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The "Handling Leads" Lesson is part of the full, Finding Clients as a Freelancer course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul recommends using a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to manage leads. When a customer make contact, they are added to the CRM. Reminders can be set to follow up on conversations.


Transcript from the "Handling Leads" Lesson

>> So here we are, at the very last section of the day, really, the critical one, [LAUGH] right? We've gone to all this effort to build a mailing list, to nurture the relationships with people to hang on, keeping them engaged until they're ready to buy. And the moment finally comes when they email you.

And they say, I've got a project, I've got something I wanna do with you. Now, first thing to say about this is this is gonna be an utterly different type of lead than any lead you have ever had before, because they know you. They've built a relationship with you.

There is a rapport there already. You're not just another supplier. They know you're an expert. You're in a great position. They're gonna be more interested. The client has come to you because they're interested in working with you in particular, and that is a big deal. Secondly, they're more informed, all right?

They have had weeks, months, maybe even years of you informing them about best practices, teaching them about the way you work, teaching them about your stuff. They know what they're gonna get. They know how you can help. They're really well informed. And finally, they're gonna be more open.

The leads will come to you earlier so that decisions won't have already been made. And they're gonna be more open to hearing about your opinion of the best approach, because they're used to getting advice from you. So these are the perfect leads, all right? They're such a pleasure to work with, and people that come to you out of the blue.

So you're gonna get people coming to you. But that last one, that one about them coming to you earlier does create a slight problem. Sometimes they come to you so early, right, that actually, there isn't a formal project in place yet. And so that lead needs to be nurtured and taken all the way through.

So what that means is that we need to get organized with our leads, because a lead is gonna come to you earlier in the process. It may take a lot longer before it becomes a deal that can be closed. And so you need a system to manage that.

You need a CRM, a Customer Relationship Management system. Now, this is normally the kind of thing that big organizations have, right? They have things like Salesforce, and all these big things. I'm not talking about anything like that, because obviously, that's not appropriate for us. But we need a CRM because we need a method of tracking every conversation that we have.

Even if it's not an official request for proposal, and a way of nurturing those conversations all the way through to them being full blown projects, right? So that's why we need them. In terms of what we need that CRM to do, we need to be able to create some deals in it that are tied to individuals in an organization.

Because you may have multiple deals with multiple people within the same organization. You need to be able to assign tasks and reminders to those deals for you to follow it up. You need to be able to add notes to remind you, because it may be a month, two months, six months between conversations.

So you need the ability to add notes of where you're at with those deals. And you also need to be able to see all of those emails that you've ever had about that deal held in a central place. So not a lot then. So what do I use to achieve all of that?

Well, personally, I use a tool called Pipedrive, okay? And Pipedrive is a really powerful tool that allows me to organize all of my different deals, see where they're at, be regularly prompted to follow them up and interact with them. And basically, you can organize it in a couple of ways.

One is that you can organize your deals on how likely they are to come off. So whether they're almost signed, or whether they're just possible, or whatever else. And also, and this is a really useful view for me as an independent consultant, is I can see when they're likely to come off.

So that I can start organizing my cash flow and organize my projects in terms of ensuring that I'm capable of delivering them, because I am just one person. So let's talk a little bit about using your CRM and making it a powerful tool to deal with these inquiries as they come in.

First of all, every person who reaches out to you needs to go into your CRM, even if it's not a project. So every time someone from my mailing lists drops me an email, or anybody else drops me an email, they'll go into my CRM. Secondly, I will follow up on every conversation, even if it's just a question.

So if somebody's dropped me an email say, in your last group email, you wrote about so and so, and so and so, I've got a question about it, can you help me, and I reply, right? That's not the end of the conversation, as far as I'm concerned. I will set a task to in a week, a month whatever I feel is appropriate to drop them a follow up and say did that advice help?

How did it go? What turned out? Because often it's a question about, well, at my company, we've got this issue at the moment, right? So you follow up and say so how did that go? Did it help? So follow up questions. But probably the most important use of your CRM is to basically do something that my dad taught me.

My dad works in sales, or did work in sales. And he gave me a piece of advice when I first started my business, which has been absolutely invaluable through my career, which is to pursue every lead to destruction. So what he meant by that is follow up every project, every inquiry until they say no, we don't wanna work with you, right?

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when they get an inquiry is they respond to it, and then don't follow it up. Instead, you need a way of consistently following up with somebody until they eventually say no, right? So how do I go about doing that, and how do I use my CRM for that?

Well basically, let's say I've got an inquiry through, and I write a reply. A week later, I will get a reminder in Pipedrive, my CRM, to follow them up. So I'll drop them a follow up and say do you have any questions about what I said? How's it going?

If I don't hear back from them, in two weeks, I'll drop them another email and go, I've just realized I never heard back from you, is everything all right? Are there any questions I can answer? I'm here to help. If I still don't hear back from them after four weeks, I'll drop them another email going, whatever happened to that conversation we were having, right?

If I don't hear from them after 4 weeks, they'll get an email after 8, and then 16, and so on, forever and ever and ever and ever, right, until they say no. And you might think, wow, Paul, that's a bit hardcore. But it's paid off, because I've got a reason to keep going back to them.

Now, oftentimes, they come back to me, obviously. Very rarely do I get beyond about eight weeks before somebody drops me a line. And then they'll say something like, we're not quite there yet, or this has got delayed to the next quarter, or whatever. And I say absolutely fine, completely understand, these things take time.

I'll drop you an email next quarter, and so I add a reminder in to do that. So every email has to be carefully followed up. And you might think, well, are you banging against a closed door? Are you wasting your time? No, so often, these emails turn into something eventually, so often.

And I often get emails back going you know what, Paul, I'm really grateful you kept pursuing this. It kept getting pushed down my list, and I never got around to it, but your emails reminded me, right? So don't be afraid, very rarely do you annoy people. And I often adopt a very apologetic tone in them as well.

I'll say look, I don't wanna annoy you, but I don't wanna seem disinterested either. And it is about showing genuine interest in their project and what they're trying to do. Give them permission to tell you to stop. Say look, if I'm annoying you, just drop me an email, let me know.

I don't wanna annoy you. But I don't wanna give up, because this looks like a really interesting project, and show an interest. Okay, so there's a bit about how I use my CRM. Let's talk a little bit about how to engage with a new lead when they first contact you.

So somebody dropped you an email says I got this project that we're thinking about doing. Is this the kind of thing that you might be able to help with? I often get emails like, do you do this kind of thing? Because I've never come out explicitly and said these are the services I offer, but they still contact me anyway.

So first of all, I'll arrange a call as soon as possible. Speaking to somebody over Zoom instantly builds a relationship that you just cannot build in the same way via email. So get them on a Zoom call, get them talking. I use a tool called Calendarly to let them book a meeting in themselves without that endless backwards and forwards over trying to arrange your time.

Second, I try and understand their challenge. And on that call, I will help them in any way I can, right? So I'll let them pick my brain, I'll give them all the advice I can. I don't hold back anything. And some people do abuse that. Occasionally I get people that will basically ask for a call, have a load of advice, getting hours free consultancy from me, and I never hear from them again, right?

But they're the minority, most people are pretty good. They don't like to abuse your time, and so I will give them as much advice as I can. I'm there to help. If they hire me, that's a bonus. They almost always do. Then I will actually on that call discuss budget, right?

And the reason I discuss that is because I can very much tailor what I provide based on the budget they've got available. So I ask the client if they've got any budgetary constraints. If they say they don't, that's normally a lie. Not necessarily a conscious lie, it's just it's their way of saying I haven't thought about budget.

But in truth, they've got constraints. So what I do is I start throwing around some numbers and gauge their reaction. So they'll say, we don't have a budget. And I say, so if I came back with a million and a half project, you're happy with that? No [SOUND], 50,000?

No, we could probably do 50,000. What about 100,000? [SOUND] And so you're beginning to kinda narrow it down and just have a frank conversation about it. And the way I do is I say it's a bit like buying a house, right? The first thing an estate agent is gonna ask you, or real estate, or whatever you call them, is how much can you afford to spend?

Because even if you say you want a three bedroom house that's detached in a nice area, well, okay, then. But the price could still will vary wildly depending on what other facilities it's got, what condition it's in, etc. So without a budget, you've got no framework within which to work to suggest a good solution.

So I always discuss budget up front. The other thing I'd say is don't be afraid to challenge in these conversations. If a client comes to you saying they want a mobile app, and you think that's a terrible idea, tell them it's. Well, don't tell them it's a terrible idea.

But say, well, have you considered doing this instead? If you disagree with their suggestions, it's okay to say so. Be a peer and an advisor, not a supplier, right? And the reason you can get away with that is because you've been their peer and advisor for weeks, or months, or years, as they've read your stuff, all right?

They want you to come up with ideas. They're expecting the same from you that they've been reading. So that's how I go about engaging with leads as they come in.

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