Projects that start well end well. So, it’s crucial for anyone who does project-based work – marketers, designers, contractors, service professionals of all kinds – to ask the right questions during the initial sales process.

1. Where does it hurt?

Current clients and new prospects often come to us with an idea of what they need. This is a great starting point but it’s our responsibility to dig deeper during the sales process. Like a doctor who pokes around asking where it hurts, you need to find your prospect’s real pain.

Don’t stop poking and prodding until you hear real pain. This sounds cruel, but you’re really saving your clients the frustration of paying for something they don’t need and speeding their progress toward a truly satisfying solution. Plus, when you know the real pain you can make decisions that will make it “all better” instead of decisions that just satisfy a brief.

Listen for real pain statements like these during the sales process:
“The layout of my kitchen is so closed off it keeps me from spending time with my family.”
“Our apartment is so tiny that I get anxious whenever I walk through the door.”
“Our logo is so outdated that potential customers don’t take us seriously.”

Sales process questions, pain in sales, doctor, Kettle Fire Creative

“It looks like you’re suffering from a deficiency in brand standards.”

2. Who besides you?

No one wants to get half-way through a project only to be introduced to a new player whose opinion is suddenly of utter importance. Often the person who initially called you isn’t the only decision maker. During the sales process, ask your prospect, “Who besides you will be involved? Whose opinion matters in the decision-making?”

Does a spouse need to sign off on the final product? Are there board members who get a say? How many people are going to be weighing in on the project? Know who all you’re dealing with in the beginning and you’ll save yourself headaches in the end.

Sales process questions, decision makers in sales, Kettle Fire Creative

Raise your hand if you get a say in the company’s new logo design!

3. How soon?

Vague timelines during the sales process will lead to misunderstandings and missed expectations during the project. Ask your clients when the project must be complete and be honest about whether or not their expectations are reasonable!

Don’t over-estimate your speed. Take a cue from pizza parlors and Disneyland. Both reportedly over-quote their wait times so customers are always pleasantly surprised.

Sales process questions, budget in sales, timeline in sales, pizza, Kettle Fire Creative

Projects delivered in less than six months or they’re on the house!

4. How much?

A lot of people have been conditioned not to share their budget with vendors or contractors. While we understand where the hesitance comes from, we’d like to change this attitude. Reputable business people don’t jack up prices to hit a client’s max budget! Instead we use budgets as guidelines to help clients prioritize.

For those uncomfortable sharing a budget, aim for a ballpark figure:

Are you thinking closer to $5,000 or $15,000?

When prospects don’t know what they should budget, compare to something relatable:

Are we going for the Honda or the Mercedes?

Sales process questions, luxury cars, Kettle Fire Creative

“I’m looking for a mid-size brand that will fit the whole family.”

5. What am I afraid they’ll ask?

Technically this is a question you should ask yourself, but it’s just as critical to your sales process as the budget. Every field has its stumbling blocks. You may be secretly hoping your prospect doesn’t bring up HOA fees, printing costs, taxes, labor, or whatever. But you can bet the issues that have blown sales in the past will poke their ugly heads out again.

Bring up common issues during the initial sales process instead of trying to hide them! If you don’t, your prospect will just think of those issues later and may second-guess working with you. Be proactive and professional. It’ll show your clients that you have their best interests at heart and will alleviate your sales anxieties.

Sales process questions, hiding cat, Kettle Fire Creative

Please don’t bring up our team size. Please don’t bring it up.

How do you make sure a project starts and ends well? What details are crucial to your sales process? Share in the comments.

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