Project management for freelancers

The 3 Times Your Clients Are Most Excited About You And Their Project

By Brennan Dunn

The iPhone 6 came out, and today millions of Apple aficionados will be swapping out the last best-phone-ever with the newest best-phone-ever. For many, this is the most exciting day they’ll ever have with the iPhone 6, shadowed only by “Keynote day”, when Tim Cook announced the phone and it’s features.

Likewise, your clients have times that they’re more excited about working with you and the project.

People are most excited about something when they express interest in that. When you have a prospective client email or call you, they’re at an emotional peak. When they agree to work with you, they’re at another emotional peak. And when you deliver them their project, they’re (usually!) at another emotional peak.

Today I want to talk about these three peaks, and how you can capitalize on them.

When A Client First Contacts You

Back before I got into consulting, I used to sell leads. I built a little startup company that ran nationwide ad campaigns and drove people Googling around for refinancing or purchase loans to a network of landing pages. Unlike companies like Lending Tree and other “lead aggregators”, we’d relay captured leads immediately to our clients — and they were willing to pay 20x more for these leads.

Why were my clients willing to pay so much more for my leads?

Because we were able to deliver them to their smartphone or inbox at the moment the lead is looking at “Thanks for your interest! We’ll be in touch soon” confirmation page.

When someone expresses interest in a product or service, they’re obviously highly motivated. And that motivation has a half-life, and it decreases over time. Think about the last time you became interested in something new. You were probably really, really excited about it. I know when I decided to install a shed in my backyard, I immediately ran over to the bookstore and bought everything I could about DIY shed building. I also loitered the halls of the local home improvement store, dreaming of what could be.

Your clients are no different. When they decide to move forward on a project and reach out to someone like you, they’re pumped. And the single best thing you can do is take advantage of that excitement and let it be know, “I hear you! And I’m here to help!”

When running my agency, we fielded a lot of inbound leads. And almost all of our leads were floored by how quickly we’d get back to them. Our responses weren’t necessarily thorough; if it was after hours or a weekend, our response might be as simple as:

“Hi there Susan, I just wanted to let you know that I got your email. I’m out now, but I’ll followup with some qualifying questions as soon as I can.”

According to a large majority of our clients, our competitors would take days to respond back (if they actually ever did). Don’t underestimate the importance of jumping on the emotional peak that someone experiences when they decide externally (through contacting someone like you) to move ahead with a project.

We’d eventually, if not immediately, send them a list of qualifying questions that helped us understand whether we could realistically help them, but — more importantly — we would underscore their excitement by asking them to tell us why they were starting down this path, and what destination they were hoping to arrive at.

If you’re like me nowadays, and you’re actively trying to minimize your relationship with your email inbox, setup an autoresponder against a special virtual email address that will immediately reply to the new lead with your list of qualifying questions. This will keep you from gluing yourself to your inbox. (Alternatively, you could setup push notifications / some sort of alert when emails to that virtual email address come in.)

When A Client Hires You

You know how exciting it is to land a new client. All that future money that’s waiting to enter into your bank account — it’s pretty great, isn’t it?

Your clients experience that same high. When they decide to hire you, they’re not only excited about what this project can do for them and their business, but they also want to prove to the world that they made the right decision.

Have you ever bought something, and felt like it was your duty to tell anyone and everyone about your purchase? When your clients buy from you, it’s no different. They have an intrinsic need to validate that they made the right decision, and this is often done by evangelizing this to others.

So what does this mean for you?

Ask for a referral. Right after they become your new client.

For someone to refer you to others, they need to know what’s in it for them (an overarching theme of this blog — What’s in it for me?). And for them to refer you, there needs to be a reason, besides goodwill, that causes them to do that.

Your clients, especially your new clients, want to know that you’re focused on them and their project. You’ve already sold them on the experience, it’s not time to show them on the actual product.

Steli said it best in Episode 17 of the Business of Freelancing podcast:

“You know what? One thing that I pride myself in is I’m going to make our successful. We’re going tom make this a success together, and you’re going to be happy. The only way for me to do that is to focus all my energy on your project and you. That means I don’t spend all my time selling, I spend my time delivering value.

But here’s the deal. I can only do that if you my happy clients — people like you — refer work to me.”

So here’s what you might ask, which is something I currently practice with the high touch services I offer (consulting, coaching, and my Masterclass):

“So who do you know who is an entrepreneur with a proven track record of success — but is struggling with a particular problem that I can help solve?”

And instead of asking for a name, email address, and/or phone number, instead task your new client with doing that for you.

“Since you value the success of Bob and his business, would you have him call or email me if you think he’ll get value out of meeting with me about the problem his business is facing?”

Again, I can’t underscore just how psychologically sound our need for external validation is after making a decision like deciding to move forward with a big project. Help your new clients to realize that you understand that need and implicit desire, and that you want to focus all your energy and attention on them by tasking them with referring your next client to you.

When You Wrap Up A Client’s Project

Not every client will be open to referring clients to you at the onset of your engagement with them. After all, there’s a bit of social currency that gets passed along with each referral — your clients are staking their reputation on you, and if you end up being a dud it reflects poorly on the referrer.

But after successfully completing a project, you’re hopefully now in a position where you have every right to ask for a referral. On top of that, you can use this an opportunity to have them hire you on a retainer or via a productized consulting offering, as I detailed the other week in my article on why most freelancers set their clients up for failure.

If a client is excited at the idea of their project, and is also excited when that first stake is driven into the ground when you sign their project into being, they’re obviously going to be most excited when their project is now a reality.

I typically aim to do three things when my clients are at this final emotional peak:

Convince them to help me provide value to them over the longterm

You now know a lot about the client, their business, and the domain in which they work. I’m not going to recap the ways that I close out a project to set myself up in the position to sell an ongoing retainer, but you can read about that in the article I referenced above.

Ask them to help me promote them

I’m a huge fan of well-written case studies. Not only are they infinitely better at showcasing to future, potential clients your ability to take a problem, solve it, and return an ROI to your clients, they’re also a way for your clients to justify spending all that money on you.

Tell your clients that you want to promote them and their business. When Joanna Wiebe wrote a mammoth case study on how she improved the sales of Mad Mimi, she not only further established her reputation as an expert copywriter, she also introduced Mad Mimi to a lot of people.

Patrick McKenzie did something similar when he wrote about his experience working with Server Density, and how he reset their pricing (again, hugely valuable in establishing that beachhead that Patrick knows SaaS pricing, while also promoting Server Density).

Everyone wants promotion, and this is especially true of your clients.

Find out who I can provide additional value to

If I’m going to promote them, I ask that they do the same in return.

Return to the same themes that you used when originally asking for referrals, but use your newly delivered project as leverage. Ask your client to think about one or two organizations they know that they think could get a lot of value from you, and ask your client to introduce you and the case study you put together to the prospect.

Don’t be afraid to occasionally nag your newly satisfied clients for referrals. After all, you want to capitalize on the freshness of their newfound success, and help them prove to the world that they make the right choice.

It’s a bit like how every new iPhone 6 owner will be flashing around their new gadget for the next few days 🙂