Are You Winning Consulting Clients with Online Interviews?

Consulting in the New Economy

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Face to face meetings for engaging prospects and closing clients are disappearing. You need to know how to be your best, most convincing and trustworthy self when you show up to your prospect or client on screen.

At first you might not be comfortable interviewing prospects and clients online but remote interviews and meetings are worth it. They give you incredible business building opportunities. One of the things I teach in the course Starting and Building a Thriving Consulting Business is to narrow your niche and expand your geographic range. Doing your interviewing, engaging, and consulting online gives you access to the entire world.

One last point for getting this right. If you are going to ask your prospect or client to work with you online, then you need to be a UberPro in your online meetings. Practice!

Here are a few tips for the next time you do an online meeting with a prospect, a 1:1 coaching, or consulting meeting with a client.

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Show Up Prepared

With the internet at our disposal you should never be interviewing or connecting with someone without knowing who you are meeting. Here’s a few tips for preparing.

  • Start by checking their LinkedIn profile and looking for common points in your background, business trends you can discuss, or industry data you can exchange. Make it a two-way value exchange.
  • Know who you are meeting.
    * Search Google with their name and company for more info.

    * Grab a quick overview of their company with a Wikipedia search.

    * Search using their name, company and “business journals” (without the quotes). This search will find them and any articles about their business in one of the 20+ business journals around the US. Look for articles on what they are doing in their company or civic organizations.
  • Do not go into a meeting without preparation.
    * Connect with the prospect first on LinkedIn.

    * Exchange one or two emails where you give valuable information.

    * Set a time and time limit for the online meeting.

    * Relax and enjoy meeting someone with the same interests. Make it a value-exchange meeting where you both win.
  • Show up on time.
    In fact, check out the meeting's video link at least an hour prior to make sure it is valid. I’ve had two instances where a link was to the wrong meeting. By checking early it gives you time to call and setup a good meeting.
  • Have the prospect or client’s phone number and email immediately available. That way, if the video connection fails, you can quickly contact them and reconnect the video meeting or continue by phone.
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Think Like a TV News Producer

Remember what your momma said, “You’ve only got one time to make a first impression.” Well, in this case momma was right!

It takes many follow ups to change someones first impression. If you are engaging a prospect and trying to build rapport you have already lost the game if your video background looks Hurricane Harvey hit a garage sale.

Here are some tips for staging your video meeting to give a great impression,

  • Turn off your cell phone buzzer and sound. 
  • Use a neutral color wall behind you or orient the camera with a pleasing, orderly room behind you. Lately newscasters and TV experts have taken to seeing who can have the largest bookshelf of books behind them.
  • Remember the Rule of Thirds from high school art or photography class? Missed that class? Basically the idea is to divide the video screen into 1/3 and 2/3 lines vertically and horizontally. Then, position subjects, background items, and the horizon on 1/3 lines and intersects. These proportions make pictures more interesting and dynamic. Think where you want to be and what you want in the background to make your presentation more dynamic and add authority - whiteboard with diagrams, project planning charts, process maps,... This video at Julian Discovers is great for thinking about visual presentation.  
  • Have the brightest light behind the camera with light toward your face. For example, face a window so your face is lit almost evenly. Position lights at an angle if they make your glasses reflect. Remove shadows under your chin by putting a white sheet of paper in the keyboard area in front of you to bounce light up. Create a highlight behind you by shining a small light on the wall behind your head.
  • There will always be the unforeseen noise, kids, or pets. But you can reduce those events a little. I close the office door in my home and tape a sign up that says, “Recording” or “Meeting in Progress”. 
  • I try to dress the same as I would for a live meeting. (Ok, I still wear my slippers.) I find that if I don’t dress with a decent shirt and pants, I feel sloppy and my thinking gets too casual.

Practice, Practice, Practice

If you are uncomfortable doing online interviews and meetings the solution is preparation and practice. Arrange with a consulting associate or family member to have a practice online session and practice using the technology and your first few opening minutes. As you practice, imagine you are a film producer.

  • Note the screen angle and distance from your camera so you appear framed like a portrait. (Check the tip on Rule of Thirds above.) You do not want to be small and distant nor overwhelmingly close. 
  • Get a friend or consulting comrade to practice with and try different lighting, settings, mics, etc. Practice screen sharing, displaying documents and moving in and out of virtual meeting rooms. Do not be blindsided and distract from a meeting because you do not know how to work your tech. 
  • If it helps to have notes or an outline, put them on a second screen or stick them to the side of the monitor. 
  • Check the lighting. 
  • Check the background for distractions, clutter, or a ficus tree growing out of the top of your head.
  • Check audio quality. People can accept slightly fuzzy video, but bad audio is very annoying. You do not need an expensive mic. Even good quality smartphone earbuds can improve your voice quality and reduce background noises. 
  • Look at the person you are talking to. Align your camera and screen so you appear to look at the person on screen. If you are using your laptop, mark your desk so you can return the laptop to the correct position for the next meeting.
  • If you find yourself watching the video of yourself in a panel of attendees, you can turn off just your image so you can’t see it but others will. If you are using Zoom, in the panel showing all participants, right-click your video, then choose Hide Myself. Others will still be able to see you. To return your image to your panel, right-click anyone’s image and choose Show Myself.

Video meetings and remote consulting mean the entire world is your marketplace.

Good luck. I know you will do well if you practice.