Who doesn't want to be booked solid for weeks and months in advance? This is a common goal and an ideal situation to get yourself into. But how do you get clients to agree to wait for long periods of time to work with you without the risk of losing the project?
When a new lead comes in, or a client requests work, it's easy to get lost and scramble to find a place in your calendar to secure the work. But this only ends up with you working extra hours just to keep on top of the additional workload.
Maybe you don't mind working hard and you'd rather do the extra hours than lose a project, so you do the late nights and think nothing of it. What harm is this doing anyway? Well not only can this lead to burnout, but it's likely to keep you in an all too familiar feast and famine cycle.
You know the drill, you get so busy that all you can do is work and have no time for the things you know you need to be doing, like business development and marketing. These things can be easy to put off but they are the tasks that help us grow and help us find clients.
While it might feel like keeping a steady stream of work coming in is an impossible task, filling your pipeline with work booked weeks and months in advance will smooth out the bumps and keep you busy. Doing this will free up your time and headspace so that you can work on your own business, it'll stop you worrying about work and best of all… it's simple once you start.
So how do we get clients to agree to work with us week or months into the future?
If this isn't something you have been able to successfully do, it might seem like a mystery. But the answer is obvious and simple. We get clients to book projects weeks in advance by directing them to choose this. That's right, we offer it to them as their option.
Maybe you're thinking that this sounds overly simple and surely it wouldn't work, but answer this, how often have you directly asked a client or prospect to book your time in advance? If your answer is less than a handful of times, this is likely your problem.
If we don't tell clients that this is the situation we are in and what's expected, you'll never have the opportunity to book work in advance.
Yet, many of us won't do this because we fear that telling a client or prospect they need to wait to work with us will cost us the opportunity to close the sale and land the project. However, in more instances than not, the opposite is true. It's a part of human nature to be drawn to things that others are interested in. Being booked out shows that you are in high demand, it suggests that if others are willing to wait to work with you, you must be worth the wait.
Whare are the best tips & techniques for booking projects weeks in advance?
1) Know what you are going to say. Whether you want to start booking projects out 2 weeks or 8 weeks in advance, know this and be ready to say this.
2) Start booking projects into the future even when you are not booked solid and do this on most (if not all) new project requests. This might sound crazy but unless you are in need of immediate work, booking work into the future has its benefits (covered above) but short time-frame work is likely to come in the door anyway.
3) When you present this to the client/prospect, normalise it. This is done by presenting this casually and as a matter of fact, as well as implying that others are waiting.
4) Don't present this as optional. Yes, in some situations you may negotiate the time frames, but making it sound optional when you present it gives the prospect the power to choose, and they won't often choose to wait for no reason. You don't suggest that this is mandatory, again, this is just "normalising" the idea that there is a waiting period.
5) Bring it up early and bring this up before the client/prospect has a chance to tell you their deadline/time frame. You don't need to ask for their time frame, instead explain to them that you're currently booking XX weeks in advance and ask if this is an issue.
6) Gauge their response. If someone is adamant they are unable to wait, you can use your discretion to see if they can be slotted into the calendar sooner. Before you do this, it's always good to establish "why" and then you can look at negotiating with them to see if and how much you can reduce the waiting period. This can be presented as a "rush rate" service, as you are moving other projects around to slot this in.
7) Lastly, always be prepared to walk away or lose the project. Yes, I know, the goal was to get more work booked in, not lose it. But having the confidence to talk like you are in a position to not need the project does improve conversion rates with landing projects.