Five Pre-Meeting Questions Marcomm Consultants Should Ask
I recently followed a link posted by a respectable LinkedIn Group targeted to my profession that promised to share ‘5 questions to ask your prospect before you THINK of meeting.’ Now I’m not sure what causes Pavlovian responses to titles with numbers in them, but investing a half hour to arm myself with five questions that might get me out of some future unproductive meeting seemed especially worth while. After checking it out, I thought there might be even more benefit to post what was shared.
Rhonda Page, a fellow creative who has spent 25 years in the design and branding business – starting as a designer then progressively mastering client services, brand strategy, and business development – recently launched a consulting practice. Over the last couple of years she has been on the client side of the equation running her significant other’s food business. She has distilled her newfound perspective, fused it with her experience, and packaged it to help other creatives. But I think her advice benefits clients and vendors alike.
She opened her presentation with both barrels aimed at creatives: as wonderful as your portfolios of award-winning work are, clients primarily want to know if you can solve their problems, or if you have solved similar problems for others. Point taken (and apologies if you think there’s too much work on this site).
Rhonda also observed that over her career the client-vendor relationship has morphed from a somewhat adversarial model to more of a partnership. Encouragement followed for vendors to be genuine, focus on making connections, have meaningful conversations, and be helpful to prospects when called regarding a project. She then counseled vendors to remain detached and focus on determining if the parties are well enough aligned to proceed.
The purpose of the questions? Rhonda is all too familiar with her days as a vendor doing loads of research, traveling to meetings, and spending 30-plus hours putting together a proposal only to never hear back from a prospect. Whether the strategy changed, the project was cancelled, or another vendor was chosen, time could have been saved for both parties by asking a few smart questions right up front:
How did this project come about?
Who will have power of approval, and will that person or those people be in the first meeting?
What is your budget?
How serious are you about moving forward with this project?
Who else are you talking to?
This then is the gauntlet. If a prospect makes it through with good answers, the vendor should be comfortable taking the meeting. If not, …
I think Rhonda presented this information from a very good (and wise) place. Life is short. Everyone wants to do good work with people they trust and enjoy. These questions just get them there a whole lot faster.