This is How I Vet my BVFLS Prospects
You Can Do It, Too
How should a BVFLS practitioner first engage a prospective client? In this article, the author discusses how he engages prospects and the fee questions.
It all starts with a phone call and the much-dreaded question: How much would you charge to value ABC Industries, Inc.? I don‚Äôt know ‚Ä¶ would you like me to guess? I mean, how could I possibly know without more details?
For more years than I care to admit, those requests for ballpark fees were gut wrenching … because I believed that if I didn‚Äôt throw out a fee estimate quickly enough, or if I were slower to produce a proposal than my competition, I would miss out on a job.
The turning point came when I put a system in place to vet prospects. And because of my RV life, most of my fee inquiries come via email. I prefer that because I can respond via email, which removes the heartburn of that first in-person call and allows me to activate my two-part e-mail sequence. Here‚Äôs what it looks like.
The key to the first interaction with prospects is to gain some control over the situation. Many prospects think they have the power because they hold the purse strings.
So, my first e-mail simply acknowledges that I received their e-mail and that I will follow up in one business day. (Message: I‚Äôm responsive ‚Ä¶ and I‚Äôm not at your beck and call.)
I start with a greeting, making sure to address the prospect by name, and thank them for ‚Äúreaching out to me‚ÄĚ and that the inquiry is ‚Äúvery much appreciated.‚ÄĚ (Message: I‚Äôm gracious.)
In the next line, I tell the prospect that their project ‚Äúsounds interesting,‚ÄĚ but that I‚Äôm ‚Äúselective‚ÄĚ about the clients I take on ‚Ä¶ ‚Äúso I have a few questions that will help us determine if we‚Äôre a good fit or if ABC Industries might be served better by someone else.‚ÄĚ (Message: I have the best interests of ABC at heart.)
The third sentence explains that I‚Äôve developed a process ‚Äútailored for your inquiry‚ÄĚ and that it‚Äôs ‚Äúdesigned to save both of us time and help me gather all of the information I need to put together my proposal as quickly as possible.‚ÄĚ (Message: I‚Äôm efficient.)
I then move onto my questions, which can depend on the information already provided in the initial e-mail/voicemail.
- What kind of business is it? (I don‚Äôt value every kind of business)
- What is the purpose of valuation? (I don‚Äôt do valuations for every purpose)
- What is the standard of value? (if not self-evident from #2)
- What are the business revenues? (will I need to find guideline public companies)
- What is the size of the interest? (what kind of discounts must I determine)
- What is the date of the valuation? (what research resources will I need)
- What is the intended use/distribution of the report? (if not self-evident from #2)
- Can you send me a copy of the most recent year‚Äôs financial statement or tax return? (for a whole host of reasons)
- Does the business prepare projections? (or might I have to create my own)
- Have there been any subsequent events after the valuation date? (which might require me to run an alternative valuation scenario)
- Who is engaging me? (who is responsible for the fees)
- How do we measure success? (if not self-evident from #2)
- What‚Äôs the timeline? (due date of report, date of trial, can I meet that date)
- What is the budget allotted for the project? (puts the onus on the prospect to come up with a fee range first ‚Ä¶ or I say I have a minimum fee of $X)
- How did you find me? (do I need to thank someone)
These answers help me determine if I‚Äôm qualified to do the project, define the scope of work required, establish a potential fee range, and develop options for different service levels. (Message: I‚Äôm thorough ‚Ä¶ and you must put some skin in the game.)
I close by letting the prospect know that the Calendly (an appointment software app) link in my e-mail trailer will allow them to ‚Äúeasily schedule a call with me‚ÄĚ in case any more ground needs to be covered. Otherwise, ‚ÄúI look forward to your responses and any required follow up so that I can prepare the kind of proposal that ABC Industries is looking for and deserves.‚ÄĚ (Message: This is the kind of service you can expect from me.)
I end with a ‚Äúthank you for contacting me‚ÄĚ and that, ‚Äúif the stars align,‚ÄĚ I look forward to working with them. (Message: I am polite and interested.)
Yep, I know. That second e-mail puts the burden on the prospect to respond with lots of information. But how else am I going to know what I‚Äôm getting into? All my engagement regrets have come from scope surprises that arose after my proposal was accepted. Yours too, I imagine.
Last, but not least
I put a reminder in my calendar to contact the prospect if I have not heard from them in one week. If I don‚Äôt get any response, I let it drop. (Message: I am not desperate.)
That‚Äôs it. And the more you do this the better you will get at scoping the work, pricing the engagement, and eliminating the heartburn that hit us more often than we care to admit.
Many BVFLS practitioners hit a time and income ceiling and not make the money or have the impact they are capable of. They get stuck in ‚Äúsurvival,‚ÄĚ ‚Äústability,‚ÄĚ or even ‚Äúsuccess‚ÄĚ mode ‚Ä¶ treading water and feeling frustrated by their limitations. If you are feeling frustrated by those limitations and want to grow faster and more effectively, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.