Dear Gritty VA:
Last month I received an email from a business owner looking for a Virtual Assistant. She asked if we could schedule a consultation sometime during the second week of this month to talk. I gave her a few dates and times to choose from, and she emailed me back right away with the date she preferred, but didn’t pick out a time. I emailed her back confirming the date, told her the time zone I was in and asked for the time she would prefer. I sent her another email the following week, asking if we could confirm a time. I also sent her my preliminary questionnaire to fill out prior to the consultation and asked that it be returned at least one day prior to our consultation. It’s now one day before our consultation, and I still have not heard back from her. Should I try contacting her one more time or do I just let it go and wait to see how it plays out? –AV
If you want the business, then by all means contact her again so that you can pin down a specific time, and also get your preliminary questionnaire completed and returned to you in plenty of time.
However, there are a few things I would advise being mindful of that will help you build your business successfully and profitably.
First, I would reschedule the consultation entirely for a new date and time that allows for the client to return the completed preliminary questionnaire 24 hours before the consult so you have plenty of time to review it beforehand.
Clients who don’t follow-through and then contact you at the ninth hour tend to put one in a "scrambling" mode instead of a calm and possessed, professionally prepared mode. Working that way also sets a bad precedent for the relationship right from the beginning.
Doesn’t mean you have to write those folks off as a poor fit–people do get busy, especially those who need your help. But it’s even important in this situation to honor your standards and processes; don’t let them be sidestepped. You have them so that you can run your business and serve clients as skillfully and professionally as possible.
For example, when you go to the doctor’s office and they give you a form to complete, you don’t say to yourself, "Eh, I think I’ll pass," do you? Of course not; you wouldn’t get seen.
They aren’t handing out forms for their health, and neither are you. Your questionnaire and other forms and systems are tools–the tools you use in your business to get the information you need to best serve clients while running as smoothly as possible. Insist that they be completed. If they aren’t, simply don’t schedule anything with that prospect until they are.
Pay attention to cues that tell you whether a client is a fit or not. It’s true that it can take anywhere from seven to 10 "touches" before you really get a prospective client’s attention. On the other hand, you can’t bend over backwards for people who demonstrate they aren’t a fit.
It’s a matter of profitability. No solo business will stay alive if all its time and resources are wasted catering to those who can’t work within the most basic of professional frameworks. If there are signals that this might be the case, you need to ask yourself whether the potential client fits the profile of someone who is really ready to be served, and is going to be able to extend mutual courtesy and respect.
As you grow in your business, your sense about who falls into what category will get keener and keener as well. Just be sure you pay attention to your red flags–your gut instincts will never let you down.
One of my #1 rules for profitability: Don’t let clients rush your process or step over your standards. They are the chief things that will allow you to build a profitable practice, which in turns allows you to provide superior service to your ideal clients. That’s a recipe for success AND living the life of your dreams.