The Best Way to Remove the Manual Choke Point in a Client Consultation

Adding New Clients

Am I wasting my time…are you wasting yours…

I don’t know about you, but I make my share of mistakes.  I laugh at all the mistakes I’ve made in the past, and make it a point to advocate for a “fail fast” approach for building businesses.

But…

When you’re running a business there are so many things that are competing for your time.  When a consultation leads to the majority of you new clients, there really can’t be too many mistakes.

Although there are always repetitive tasks that need to be done every day, this basic process for taking a prospective client through that initial screening usually isn’t one of them.  And, if we’re being honest, it’s not what makes the most money for your business either.

So, why are some businesses able to focus their failures on growth activity (or revenue generation), and limit the mistakes that become “time leeches” to the business?  Why do some businesses keep a full calendar of clients ready to talk to the principle, and others double book, loose clients, or qualify those that really aren’t?

These aren’t the things that impact your business in a positive way.  They are absolutely critical, but a client screening process doesn’t create revenue for your business.

The Time Siphon We ALL Face

Would you want to take home a million dollars over the next year?  (I’m pretty certain that the answer is yes, so we’ll just move on).

How many hours do you work a year?  40 hours X 52 weeks = 2080.  You’re an entrepreneur, so you probably work more than that, but 2080 will work for our purposes.

Now, take 1,000,000 and divide it by 2080.  That’s 480, with a little rounding.  Obviously, I don’t know if your business allows you to make a million dollars, but WHEN you’re able to make 1 million dollars from your business every hour you work is worth $480 to you and your family.

So, as you look at the time you spend every day working on your business, the question that needs to be asked is…
Is the task you are working on worth $480.00 per hour?

If not, then I would highly recommend that you either delegate or outsource that activity.
How much time would you be able to commit to revenue generating activity if if you began to eliminate the bottlenecks and mistakes that are repetitive in your business?

Here’s how can you apply that to booking a consultation?

A Real Example and a Solution to the Client Consultation Screening

Would you like to get time and focus back on your activities, and not worry about the coordination issues for every consultation?

An extremely common scenario for small businesses, law firms, consultants and coaches is to book clients using a consultation.  I use this process myself in my consulting practice, as well as the automation I’m going to describe below.

The consultation is probably the most common closing technique.  First because it’s effective, and second because it’s effective!

However, it’s also usually a real bottleneck and labor intensive process in the business, and an area that leads to a lot of frustration, confusion, double booking, and issues with expectations.

Here’s the basic customer journey for a consultive close:

  • Customer sees presentation/webinar/video/blog post/website/ad
  • Customer returns email or calls and wants to talk to business principle
  • Customer is provided some background paperwork to ensure consultation is productive
  • Customer returns background information.
  • Appointment is booked, calendar is blocked
  • Consultation is held, either by phone or in-person.

Keep the System as Simple as Possible

When you look at that customer journey, the idea is to put simple processes in place, and use automation to remove the need for you personally to be involved in every step.

Recently, I had a client approach me with this very problem.  They were using a consultation close, and the person responsible for ensuring the steps were completed make a mistake and double booked a client into the same time slot.

This had the potential to wipe out a significant revenue event, and if not for the heroic efforts probably would have.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time this happened, and the frustration was obvious.  A change was needed.

Here’s how we solved the problem, and the framework we put into place to keep the same problem from recurring.

Document the Problems, and Identify a Proposed Solution

First thing that needs to be clear is that this isn’t an effort, talent, or personnel issue.  This is simply the overwhelm of day-to-day tasking catching up with a manual and often mental process.

And, this can easily be fixed…never to return again…

I sat down with the person coordinating the calendar, and had them tell me about what we happening.

We came up with 3 issues that kept recurring:

  • Worked too much “off the cuff”, and needed to implement more structure on the initial call.
  • Putting a deadline on the background information packet being returned
  • Appointment Confirmation was being done manually, which allowed steps in the process to be skipped.

Here’s how we solved the problem…

Build a Script for the Initial Conversation

Like most initial calls, there are some basic messages that need to be discussed with a prospect, and there is a sequence to the communication to make it optimal.

If you have more than one person in the office, then you likely have more than one message being delivered to your clients and it’s easy to miss out on revenue that your business could have captured.

In this case, we wrote the outline of a script to allow the person to talk to every client specifically, but to give the structure we wanted to ensure all parts of the message were delivered.

It looked something like this:

  1. Greetings and introduction
  2. Thanks for calling [Identify their current situation] and contrast it to the [Primary Benefit] we provide.
  3. Listen to their story.  Identify questions, concerns, and objections.
  4. Get all their details.
  5. Discuss the purpose behind the offering.  How the service is used to their [benefit].
  6. Explain how [current reality] will no longer meet their [current situation]
  7. Discuss how our service [primary benefit], apply to their [current situation]
  8. Ask for consultation
  9. Explain process and agenda to meet with business principle.

A couple of lessons learned that needed to be built into the automation and the script.

  • First, calendar times are not discussed until paperwork has been completed.  One of the issues that was recurring was there were clients showing up with paperwork not completed.
  • The secondary effect was that a significant amount of the consultation was being spent trying to figure out the background information, rather than trying to solve their problem with the best solution.

We added the following automation to complete the system.

Automated Email Workflow to Support the Process

To put this in place in your business, I provided a basic customer journey above. However, if your Customer Journey is different, here’s a great resource where you can download an Excel worksheet to help you map it out.

The initial conversation is the central piece of this workflow, as it prequalifies the prospect to ensure that they are a good fit for the business.

Click To Download A High Resolution Version

The opportunity to automate the reminder of the contact sequences, and then provide direction to the staff based upon the action of the client is extremely valuable.

Here’s how to put this into action in your business:

Take the time to talk through the process and write it down

Although this process works as documented, you may have differences that you want to use.  Talk through the journey, and make notations on any differences that need to be adjusted.

Go through your process as a prospect

This is a critical step.  When you discuss and diagram a process, it’s amazing how many times the actual deployment or operations does not align.

This is really a “testing” cycle, and you need to perform this step.  Either do it yourself, or have someone who doesn’t know the business go through the process.

It will highlight issues, problems and areas for improvement that you wouldn’t normally see.

Tailor the consultation process according to your business

Every business is unique.  Use the process here as a springboard, and tailor it to your business needs.

You know your business better than anyone, and many times that is a problem.  You’re simply too close to see the issues that are occurring, and you need a little outside perspective.

Get a friend, colleague, business partner, or someone else who’s willing to help you and have them go through the process.  Don’t prepare them in any way, just ask them to come into the business as if they were a client and ask them to write down their impressions at each step.

This “customer insight” is invaluable, and may reveal other areas that you need to address.

Automate with the email marketing system of your choice

The best ideas in the world won’t add any revenue if they’re sitting on the shelf.

In the software industry, we call them “shelf ware”.  These are the things you buy, and they sit on your shelf and never get deployed in your business.

Use the email marketing platform of your choice (I use Active Campaign for all my automated email marketing) to setup the automation that you diagram in the process.

The reduction of hours that you or your team is spending on this process will impact productivity, morale, and maybe even revenue.

I would love to hear how this worked for you.  Simply hit reply and let me know.

Enjoy the journey!

[FREE DOWNLOAD] Customer Journey Excel Template

Use an Excel template to document your Customer’s Journey, and jumpstart your action!
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