You see the notification from your calendar app: 10 minutes until your call with that prospective new client. Are you prepared to make the most of it?
That first call with new or prospective clients is your chance to give a great first impression, and unlike the world of Pride and Prejudice, if you botch your first chance, it’s not likely you’ll be able to swoop in later and capture the client’s trust with a dramatic act of writing heroism.
Your first call can feel like tiptoeing across a rope bridge in the jungle—with the crocodiles of overconfidence smiling at you from one side and the gibbons of amateurity yawing from trees on the other side, you find it hard to strike a balance between confidence and humility. You need to show you’re competent and confident, but not so much that you can’t ask for help when you’re stuck.
To help you stay on your feet, here are three questions you can ask every time to make a good first impression and get the information you need:
1. Do you have a business summary?
A business summary is a document containing a brand’s overall mission and sets the tone for its communication strategy. Your client may not call such a document a business summary, but you can simply ask for a document containing a mission statement, vision statement, value proposition, or anything like that.
By asking for a business summary, you will have access to more information about the company’s tone, comms strategy, and overall mission. If your client doesn’t have a business summary, might I recommend you make that your first project for them? I’ve found a lot of success writing business summaries for clients.
2. What are your objectives for this work?
In my article about planning out all writing projects with the PASS method, I talk about how you should always have a cursory strategy for the project. Some aspects of this strategy include keyword/SEO strategy, social strategy, communication strategy (tone, format), etc.
There are probably a lot of objectives that a client may have that she may not make explicitly clear on her own. So make sure to ask.
3. Where does your audience live?
Don’t worry, we’re not trying to stalk our clients’ customers. Instead, this question serves as a double-edged sword, providing you with two essential pieces of information—who the target audience is , and where you can interact with them.
“Interact with their audience? Why would I do that?”
Because you’re writing to the audience, not the client. That’s a common mistake we make—we’re trying to impress the client, so we end up blurting out all sorts of research we’ve done and forget about the audience. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.
I interact with my audience (freelance writers) as much as possible, on Slack, Quora, Shapr, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other places. The more you can familiarize yourself with the language and culture of an audience, the better off you’ll be. Hence the importance of writing for a specific niche.
Make It Your Own
The first draft you ever send to a client will probably go through a lot of edits, because you’re still getting used to their brand and offering. But that makes a good first call that much more important. Will your prospective clients leave that first call feeling confident in your abilities, enough to get past the red pencil drawn all over your face? Asking the right questions can get you there.
What other thoughts do you have about a good first call with a new or prospective client?