Meeting prospective clients

May 31, 2011

Hi all,

In the future I will be looking to approach other businesses for freelance course development opportunities and would consequently need to meet with prospective clients.

I wondered if anyone had any tips in regards to the initial meeting with the client. For example; main points to discuss (how much work involved, type of course, interactivity and engagement), showing a portfolio, discussing costs, what I should be coming away knowing and what shouldn't be discussed at this early stage....

How and what is the best way to determine exactly what the client is looking for so I can come away with a clear picture?  If anyone can share their own experiences and strategies it would really help....

Thanks x

4 Replies
Bruce Graham


Before answering the question, a few of my own if I may...

1> Are these people suspects, or prospects?

2> How much contact have you already had prior to the visit?

3> Are you depending on people approaching you, or are you basing the visits on the outcome of cold-calling?

The "Initial visit" can be a very long way down the sales funnel, so your visit could be anything from showing portfolio to discussing specific deployment plans.

On the other hand...the portfolio may be online already, in which case you do not need to worry about it.

On the other remaining hand, why do you need to visit at all - why can't you do it all remotely? The answer to that will help you figure out what you want to achieve.

4> Are you planning to visit the "coach", the "economic advisor", or "the person who does that training stuff", (terms may vary, may be the same person, may not be).

5> Have you developed BUSINESS VALUE statements for each of the players (in hate that term, but let's use it anyway..), in the sales cycle?

Not wishing to make any assumptions here Louise, but what experience, if any, do you have of selling and sales techniques?

For example, the "client" you visit may, (or may not have) ANY ability to sign off on purchasing the work, even though they say they do and have the authority. How are you going to find this out? This is much more important than many of the questions you cite above.

Costs may (or may not) be completely irrelevant at this point.

To answer your question, you (and we), need to understand in much more depth exactly what is going on here.

Are you visiting on the basis of already being shortlisted?


Ah - well...not necessarily. They may just be "making up the numbers" and have already chosen a supplier. You can waste MONTHS here   What questioning techniques have you got to find this out as soon as possible?

Or...they could just be seeing what your price is, so that they could negotiate with someone else.

If I was forced to answer your question, and had to have one (2-part) question that I asked, it would be this...

"What business problem do you have that you are trying to solve, and how do you know it is a problem?"

Everything else (IMHO) flows from that, talking about courses etc. comes (much) later, including whether courses and training are, in fact, relevant and required at all. Sometimes the answer may be "You do not need this, but there's a book I recommend your entire team read".

I would recommend reading, or re-reading some good books on solution or value-based selling, and / or questioning techniques before worrying about the "training" sales strategy.

Just my 2p worth, and hope this post is taken in the (helpful) spirit that is intended.


Louise Ward

Basically I am the course developer and a Project Manager I used to work with has approached me about creating some courses for the company she now works for. She has in the past project managed my course projects in the company I contract to and therefore she already has first hand experience of my previous work and how course development is managed.

However, it is her boss that has asked her to look for a freelance course developer and that's why she's contacted me....she just wants to discuss their requirements and get an idea of costs, I assume, so she can inform her boss.  I of course will not be committing to any costs there and then, I think it's important to see the content and know what type of course they require first.

Selling and experience whatsoever, but this meeting will not exactly be a sales pitch to a stranger who knows nothing about what I do and how I do it.  For every other 'suspected' client, I understand that I would need to take a slightly different approach - but it's this particular meeting that I'm concentrating on right now......

I'm afraid I don't know what a BUSINESS VALUE is (though I'd like to know!). I'm completely new to sales and marketing really, I've been contracted to the same firm for 3 years so have never needed to be an expert in getting my own contracts - though that will change in the near future.....

Kris Talynn

Louise, I think Bruce's comments above are on point and I'm thrilled you've asked the question.   I've not done any of this myself (yet) so I'll be following this discussion thread.  One thing I will say is that in any situation, be careful of the language you use.  Don't fall into the trap of speaking industry jargon.  If your Project Manager understands ID and development, great, but if the owner doesn't, you'll be speaking a foreign language.   

Bruce Graham

Agree Kris - avoid the jargon, and I am also thrilled the question has been asked.

There are (IMHO) too few discussions on the "business" side of being an ID...

There's another good one going on here - worth a trawl.... There's a lot there pertinent to this thread too...

Just a thought before the "2-minute guide to value selling" - you probably do this all the time, whether you have "external" clients or "internal" ones.

So - value selling....

Many ways to express it, but in a nutshell, take the discussions away from price. If your discussions are focused on price, you get into a price-war, and can be beaten on price, and you are better than that....Elevate yourself about the "vendors", work to becoming a colleague or advisor.

Reframe the argument.

What business "pain" are they trying to take away?  What issues keep them awake at night?

What is the impact of the problem to OTHER departments, (and other contacts and sponsors in the organisation...), oh...hang on...that is possibly OTHERS WHO WILL ULTIMATELY BUY YOUR SERVICE.

If you do want to think of price, it is something like "How much is getting rid of this problem worth to you?"  As the problems I identify usually cost companies hundreds of thousands of £/$s, I believe that a fee should reflect a win:win for everyone.

You need to be able to speak the language of business, not learning. What is your expected ROI from this sales training programme? Why are your costs spiralling out of control?, What is your attrition rate? (...and if you know that, and you know it is based on low sales for example you can start to address the real problems, ie. that the salesforce need to know more about the product, before launch. They cannot do it now because clasroom training is too slow and expensive and they only train the team leaders who "forget" to train the staff because they are so busy selling etc etc...OOH!!! I know a solution - eLearning )

As a coincidental example...As I was writing that, I checked my email account. I have a client...They originally wanted me to do 45 minutes voiceover for some eLearning they were creating. I now creeate their eLearning, and they have just asked me to advise them on some of the content. They have heard from their users that xxx is a good idea, and they now want me to explain the best way to do it. This will of course be billed at an hourly rate.I am not a "box-shifter" competing on price, they trust me to advise them well, and enjoy doing so. Everyone benefits, and every course we work on together is a chance to take them further in their understanding of what I can do for them, and their business success. In answering the email, I will talk about business pain and real-world examples. The "eLearning" is just the tool.

The value is that they will have an entire consultancy team, talking the same language, across the World, understanding the same Case Studies, and using the same Templates when they go out on site doiing their billed work. THAT is what I do, THAT is what IDs (IMHO) do - whether you use Articulate or another product is largely irrelevant, (of course you need to explain why you do use AP in business terms to them, and I do...)

There's an example of value selling at work. It's not about price, it's not actually about the Features and technical functionality of "eLearning", it's about how my input and knowledge can maximise their business success, and reduce consultant "hire to bill latency". Yes, it takes time to develop, and yes, you will get some cases where it IS a price-led engagement, but long-term, value-selling is a good aim, and should be part of the "instructional design" experience.

Once we break out of our "learning" shells, and morph into "business focused learning experts", angaging fullly with, and on the same terms as the rest of the business, and the Board, that's when the fun in this job REALLY begins.

Just shout if you need more, or shout at me loudly if you think I'm rubbish and confusing things :)


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