think can be improved on the website or blog but do not come forward right away with a critique while on the phone with the potential client. Wait until the client asks for your opinion and phrase your critique as such, “If your website heading is decreased in size you can offer more information about your business above the page fold” or “If you add your social marketing badges to your home page, you can increase your membership”. Making suggestions as opposed to saying, “The header is too big” or “The web page is messy” may make for bad vibes during the consult. Diplomacy is key.
3) If the client indicates that they do not know how to do something while you explain what services you can provide, offer to show them how to do it. You may think that offering to train a client, for example how to post a blog will take away work from you; I actually believe that this leads to more work, which is what we all really want as virtual assistants. I believe in offering to share my knowledge with a client for three reasons: First, you will get paid for training; Second, once you spend more time teaching the client a task, this helps to build a relationship and solidifies you as the expert and, Three, these tasks lead to more work because then you can make suggestions as to how the task can be fine-tuned. The latter is much easier to do when you have built a rapport with the client.
4) During the consultation call, be keen and listen to the client as they speak. Clues to how much expertise they have will be apparent just by listening. It can be embarrassing for the VA to review services the client is already familiar with. In fact it is a waste of time. Some clients know what ftp might be, while others have no idea. Do not assume a client knows the entire internet ‘lingo’ so it pays to be clear during conversation without being too ‘techie’. It is easier to consult with client who has already worked with a VA so be sure you know this information in advance.
5) If the client is seeking to replace their VA, it pays to know why but never be intrusive by asking outright. Most clients will say if they are replacing their VA upfront. Use that information to your advantage. For example, if the client states, “My VA does not know how to post a blog”, that would be your cue to indicate this is a service you offer (if you do, of course). But do not ask why the VA is being replaced. Only use the information if offered to indicate what you can offer to fill that hole.
Finally, evaluate each consultation call immediately after hanging up. What could you have done better? What did you do well that you can use for the next call? Consultations calls can improve over time.