Whether you’re freelancing on your own or working with a larger organization, one thing you’ll need to be able to do if you’re going to succeed as a web designer is land new clients.
The “moment of truth” often feels like it’s toward the end of your pitch, when you wrap up and put the ball in the client’s court to choose whether or not to hire you. But really, the moment of truth is more likely to be toward the very beginning of your relationship with this client. Possibly even in the first seven seconds.
First impressions are (nearly) everything
Research indicates that our most lasting impressions of a new person are made within the first seven seconds of meeting. So while your clients might not make their hiring decisions in those first seconds, it’s entirely likely that they’re already set on the course to hire you—or not hire you.
There are two basic questions we all try to answer when we meet someone new, especially in a business context:
- Is this person trustworthy?
- Is this person competent?
The answer to both of these questions can be communicated effectively simply in the way you begin that initial conversation. You appear competent when you’re professional, unfazed, and ready for the conversation. You’ve got your materials—and your head—ready, and you don’t seem nervous.
Coming across as trustworthy is something a bit more nuanced, but generally you’ll do fine if you’re genuine, approachable, and not too eager (which can come across as pushy, needy, or desperate). You welcome this opportunity and you’re confident you can deliver exactly what the client wants. The client is sniffing out whether or not you’ll make good on your promises—and we’re all familiar with that slimy feeling we get when we’re around someone who’s looking to get something or who doesn’t have the best of intentions.
Amazingly enough, this foundation of competence and trustworthiness is laid in those first few seconds. And here’s a tip from my own arsenal: when I’m speaking with someone in person or over the phone, the first thing I say is “thank you for taking the time to chat today,” or something along those lines. It’s an easy way to start (which can be the scariest part!), and it sets a nice tone.
What about after the first impression?
The goal of your client pitch needs to be answering both of these questions affirmatively. As the pitch continues, your competence is ideally shown through your ideas, portfolio, and preparedness for the conversation—generally speaking, you should come across as professional and entirely capable. And the trust factor grows as you give examples of past successes, and as you build rapport with the prospect.
If you want this prospective client to make a positive decision about you, approach the whole lead-up positively. Their current website may be a disaster, but find positive elements and mention those. Ask them what they like about their current website, and what they like about other websites. Tap into their visions and dreams for the project—where do they see it taking them in the short run, and what amazing thing would they love it to be doing for them in the long run? Paint an exciting picture of what you can offer, both now and in the future. By emphasizing the results you can bring, you’re building an emotional connection—and that’s what you want guiding the decision-makers.
Closing the deal
Some clients will be ready to pull the trigger immediately, but most will need some time. This can work against you, if you let it—the vast majority of people have the tendency to talk themselves out of spending any significant amount of money. The longer the client is out of the positive environment you’ve set up, the more likely they are to go cold. Don’t let this happen without a fight! Establish an action plan before concluding your conversation. Lay out specifically what you’ll do and what the prospective client will do, and try make it happen as quickly as possible.
For example, you might offer to send over a summary of what was discussed during the meeting and any additional samples they’ve requested. Their action could be to acknowledge when these notes are received.
After that, follow up with a brief message thanking them for their time and saying you look forward to working with them. Make sure your contact is easy to find in that last message. Or take it to the next level, and call. Everybody emails, and everybody’s inbox is over-flowing. A phone call could be what sets you apart and reminds the prospective clients just how much they like you. (And a bonus: following up demonstrates that you care and that you follow through—two things that affirm your competence and trustworthiness.)
What are your must-do tips for closing the deal with a new client?