Start with Confidence
Successful client communication begins with confidence in your skills as a writer. The rest is process.
As a writer, you know that feeling of being in the zone. Everything else falls away. You don't hear your family watching TV. You don't hear street noise. Or the two-stroke engine buzzing away in the neighbor's yard. You've done the research, created the outline, and know where you are in the process. You are in it and the writing flows.
It doesn't matter if you are writing about a plumbing business or well into Act II of a ghostwritten thriller. You know your writing strengths and get on with the task.
Remember that feeling when you talk to prospective clients. You know you can write, bring your client along in conversation. This confidence in your professional skills is the basis for great client conversations.
I received an email message the other day with a headline that read something like “How to make it through the dreaded client meeting.” My response–What! Just let me talk to them. It was the prompt for this article. There must be writers who are uncomfortable with client conversation.
If you are writing for the web, you know how well natural language works. Use it in your client conversations.
Prepare for the First Client Conversation
Be prepared before you hold your first conversation. Ask for pertinent details. When you are writing for the web, you'll want clear information:
- target market
- how the business differentiates itself from competitors
- key personnel – identified and brief background
- URL for current website
- business goals – long and short-term
- anything and everything else you can get about the business
On your side, you want to present a brief outline of how you conduct business.
- current suggestions for project
- what you will do for the client with specifics: how many web pages, novel of 112,000 words, with delivery in three days, nine months, etc.
- what the client can expect from you: questions for details, deadline met
- method of future communications: email, recorded video meetings
- nondisclosure agreement, if needed
- cost of project
- payment terms: retainer deposit, milestone payments, final payment and kill fee
The more specific you are in your requests, the easier it will be for you to create your agreement/contract.
Most importantly for continued communication, have a list of what you expect from your client in return.
- availability – respond when you request further details or information
- frequency of contact – set limits. You don't want 10 emails/phone calls a day just to check in
- timely payment (and what happens if fees are late)
- open and direct communication
Whether you meet face-to-face, on the phone, or in a video chat, when you have an outline of what you need to cover in the conversation, you'll feel prepared. The same way you prepare your written material.
At the meeting use natural speech. Remember how it works in writing, use their syntax and vocabulary as much as possible. This natural speech shows them you understand. Don't use big words. Use words they understand. If you use terminology, be certain to explain the term.
If you picture you and your client walking on the beach at sunset having a friendly chat, you'll be comfortable and so will your client.
Start with a brief, casual and personal conversation.
Kick it off with something that happened to you today. In sales, this is call building rapport.
Hi, Mark. How's your day going? My Airedale emptied the kitchen trash on the floor going after an apple core. That was before coffee. The rest of the day's been uphill from there. How about you? or
I updated my WordPress theme and now I can't get in. I'm waiting for support to get back to me. It could be days. or
Oh, my gosh! Two ambulances just drove up to my neighbor's house.
Make it funny or exciting, but something personal that happened to you today. It doesn't matter what it is, something from your personal life. Caution: personal but not private. In other words, don't talk about spats with your spouse, how you hate your mother-in-law, or any private details. Keep it on the professional level.
Remember to keep it short and then go on to your outline which is now your meeting agenda.
As you work your way through your outline, get agreement on each point. Stop and ask if the client understands. Wait for the answer before going to the next point. If they don't understand, explain the concept in more detail. Ask questions like:
- Does that help?
- Are you OK with that?
- Does that make sense?
Get agreement and continue with your outline.
Once you've made it through the outline, it's time to get commitment.
Your Call to Action
Reassure your client that they have made a smart/wise/efficient/cost-effective decision and then tell them how you will get the agreement/contract to them and how to sign. Once they agree, explain how to send the money to you. If you use a contract tool like Nusii the payment process is included in the contract.
Thank them for their time today, their understanding, and their confidence in your service. Tell them when you will begin work.
End the meeting.
You made it! Take a walk. Have a cup of coffee. Send off the contract.
Get to work.
Zara writes semantic web content and ghostwrites books.
Specializing in the research, planning, and creation of digital content, Zara is responsible for delivering written material for both national and international clients.
If you need help preparing for client meetings, get in touch to set up a consultation.
503 468 7008