When a Good Plan Goes Wrong …

It’s Maureen Lauder again, back to talk about establishing professional relationships with your clients – even if you’ve never had a paid copywriting gig.

So far this week, we’ve talked about how to boost your confidence in your skills and how to project authority.

Today, I’m going to share a few tips on sounding confident and professional during a client inquiry.

My first semester of teaching, I worried a lot about being asked a question I couldn’t answer. I solved the problem (I thought) by preparing the heck out of every class. I drafted every bit of the class discussion – the questions I would ask, the answers I expected to get, and the follow-up questions I would pose.

Can you spot the flaw in my plan?

You got it – the students never gave the answers I was expecting. And then I would get flustered. Even worse, I was so busy trying to get someone to provide the “right” answer that I wasn’t listening to my students.

Finally my advisor told me, in no uncertain terms, that I had to loosen up. So I changed up my methods. Instead of micromanaging the conversation, I trusted that I would be able to direct the discussion as it unfolded.

And you know what? It worked. I got comfortable thinking on my feet, and our discussions improved mightily. Even better, I was actually listening to my students – so we were having a real conversation.

Now, I didn’t stop preparing completely. I always knew where I wanted the conversation to end up. But I stopped trying to dictate how we got there.

You might have the same urge to over-prepare for a client phone call. But when you’ve already had a conversation in your head, it’s impossible to hear what the client is really saying.

Instead, you need to prepare enough to sound polished and confident – but not so much that you can’t react to an unexpected turn in the conversation.

So today, I want you to practice being spontaneous. (Sounds like an oxymoron, right? But it can be done!)

  1. Outline a very general script you might use to respond to a client inquiry.

    Consider: What information do you need right now about the client and the job? What does the client need to know about you and your process? What is the next step?

    Keep your “script” very broad – think in terms of major ideas, rather than specific lines or phrases.

  2. Get someone to role-play a client phone call with you.

    Practice eliciting the information you need, suggesting additional services, closing the sale, and responding to unexpected questions.

To sound polished and professional, you don’t need to know exactly what to say. But you do need to feel confident that, when you hang up, you’ll have the information you need and your client will have what he or she needs.

The more you do this, the more comfortable you’ll get. And a few rounds with a role-playing buddy is the perfect, low-stakes way to get started.

Pop on down to the comments and let me know how your role-play goes. What insight did this process bring you?

I’ll see you back here tomorrow with some more tips for great client conversations!

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Published: August 6, 2014

2 Responses to “When a Good Plan Goes Wrong…”

  1. If one develops a niche market, based on prior life experience, much of this anxiety will likely go away.

    Guest (Nora King)August 6, 2014 at 2:15 pm

  2. Maureen,

    Just setup my very first meeting with a non profit group on my area. I prepared by outlining my major points (with details in mind)of discussion and then let the client take the conversation from those points. The outcome was better any anticipated and they are eager to work with me on improving their overall communications.

    I agree with you totally, sometimes we stress out and over prepare, when we just need to relax and enjoy the conversation. Great job!

    Guest (Barney Atkinson)August 6, 2014 at 5:31 pm

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