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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot franglix's Avatar
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    Heaven? Confused but willing Clients

    Hello all,

    I have a little opportunity over here, to allow me to be on the list of recommended service providers for the local chamber of commerce. As a way of opening that door wider, I have made an offer of up to two-hours of free consultation for companies that have already decided that they want a web site, but have no idea where they begin (I heard that these defined as potentially 'pesky clients').

    OK sure, I can spend my time focussed on half-disguising the fact that I am talking about the benefits of my services (and thus selling), but that is way too early for the uninitiated, and may possibly be seen as not helpful, even unethical and in the medium term may dry up my source of opportunity tip-offs from the chamber of commerce. I also know that selling before educating a first-timer can waste everyone's time. Anyway that aside, for me who enjoys communicating how I work, it represents a chance to offer potential clients the space to know what they need to prepare, so that when they are ready they can happily return, decisive and able. Everything is more 'efficient' in the long run.

    To get the prospect from 'confused and ignorant ' to 'clear and decisive', I have come up with something like the following:
    A. Assess knowledge and educate
    1. Figure out what they actually know about Web and Internet terms (browser, URL, static - dynamic pages, server - client concept, designer - developer etc.?)
    2. Educate about web pages, website and structure behind,
    3. Discuss their knowledge of search engines (introduce early).

    B. Content
    1. Ask about ideal the client - what their real-world sales arguments would be to this client (value added). Listen.
    2. Ask about other sorts of client and what they could do for other clients, researching and browsing, and not so decisive.
    3. What other info is essential for them to present, other things they have thought their site could do (data-base necessity, on-line payments - perhaps have list prepared to tick off options). Mention again about designer + developer difference to gently introduce notions of costs.
    4. Talk about a project developing, and see if it can be broken down into phases.
    5. Educate about differences in writing between real world brochure and web page.
    6. Give them a template to draw up plan, and coach then in respect of what content needs to be prepared - help locate resources to help them prepare.
    7. Check if there is anything that gets in the way of this happening.

    C. Readiness - Getting clients to step forward, filter out, and decide on their web project professional.
    1. Get them to the point where they know they are prepared, and ready to move forward.
    2. Help them locate the resources - other competitors etc.. display grounded self-confidence
    3. Offer them key questions (?) to help them also assess whether a particular service provider is up to their job - i.e. a true web professional, SEO profile.

    What do you think? Any gaps been missed or subtle issues been 'forgotten'?
    Thanks in advance,
    Paul.

  2. #2
    SitePoint Zealot franglix's Avatar
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    Guess I write too much, or it could be the title. It is appears a good opportunity with the CoC, as France is no meritocracy; you have to get sweet with the 'in' crowd.

    Other people I have referred to have mentioned the importance of leaving a reminder of my details (for when the client is ready), on the materials the potential client writes on, or organises their notes in.

    Anyway it was useful to gather and share my thoughts. I hope my sharing will be useful to someone else in a similar situation.

  3. #3
    King of Paralysis by Analysis bronze trophy
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    IMHO 2 hours of free consulting is a hell of a lot of wasted (non-billable) time.

    What happens when you start getting 5-10 of these tire kickers come by a week for the freebie?

  4. #4
    SitePoint Zealot franglix's Avatar
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    Well it may appear like I am walking into a purgatory state. Think of it as more of a marketing gesture, than a business plan to get in the good books of the local business community, which is difficult (I could write an article on the twists and turns that have to be taken to get into the economy... but that's not for here).

    I just see that played just right - with CoC and prospect - I can get in early on the decision process with business people that regularly step forward and identify themselves as needing a website. I forgot to mention, they will have already taken a 2 hour course on the basics of getting their business on-line. I took that same introduction to the Web course on Monday, out of curiosity and I sat with 7 people who wanted to get a first time website - evidently a number needed to define their plans more clearly on a one-to-one basis.

    What then encouraged me to stick my neck out and offer this, was that as well as getting me onto the official supplier list, the local CoC quoted (on the course) average web design prices virtually identical to what I have come up with independently and over time. Therefore I think I can do business with them.

    I know about un-billable time being a loss, however I aim to get a lot of the check lists and repeat issues prepared and downloadable, on line to cut down on the consultation time. Pesky clients are not a waste of time but I believe an opportunity if handled intelligently and spoken to directly. Anyway all will be reviewed regularly as to the wisdom.

    You have clearly tried this out then tke71709. What were the big pitfalls about free-consultations you couldn't surmount then?

  5. #5
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    I was briefly a recommended service provider for my local Chamber of Commerce. I thought it would be a world of ultra 'hot' leads and easy money-on-a-plate, but I found the complete opposite. Most of the people I was introduced to were either incredibly jaded or just complete time wasting dreamers. Add to that my local CoC were quite strict about what kind of fees they deemed 'acceptable' (i.e. their recommended budgets to these prospect were at least 60% less than what most decent developers would charge in my locality).

    Plus it involved absolutely endless red tape, adhering to some pretty one sided terms of business and an unbelievable amount of preliminary consulting from my end to satisfy the expectations of these prospects, thanks in the majority to the initial training course they had undertaken courtesy of the chamber, which filled them with all sorts of unrealistic, crackpot ideas.

    Wasn't for me so I bailed, but if you are suitably placed from a budget perspective and willing to accept sifting through a whole load of crummy timewasters and red tape for the odd great prospect, you can make it work for you and it can be a good source of 'on-your-plate' revenue with little or no marketing costs.

    But two hours free consulting is rather generous IMO, especially if you end up visiting them as this will realistically mean most of your day gone with travelling and prep. I would suggest you instead conduct an initial 30 minute consultation on the phone to assess who you are dealing with and if they sounds truly 'hot' then arrange for a 1 hour meeting at your offices. Once this meeting is done, you can offer them further assistance at your standard hourly rate, or simply try to close the deal on the project there and then.

    I'm not a big fan of the whole 'get them early, educate them, and they will come back to you' theory - of course there's no denying it can work, but it's a real low probability game that IMO wastes far too much time for the small % who do take the bait. Better to go for a high probability model with a strict and quick disqualification process - this way you only meet with the virtually guaranteed 'wins' - you save time, money and certainly get less jaded, bu obviously accept that the odd one may slip through. I'm not saying you can't spend some time with people who are in the early stages of a buying process, but this is what they have phones and email for - I'm always weary of prospects who expect me to go gallivanting around the city for two hour meetings just because they may have a web site on the cards and I may be someone they may consider for this possible project.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Zealot franglix's Avatar
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    Shadowbox, I hear your voice of experience, and I will heed your warnings - they are a plenty. I guess I am in that wide-eyed and naive state of hopefulness, now that I seem to have found my entry point into the local business community (it has been a while). ...and yes I am still drawing up new categories of time-waster who thinks that just having a 'www' is all that matters.

    With respect to how I approach each prospect, your points have been noted. I should stress to the CoC person that they have to work with me as a sort of filter. I generally do well face-to-face, less on the phone, as I would have to turn my English accent into some positive advantage. Perhaps if I persuade the CoC person that my single stripe on Sitepoint makes me the person to refer to in French-speaking business community might be the ticket until you all take French classes. So I await your lists of supporting argument/points for the undeniable advantages that my membership here offers

    As far as going forward. I sent out a Ten-point proposal in an email to the CoC person at the end of business today, and I will ride whatever significant wave presents itself. If my near-future learning curve is of interest to anyone (or just that Shadowbox's experience is confirmed), I will report back in.
    Last edited by franglix; Nov 21, 2007 at 12:39. Reason: Clarity of point

  7. #7
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy
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    Best of luck - it could be a great opportunity, especially if you go in with eyes wide open and are willing to play the red-tape game. It cant hurt too much to give it a go - if it doesn't work out, you can always come back here and whinge about it like I do .

  8. #8
    SitePoint Zealot franglix's Avatar
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    Well if it all goes belly up and I become a whinger (you're a pommie like me then?), I hope to be as informative as you have managed. Thanks for the tips.

  9. #9
    Life is short. Be happy today! silver trophybronze trophy Sagewing's Avatar
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    Sounds like a nightmare - a 'confused but willing client' is not a good client.
    The fewer our wants, the nearer we resemble the gods. Socrates

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  10. #10
    SitePoint Zealot franglix's Avatar
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    The bets are now 3 to 1 against them being heavenly for me. Will keep the running commentary as up-to-date as I can. ...and they're at the gate!

  11. #11
    SitePoint Evangelist dev_cw's Avatar
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    Personally I find these sort of clients a nightmare. They require tons of hand holding and will accept advise from everyone (including the neighbors dog) about the project and will constantly be changing their minds and saying stuff like "the person I spoke with in the elevator thought I should have <insert useless feature here>, can you add one to the site".

    The more unaware the client is the more effort it will be to keep things on track. Educating clients can work at times but the results will depend greatly on the willingness and ability to learn, which in most cases is not to great.

    On the other hand an unaware client is better than one who THINKS he knows everything about the web.

    Good luck, and plenty of patience.
    "You can just hang outside in the sun all day tossing a ball around...
    Or you can sit at your computer and do something that matters."
    - Cartman

  12. #12
    SitePoint Zealot franglix's Avatar
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    Thanks dev_cw... that makes 4 to 1 against, and the clients have yet to turn up at the paddock!

    (BTW - You are spot on about the neighbour's dog - I wonder if this is the cousin of a French poodle I bumped into working in an elevator (just a temporary seasonal job), who fancied himself as a designer because he designed an entirely Flash-based site last Monday morning. Apparently his grandmother's butcher likes it because of the vermilion.)

    Barking and joking aside, the very useful bit of what you mention is "the results will depend greatly on the willingness and ability to learn". I can set this as a criteria, perhaps set a simple threshold requirement. I think it could work with the CoC, or at least it will help me keep a useful dialogue going with them. They are well aware of how far they are behind their neighbours and the fact that 60&#37; of companies in this region are not on the web. They also quote average prices for sites which are pretty much spot on for my rates.

    It is great that you guys are helping me to reflect on this. Thanks.

  13. #13
    phpLD Fanatic bronze trophy dvduval's Avatar
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    My strategy often involves finding the minimum necessary to go ahead and get started with the work. I identify early on what they expect they could spend per month, and then I suggest we go ahead and get started with the initial steps (and I get a deposit). I don't like to spend a lot of time consulting without a commitment, and I sometimes even charge for consulting in certain cases.

  14. #14
    SitePoint Zealot franglix's Avatar
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    Dvduval I take your point about what is needed to go ahead and the issue of taking a step wise approach phased approach. The bit that keeps moving them forward and up and out of the confused and unsure to the clear and decisive state of mind.

    In fact, to share how the bones of the above list that went off, I distilled it down to three headline objectives (and 3 or so subjects):
    1. Appraisal of the level of author's knowledge - Internet, Web Sites, Web References. Fill in gaps.
    2. Definition and clarification of the actual needs - client profiles + sales process, site functions required/wanted, and resources (internal especially) available.
    3. The state of readiness to move forward - Defined project milestones, the confidence to hire a professional, and the return to CoC goals.


    Unfortunately, as there are other 'recommended' providers on the list, and I was the new kid on the block, so I couldn't expect the CoC to hand me clients for free ahead of them. So your idea of payment and closure of the deal is (as described earlier) not an option. Plus, I believe that closing the deal too early (before the client is not really clear) can also create more problems that is solved, and make the time spent for everyone less profitable.


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