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Brave questions: how to qualify freelance and consulting prospects

What is qualifying in terms of freelancing and consulting?

As the term suggests, it’s about determining if someone who expresses interest is worthy of your full-bore response.

Cultivating a request for information into an actual paying assignment requires time and effort. Before you take the time to write up a full proposal—or even give a price for a specific assignment—try to make sure they are worth the work.

To qualify effectively, you have to be willing to ask brave questions. This article lists many such brave questions. You may not want to ask all of them, especially if you are new to this, but as you become more experienced, you’ll find yourself asking more questions.

If a contact person proves not to be qualified, that is good. You’ve saved yourself lots of work that will be wasted effort. You’ve avoided getting your hopes up for something that will not pan out. Most important, you’ve freed your time to contact more promising names.

Trying to convert, that is, sell, to people who don’t want your service enough to pay for it or cannot afford it leads to downer moments.

Try this question

Often the most important question is also the most common question asked by brave qualifiers: What is your budget?

They may refuse to give you a dollar figure, but there’s nothing wrong with asking.

If the figure is much different from what you anticipated, delve deeper to figure out why. If they have an understanding of what they want—or if they have done similar projects in the past—they may have a different—and more relevant—idea of the work to be done.

If they stall on giving a figure, perhaps because they think you will inflate your estimate to match, continue on with other questions to clarify if their project is worth your pursuit. Or throw out a ballpark guestimate and see how they react.

More questions

If you are inexperienced with these conversations or a little timid, you may find some of the following questions scary. Start with your comfort zone and work from there in future sales conversations. (Some of these questions may not apply to your work or your prospect.)

Never be so intimidated by these suggestions that you put off talking to prospects and let the work pass you by. Conversing at any level is much better than avoidance.

Now for the questions . . .

What, exactly, do you want done?

How would you know when the project is done if you have hired the right person?

What is the deadline? Why do you want it finished by then?

Are you ready to make the assignment now? Are you ready to pay the initial payment now?

Why are you looking to hire a new freelancer / consultant now?

What results do you expect to see from this work?

What experiences, good or bad, have you had with other freelancers / consultants? How would you like this experience to be different?

How have you done this in the past? Can you share your company’s past work with me, especially work that has been successful?

Will you be working with me on this? Are other experts available within your company to advise me as we proceed?

When will you make the decision?

How are your competitors doing this? Do you have any competitor examples that you can share with me?

What are your competitors doing that you are not but would like to do?

Who makes the decision if we will proceed? Are you the sole decision maker? How can we involve other decision makers?

What concerns wake you up at night? What would help you sleep better?

Prequalification

There is another type of qualification for freelance and consulting prospects that is also important. That is the type of qualification that takes place when you select the targets of your proactive marketing activities.

If you phone candidates one by one—and even more so if you offer to visit them in their offices towards developing a relationship—you want to consider if working with them is a real possibility before you contact them in any way.

Take a preliminary stab at identifying the very best people to contact so you use your time wisely. You may develop your list of whom to contact using criteria such as job title, industry, location (perhaps your country or even your city), size of the company, evidence that they value quality services (perhaps based on a look at their website or how executives present themselves on LinkedIn), professional organizations your potential contacts belong to, etc.

If you have worked with many clients in the past, start developing your list of criteria by looking at the characteristics common to your best clients. If you are newer to freelancing and consulting, take into consideration what you’ve learned from your experience at your last relevant job or look at appropriate LinkedIn groups.

You can even use common sense. For instance, larger companies often are willing to pay higher rates than single-person practices.

As you can easily see, qualifying prospects saves time. What to do with that time? The answer is, of course, more marketing. The more leads you bring in, the more people who will want to work with you.

The more people who want to work with you, the easier it is to turn down less attractive requests for proposals.

Originally posted 7-13-15

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