Even having received our stellar training, something our new VAs can struggle with is how to talk with potential clients about their “VA experience” when they have very little, or none at all. It’s not that we don’t discuss it in the program, but there’s a big difference in conceptually understanding how to do something and remembering to do it when you’re live, in the situation, right?
If you’re finding yourself in that uncomfortable place, or you’re looking ahead to when you will be in a situation to discuss it and the thought of it makes you feel a bit antsy, let me offer a few suggestions that might make it all easier for you.
This first suggestion is, overall, the best strategy ever. If you remember nothing from this post, remember this. It came to me via my good friend Cheryl Richardson more than 20 years ago when I was beginning to do media interviews, and struggled like nobody’s business to answer questions that weren’t really great questions. What she told me blew my mind:
You don’t have to answer the question you’re asked.
It never occurred to me that I didn’t have to. I mean, it was an interview. With the media. Nothing in my life had felt bigger than that at the time. And, the journalists were there to ask me questions. How was it possible that I didn’t have to answer what they asked? And, more importantly, what in the world would I do instead that wouldn’t create an entirely unfavorable impression of me?
We’re taught from birth to do what we’re told. We’re taught to respect authority figures. And in my case, I sure saw writers…anyone interviewing me, in fact…as having a position I should respect, even if they weren’t actual authority figures for me.
If you’re a new VA, you might see prospective clients that way, too. That’s doubly true if you came to your practice having been an employee for the rest of your career and being used to having a “boss,” and other “higher ups” you were required to answer to and show respect to.
But in a level playing field like the one you’re on with clients, where you and the client are equals (which is, by the way, almost every situation in which you’ll find yourself as an adult)? It’s just not true. Show respect…yes. Give them what they want? Not necessarily. It can be far more important and valuable to give them what they didn’t even know they wanted.
And that’s the secret: whenever you’re in a situation with a question on the table that you don’t want to answer, what you want to do instead is answer with the story that you want the client to know.
In your case, the answer you don’t want to give is about your experience as a VA. S’ok. Instead, you want to talk about your experience as a whole because every single experience you’ve had contributes to who you are now and what you’re able to do as a VA. Those stories are worth telling and telling confidently.
So, right now, before you’re in one of those conversations, make a list of all the wonderful things you do bring to the relationship—regardless of who the client is or what’s on the delegation list. This list is 100% about you; a bragging list if you will.
Write a list of things like:
- What do you bring to the table?
- What kinds of work have you done in the past? What parts of it do you bring into your current work? Think soft skills here.
- Where are the skills you have from the past applicable to what you do as a VA?
- Do you have any degrees you want to mention, or have you done industry-specific training that’s helped you create your VA practice? What did you learn there that helps you as a VA, and would be useful for the client?
- What are your best qualities?
- How developed is your EQ?
- If you are or were a mama, talk about what raising kids has taught you about organization, juggling, managing time, etc. That experience counts!
Then, before you talk with the client, consider all you wrote in light of what you know about the client, what she wants to delegate, what kind of business she’s in, etc. Connect dots about how experiences and skills from your past apply specifically to what you know of her. Write a list. This list is 100% about you, but in the context of the client.
If you’re good at talking on your feet, you can use those lists in the interview to answer in the moment.
If you think it would be better for you (and I suggest doing it this way until you’ve done quite a few interviews and really feel solid in that process), write the answer you want to give to the experience question down so that you don’t have to try to create it from your lists, and you can simply read it. Easy, right?
And each time you give the answer and find you do it a bit better, refine what you’ve written, so you’ll have it ready for the next time.
In fact, here’s a tip about doing that in a more helpful way:
Write a list of every question you can think a client might ask. Get yourself a deck of index cards; whatever size you like is fine. Transfer the questions to the top of the cards—one per card. Then, craft the answer you want to give below each question. Update and refine them as needed. Add new questions with their answers when they show up.
Then, make them useful:
- Organize them into topics like:
- How your practice runs (hours, availability, communication, holidays, etc)
- Financial (your fee, how/when you invoice, how you expect to be paid, the form(s) of payment you accept, etc.)
- Relationship structure (whether you enjoy personal relationships with clients, etc.)
- Highlight the questions in the same topic with the same color highlighted. Or, preface the question on each card with a group name in all caps. Or use a Post-it tab; one color per topic. The point is to make the topics easy to see. When they’re easy to see, they’re easy to grab.
- Use them like flash cards to help you practice delivering the answers.
- Spread the cards out on your desk before an interview in case you need to grab one quickly to help you with an answer.
Planning what you want a client to know, planning how you want to say it, and then being able to say it when it’s time to say it are really the keys to sharing yourself and your unique story well and confidently, even if you have no real VA experience. Give it a go; you’ll be surprised at how easy this can actually be.