I’ve never loved filling out forms. I associate forms with medical offices, government bureaucracy, DMV lines, and mortgage applications. In other words, the kinds of situations where you ask yourself, “Is this really worse than a root canal?”
When I’ve worked with other consultants as a client, I’m often faced with an intake form. More questions! I’d feel the familiar knot of dread: “Do I really have to do this?”
But to my surprise, when I worked with the best consultants, I actually enjoyed completing those firms. They asked me questions that forced me to think: what did I want a perfect day to look like? They insisted I look at the numbers.
In fact, by the time I arrived for my first appointment, I felt I’d already made progress.
That’s when I had an aha moment. Forms for consulting, copywriting, and coaching weren’t the same as the DMV forms. They weren’t just designed to get cookie-cutter information so we could be filed away in little slots.
These forms were designed to help the client and, not incidentally, support the consultant’s marketing.
Almost everyone asked a few core questions, like, “What’s your 3-year vision for your business?”
The really good consultants added original questions. They didn’t ask, “If your business were an animal, what would it be?” They asked, “If your business were a family member, what would that look like?” Or, “If you could change the world in just one way, what would that look like?”
So I began adding forms to my own business — not just at the beginning of the relationship, but at key encounters with the client. And I began to realize that forms need to be planned strategically, in line with the client’s goals and the consultant’s business objectives.
Here are 5 ways you can use forms to add more clients and build relationships.
(1) Reach targeted prospects (and avoid the tire-kickers).
When you offer free “get acquainted” calls, you can end up talking to people who will eat away your time and never buy anything. You’re not helping them either. They could be using their time more profitably.
Form: Create a form that identifies the client’s main concerns, so you can see if you’re likely to help them.
When: Before a complimentary get-acquainted call or meeting.
Purpose: This form helps you assess whether the client will be a good fit for your services. Additionally, a prospect who takes time to complete the form carefully will most likely be an action-taker who’s serious about working with you.
When designed well, this form also helps prospects realize what they’re struggling with and how they can use your help. You get the wheels turning so they’re more receptive to your solutions.
(2) Manage expectations.
The best way to get satisfied clients is to meet their expectations — which means making sure you communicate goals that will be realistic to your audience members, given where they’re coming from.
When you promote your offer, you promise specific outcomes to your clients. But no matter how clearly you state your promises, you risk being misunderstood. When I was a college professor, I would always cringe when I’d see my students’ notes: they bore little resemblance to what I’d said during the lecture.
Form: Create a form to find out what your client really expects.
When: After they’ve indicated an intention, but before they’ve paid.
Purpose: To increase the likelihood that your relationship will be positive, profitable, and mutually beneficial. You can…
…get a sense of their motivation. Will they be willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work?
…dig a little more into their backstory. Have they worked with other professionals? What results did they get? Someone who’s worked with half a dozen coaches and gotten nowhere might be uncoachable, might be choosing unwisely or might indeed have a problem that you can solve, where others couldn’t.
… sense where your program fits into their priorities. A client who’s cash-strapped might be too distracted by financial needs to take risks. Conversely, a client who signs up a week before going on vacation won’t be able to take action right away- and might be a very different person when he returns.
(3) Begin to build relationships before the first call.
Get clients to embark on their journey before they call. You’ll get a head start on commitment and hit the ground running.
Form: Create a form that will lay a foundation for your first work session together.
When: After the client has committed with a payment and agreement, but before the first session.
Purpose: Get the client involved in your process so you’ll have a productive session that will leave the client satisfied. Clients often like to answer questions about their own or their business’s life history.
By now, you know something about the client and why they’ve hired you. You can tailor your form to help them start on the next step. Try questions like, “What have you tried before?” Or, “What have you identified as your biggest obstacle?” And of course, you can ask about expectations for each session: “What would make you say, ‘This was a very helpful session.’”
(4) Help your clients work through a particularly knotty problem.
One of the best ways you help clients is providing a framework or structure for them to think through a difficult challenge.
Form: Create a form that walks your client through a process or system — a form that takes them from Point A to Point B and then on to Point C. For example, you might have a “vision process form.” Some business coaches have goal setting forms, business plan templates and other “how to” forms.
When: Before any consultation, especially if you’re working with clients in a series of sessions over time. You might also use this form as a follow-up after the session with a bonus call to discuss their thoughts.
Purpose: Most sessions come to a stop after 60 or 90 minutes, max. You can make better use of the time when you don’t have to explain something over and over again. Your client moves faster toward her goals and feels more satisfied.
(5) Manage the client relationship.
Many coaches and consultants ask clients to complete forms before and after each session. Before the session, you learn what the client expects — an updated version of the client expectations form they completed before signing up. Afterward, you get a record of the client’s reaction to the session.
Form: Use a very brief form that clients can complete quickly, so they’ll be motivated to do it. Before the call, you might ask for a single question or topic that’s their priority. After the session, you could have a multiple choice form, asking about the client’s satisfaction.
When: Some consultants and coaches use these forms after every single call.
Purpose: To get reinforcement when things go well and become aware when your relationship is about to go off the rails. Your client might use the “after” form to bring up topics for future sessions.
Some business owners go one step further with an Exit Questionnaire.
They for comments as clients leave the relationship at the end of the agreed time you spent together. This questionnaire will be helpful to generate testimonials, if the client was happy and if clients are comfortable talking about your service (in contrast to, say, psychotherapy or certain types of career coaching).
These days, your forms aren’t just “fill-in-the-blanks.”
They’re a critical part of your marketing, content strategy, relationship management, and even referral generation. Apart from moving the relationship forward, forms will help clients appreciate the benefits you deliver. They’ll be more likely to refer friends and colleagues, if they’re genuinely happy.
I work with small businesses, entrepreneurs and independent professionals who want to create authority content professional services, finance, and tech.
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Originally published at https://cathygoodwin.com on June 10, 2020.