Ahhhh those lil’ ole Consultations.
I get asked a lot of questions, one of the questions I get asked very often is, “How do I do a consultation?” Good Question.
I have always been very reluctant to give people help with this, I think they expect me to offer a template or a form of questions or some sort of “How To” – there are plenty of people out there offering the standard consultation questions, and if that works for them, great – but I don’t do things that way, and whatever I don’t do – I would never pass on to you guys. It’s my oath to my colleagues (that’s you).
What I do, is approach consultations with a view that every single one is unique, because they are. Well, every one I have ever done is, and now, my contribution to helping colleagues with the consultation process is to actually record a consultation and deliver it to you guys so you can hear what I am saying and how I react to the client. You also learn how the client responds and reacts to me. It is my belief that this is MUCH more powerful information for you than any template could ever offer.
The Consultation “Process.”
I mentioned consultations are unique. When you meet someone on a bus do you naturally pull out a list of questions to ask them? No… I treat my online interactions in the same way. But let’s first look at the consultation process, and why we do them, because this is always consistent:
- We want to offer a direct contact between ourselves and our potential client.
- We want to provide them with an “idea” or a “framework” of what we can do for them.
- We want to secure any potential business.
Simple enough to grasp, but not so simple when you’re on the phone and you want to WOW the client with your consultation process.
Consultations are like a movie that hasn’t yet been played out, you have the cast, (you and the client), you are the lead role (we’ll come to that later). You have your scenes, always the same, 2 people from distant lands (or houses) on the phone, and you have the trailer for the movie, you know roughly how it’s going to play out, but you are yet to discover the true ending. You’re in suspense.
Consider consultations like this and you’ll feel less concerned about them – they aren’t scary I promise.
The difference between a movie and a consultation is there is no script. You don’t have the lines already prepared in front of you – but that’s the good thing, because if you did, consultations wouldn’t feel natural, and one thing I have found of vital importance, is that I’m more successful at achieving the desired outcome when I am natural – in other words – I am human, not a consulting robot that spits out the same questions to every client like I’m doing a survey. This is a primary reason why I don’t like the script/template of questions method, I don’t want to sound like every other VA they contacted, so “think improvisation” – we can ALL do it and it’s much easier than trying to box the consultation in, the more you learn to do this, the better you’ll get at it. You won’t be great overnight, but with every consultation you do in this way, you’ll get better and better at coming up with things out of your head, instead of a Word doc. — Clients will respond and react better to someone who is both professional, but also “real and unique.”
How You Succeed At Consultations.
The 2 things you will always need to learn off by heart are:
- Your client intake procedures – how you welcome clients in, and how your business works.
- Your services – You need to know your services inside out, and “how” you offer them.
First you need to think about what you want from the consultation, and anticipate what the client may be asking, so you can start to build up a list in your head of the kind of things you want to discuss, and how you want the consultation to play out, I call these “Scenes” and there are 4 scenes to every consultation. Next you need to anticipate what the client may ask you – and if you don’t have a clue – don’t worry, it’s all good, it will come out on the call. Again, go with the flow, not with the flock, don’t be afraid to tell the client what makes you better than everyone else. It’s like you are revealing a hidden gem that they are very lucky to have found.
The Consultation “Scenes”.
So as I mentioned, consultations are like movies, and they have scenes, here is a general layout of the scenes in the consultation:
Scene 1: Rapport & Roles.
You call the client and you exchange pleasantries and establish rapport. This should be a personal conversation between the two of you to gauge at this time whether the client is strictly business or is more friendly. At this point I always try to consider how the client may want the consultation to go, whether they want me to take the lead role, or if they do. I do this because nearly every consultation I do this way is successful. I am the one who adapts at this stage.
Scene 2: Purpose.
Once we establish who is leading – say it’s me, I then try to establish what they want. Why they contacted me, what’s on their mind. Treat this like when you see someone who looks like they have something to say to you and you don’t know what it is yet. Put a line out there, and then see what they come back with – let them take the floor, this is their moment.
Confirm what you know and let them fill in the gaps.
Say something like – “So let’s get started, I know that you have company XYZ and you deal in 123, you have contacted me regarding BLAH, and it would be great at this stage if you could go into the reasons why so I can best tailor our discussion so you get the most value/benefit from our time.”
- CLIENT: Takes centre stage, they begin speaking.
- YOU: Silently LISTEN, give a few mmm’s and okay’s so they know you’re still with them on the line
Scene 3: Potential.
Once you have let the client do the talking, and you have asked any additional questions you feel at the time you need to know, you then need to move onto the “potential.” This scene is the KEY element into securing the client. Potential is what you are able to make happen for the client. This is where I dip around into my skill set and experience, you really want to have a standing ovation after this.
The golden rule of securing the client.
They need to feel emotion through your words – thrills, excitement, adrenalin, vision – give them something to really stir the senses.
You want them to come back with positive affirmations, so things like this need to happen…
- They asked you to do something – offer them something better.
- They asked you to carry out a task – give them a way to automate it and save them money.
- They asked for 6 different things for 1 outcome – give them 1 thing to obtain 6 outcomes.
- Tell them about something they have never heard of or come across before, a system or tool that is relevant to the conversation.
Catch my drift? Leave them thinking they could be nuts if they don’t hire you, and the only way you’ll get the client excited in this way is if YOU are excited, speak with passion, with purpose, with interest in the client and their business, and you WANT the opportunity to work with them, (but not in a desperate psycho kind of way) and they’ll want you back.
Be excited about the possibility of working with them, and they’ll be excited about working with you too. Just by helping them to understand you want to know their business and you would be really delighted to be a part of it, plus you can add value to it, speaks volumes to a potential client.
Would you seriously give your child to a babysitter who didn’t know what they were doing or talking about, and on top of that sounded like they couldn’t really care less? NEXT PLEASE!!!
If you want the part. Act like it. But by demonstrating you are the right person for it, you’re the best fit, you walk the walk, and you talk the talk.
One thing to mention here is that I don’t focus on a multitude of things I can do, I home in on one, the most important one I find that touches the client’s interests, and then try to branch off and expand from there, but still staying on topic. If you weave and dart around you’ll sound like a bird flapping around a cage. Soar in one direction, once you secure a small amount of business from the client, you can always get more later, this isn’t a pile it high all you can eat buffet – it’s a several course meal that you have to savour, with each course.
Scene 4: Finale.
Once you have explored possibilities and got them pumped to start, offer to summarise everything on an email or an estimate for the work after the call closes, I wouldn’t ever try and get them to close at this point, unless they prompt it. If you record consultations like I do, this will make it much easier for you at the end, super quick and also it’s always appreciated from the client’s side.
So where can you see this – FOR REAL?
I recently recorded a phone consultation with a client, I had no idea what they were looking for beforehand, it just came through on my appointment booking system. I went through stages 1 and 2, learnt that I should be the leader and that the client was professional, yet passionate about their business. I learnt what they liked about me in particular, and the reasons why they were drawn to me, and booked the appointment which also helped.
At stages 3 and 4, which are the crucial moments of the consultation, I packaged them up into a transcription, video, audio and post client consultation questionnaire so you can see and hear first-hand what you need to do to secure the business. The client’s identity has been completely removed so you will only hear my voice, but you will be able to read on screen in the video version the responses from the client, each time I speak, and also follow it on the transcription. The client is now on the books with Virtual Miss Friday – the fact is, what I do really WORKS. It just takes a bit of time to master it.
This client in particular initially wanted a simple website, by the end, I have tagged on other services, a recurring passive income opportunity and future ongoing business, while still staying on topic and focusing on what is really needed. Once the client is with me, I would later arrange a follow-up consultation where (as mentioned in the video top right of this post) I would do a full administrative review of the client’s business. If you would like to download this consultation, I am charging a small fee, because of the work invested into producing this, but it’s worth it.
Initial FREE Consultation.
Guide To “Advanced Virtual Business Performance Consulting.”
I mentioned in my video above about focussing first on the primary need of the client, so this may be one individual package or service, and then once they are with you, offering a follow up consultation to see how else you can help them. If you would like to learn the method I use for these consultations, check out my, “Advanced Virtual Business Performance Consulting.” (This one is available in The VA Rockstar Programme).