I find initial enquiries from potential clients interesting, I think you can tell a lot from a person from the way that they make that first contact, and often times in the beginning we wonder what the best way to respond is - well, this is the formula which works best for me, and from the feedback I've gotton from it, it's also why most clients will respond back instead of going to the other VA's they've contacted.
In my experience when a contact form comes through, your primary goal is to get the potential client on the phone as soon as possible if you want to secure the business (even though many times I have secured clients with no verbal contact before they work with me, I still think it's the most effective way to secure the client early on, because going back and forth electronically takes more time), but sometimes you don't really know what it is you're securing because the initial enquiry is quite vague.
The folk that do send in comprehensive enquiries tend to be easier to respond to because you have much more to go on by way of understanding what they need. Then there are the ones that require us to gather further information or set to purpose a specific direction for them to go in.
Break It Down Into 5 Parts.
The best way to do the initial email response is basically lay it out in 5 parts, and keep it simple.
Thank them for contacting you and tell you'd be happy to help.
Relay back in your own words, your understanding of what they want from you, this could be long or short depending on their initial contact with you, but the point is to establish with them that you understand, or in some cases don't understand what they're needing assistance with.
Confirm that if you have understood correctly, that you can (or cannot help).
If you can, then provide 2 options, first offer to have a chat on the phone or second, if they have a project/ongoing task brief that you could look over, you could provide a quotation or options. (If this happens, the next step would be to secure the appointment to discuss the project or ongoing task brief and walk the client through their options).
Thank them, and mention that you are looking forward to hearing from them.
So for example, someone contacts you to enquire about a website and ongoing marketing.
"I have a domain thisisthedomain.com and website. I also have a column "this is the name of my column" over 100 articles, plus I have a product. I would like to have an online store for the product and do marketing to send traffic to my website. Also to increase sales I want to offer an ebook of my articles. I need a website to reflect this. Help......"
So the response in this case would be... The areas in red show customisations and notes.
Hi [name of potential client],
Thanks so much for contacting Virtual Miss Friday, I am happy to assist with your enquiry.
So from what I gather you need help pulling together all the different elements of this project into one:- A Website (To replace the current thisisthedomain.com site)
- Blog (For articles currently on [find the link to the column online])
- Product (What's the product,? Is it the [enter suspected product name and enter link to product])
- eBook (Is this already created and ready to be sold or do you requires assistance with putting this together?) If I have understood correctly, I can most certainly help you with this, did you want to get together and have a chat on the phone or do you have a more detailed project brief that I can look over to provide a quote and options? Thanks [name of potential client], I shall very much look forward to hearing from you soon.
You'll sound awesome, friendly and totally on the ball!
Eliminating Half The Competition.
So basically, you'll see the example response above contains all 5 points, but not only that, this email also shows that I have taken an interest in the client, I have specifically addressed a number of items that would have required me to go and actively look at their business, and I have also relayed back my understanding of the tasks, showing that I have read their requirements and I am actively in pursuit of meeting them, and this is what I believe half of the competition that the potential client may have contacted will not be doing in their first initial response, it takes a small amount of time, but it goes a very, very long way... And you'll stand out as a top notch prospective virtual assistant because of it.
Final Golden Rule.
This might seem obvious, but I know it happens.... Never, ever say you can help with something when you can't - do both the potential client and yourself a favour and instead, suggest a suitable colleague and point them in another direction.