Make no mistake about it, when you hop on a call with a potential client, you are doing the interviewing. Which is why I wanted to share my 5 tips for interviewing a new client.
When I first started my business in 2015 I would get on a discovery call with a business owner who was interested in working with me and I spent the entire time answering whatever questions they had for me but rarely (read never) asking any questions of my own.
This left me working with clients who micro-managed, never paid invoices on time, expected me to be available 24/7, gave me tasks that were either way outside my zone of genius or bored me to tears, and were never satisfied with the work I produced because they didn’t really know what they wanted.
When I learned about the Ideal Client I spent a ton of time figuring out who that was. I had a lot of “someone who doesn’t xyz” on my list lol. But once I was clear on who I did want to work with, I had trouble actually finding them because I wasn’t weeding out the crazies during the interview process.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…you’re a business owner and so you have to act like one. Which means you’re interviewing the client to decide if you want to work together as much as they’re interviewing you. Below are my 5 tips for interviewing a new client.
#1 Be curious
If you let the client ask all the questions, then you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to lead the conversation. They need help, but they can get it from anywhere. You want to make sure you’re working with someone who isn’t going to suck the lifeblood out of you with their neediness. And the best way to ensure that is to ask questions.
Only you’ll know the nuanced questions you need to ask that pertain specifically to you, your business, and your life, but make sure to hit on their working hours, their expectations for turnaround time on projects, their budget, and any other team members you may have to work with.
#2 Lead the conversation
Asking the questions also means you’re leading the conversation. And this is a good thing. A client is looking for you to take stuff off their plate, and leading the conversation shows that you can take charge, make suggestions they may not have thought of, and show up as an expert in whatever it is you do.
I’ve found that leading the conversation also helps me weed out clients who are controlling. If the entire conversation consists of them talking over me, correcting me, or micro-managing the conversation, then that’s a huge red flag (see below) and an easy reason to say buh-bye!
#3 Find out their pain points
You’ll do this by asking questions, but I thought it was important enough to talk about separately. Sometimes a client doesn’t even know their pain point is a pain point because they might be focusing on the symptom of the pain point.
For example, “I never have time to post on social media” could really be “I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to social media strategy.” So when they tell you the symptom of their pain point, ask the questions that will get to what’s underneath that. As my fave biz coach, Lacey Sites, says, “Find out the thing that’s under the thing.”
#4 Solve a problem
This one gets mixed reviews, but I think it’s SO important. Some people say you’re giving the cow away for free when you take a problem that the client is having and solve it for them immediately over the phone during your free call.
But this provides the client some value and helps keep you top of mind if they’re talking to several different people. She thinks back over who’s she’s talked to already and says, “Oh, yeah, that’s the woman who helped me figure out the email thing that’s been driving me batty for weeks!”
Don’t lay out your entire plan for fixing their business, but hit them with a quick win and you’ll show that you’re ready and willing to jump in with both feet and fix what ails them.
#5 Take note of red flags
No amount of money is worth a shitty client. Let me say it again for the people in the back: no amount of money is worth a shitty client.
I could go all woo with this and talk about energy and whatever, but I won’t. I’ll save that for another time. Just know that there is no number on an invoice worth someone who will make you feel less than, have you constantly chasing payment, or whose values don’t genuinely jive with yours.
Period. I have a lot of experience in this area because I used to say yes to any client willing to give me money. It was not a good trade. And it’s a lesson I wouldn’t wish for anyone to learn the hard way.
If your gut is telling you this person isn’t a good fit, then this person isn’t a good fit. And the faster you pass on them, the faster you can move on to someone who is a good fit. I value your mental health and your time, so PLEASE, for the love of God, pay attention to the red flags and run like hell in the other direction when you see them. Don’t rationalize your way out of a red flag! It never ends well.
So to recap those client interview tips…
- Be curious
- Lead the conversation
- Find out their pain points
- Solve a problem
- Take note of red flags
Be the leader of your business. You’re a fucking CEO!
What are some of your favorite questions to ask when interviewing a new client?