As our VA businesses grow and evolve, it’s only natural that we start thinking about diversifying or adding more niches to our services. And one niche that we’ve been noticing an increasing demand in is project management. If you’re thinking of becoming a virtual project manager, this week’s guest post from Hailey Thomas will show exactly how to cultivate leads that will turn into customers.
Thanks for sharing your pro tips, Hailey!
When I started as a virtual project manager, my biggest fear was not being able to actually close deals! I had a hard enough time trying to explain what I did as a project manager, not to mention trying to convince someone they needed me!
Thankfully, that’s when I found 30 Days or Less to Virtual Assistant Success. It took only 49 days to receive my first invoice payment after I signed up for the course. The breakthrough was when I shifted my mindset from “selling” to “problem-solving.” These are the tools I started with, and very much still use to find and win projects as a virtual project manager.
I don’t have a huge network (I’m hardly on social media at all and live in central Illinois), nor do I have an email list (I know, I know! That’s online business 101 #breakingalltherules) so I’m confident these strategies can work for just about anyone.
In short, the fastest and simplest way that I’ve found to find clients is to make authentic connections, give value and then earn trust.
Gina gives detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to find clients in the VA course, but these are my go-to’s, well-suited to the sometimes viscose nature of virtual project management.
If you’re still not sure what virtual assistant services you can offer, we’ve put together a list of over 150 services that webpreneurs need help with.
Before we get into the list, there are a few things that I want to mention:
Start sooner than later.
Since we’re unable to predict our clients’ every thought, you never know when things will change and you’ll have availability for a new project. Even if your roster is full, priming these relationships now goes a long way in getting projects down the road.
The magic of finding clients as a virtual project manager relies heavily on focusing on a few contacts and warming them quickly. Tactics that rely on quantity (job boards for example), are all freezing cold – there’s no connection there! So the client is adding the additional step of knowing you before they start liking or trusting you.
Leads that are warm still need time to warm up to you and to put trust in you, but you get to leapfrog the first step if you focus on doing these things.
Scoring Your Next Project
Scoring a project comes in two parts; finding/warming leads and then sealing the deal. Both are important! It’s helpful to experiment with different methods and lines of questioning as you start. Over time, you can find ways to streamline the process and double down on what’s working.
Step 1: Find and engage leads.
If I were looking to find a new client today, these are the activities I’d fall back on to quickly identify and engage a lead.
The very first thing I do when I’m ready to add a new client is to reach out to people I’ve worked with in the past. They are already warm leads since they’ve worked with me before. The uncertainty for them is quite low compared to someone who doesn’t know me. They also make excellent referral sources.
Pro tip: When asking for a referral, ask them to think about the problems they were having when they first came to you and choose contacts to refer that have similar needs. The more specific they can get, the better the referral will be for you.
2. Meet & Ask
This method is what got me my very first client, and it’s still my favorite one to use. The fastest way to get someone to warm to you is to learn what they are working towards and then give them something to help get them there more quickly.
For example, when I meet someone for coffee or hop on a video call with someone new, my only objective is to get them to tell me their current goals and for me to give them something useful. These are the questions I ask to get there:
What are you working towards this quarter?
What’s your role in that?
How is it going? (They’ll likely say, “Eh, it’s going ok.” Or shrug and go, “It’s going pretty good.”)
Look for discomfort (shrugging of the shoulders, head tilt, hesitation) and follow up with, “I noticed you shrugged when you said XYZ. Would you like to share the reason why?”
Do you mind if we speak about [challenge] a little bit?
Don’t be afraid to drop some knowledge. No matter how small or large the nugget, people often don’t get a chance to reflect or spell out places they could use support.
It’s usually a welcome opportunity, even though it might feel uncomfortable to push a little bit. I love that this is really helpful for both parties, regardless of the outcome. You can rest assured you give value when focusing on helping them first.
3. Connect with industry peers.
This step is simple but very effective. Usually, when looking for new projects or clients, we try to connect with whoever is in charge of the division we’re interested in – the head of marketing, the operations manager, or the business owner.
A really useful alternative is to look for peers that are the corporate equivalent of what you do and connect with them.
In my case, I connect with a lot of project managers, project coordinators, and executive assistants in companies that fit my working style (mainly remote, technology-focused companies).
I focus on making them the expert instead of trying to show off my skills; I ask lots of questions (beginning to see a theme here) and learn what I can from them.
I also share any helpful industry tips I know too! Because they are usually the doers, they are the ones to first recognize when their company needs to bring a virtual project manager on board. As your relationship grows, you’ll be top of mind for projects and needs they see and hear about.
Step 2: Build trust in order to seal the deal.
Once you’ve found a need that you can solve for, your next objective is to increase trust enough so that the easy answer to their problems is simply to hire you! Here are the three more action steps that will help you increase trust early on in the prospecting game.
4. Offer to create a project plan.
Instead of hopping in “whole hog” and offering to run the entire project on the spot, instead ask to sit down with them and chart a thorough project plan.
This helps potential clients see what exactly they are asking for, how long it will take, how much it will cost, and what potential outcomes they may get.
When you’re done, you’ll have a functioning project plan they can keep and work out on their own if they see fit. More likely, if they can see the high ROI on getting it done smoothly and quickly, they might just hire you.
I use this as my “trial” offer for project management engagements and charge a small flat fee. The client gets a well-thought-out project plan or a major initiative, you get paid for your work, and now the trust is high enough that saying “yes” is the easy choice! A win-win!
5. Drive conversations with confidence.
Having a plan and communicating that along the way makes you feel and sound more confident which in turn increases your potential client’s trust.
For example, if I reached a point in an early conversation with a prospect where it made sense to proceed, I’d say something like this:
“I totally see how this could really get you across the line with your major goals this quarter/year. It sounds like a really good next step for you is to create a plan to get this done right. I usually work with clients through a project planning session where we get together for an hour or so.
I’ll ask for more background and then we’ll work together to build out the milestones, outcomes, and workarounds for roadblocks. That way, you can see what this looks like brought to life. There’s a flat fee of (insert fee) and I usually have a turn around time of 3-5 days for the plan.”
Giving them a specific next step and telling them what to expect after that lowers the risks of working with you, and creates the opportunity for them to get started.
6. Emphasize pain points and profit.
Once you’ve warmed the lead and are talking about a project they need help with, the goal here is to help them see and understand the severity of it. The idea is to find out what is being lost by not having a solution. You want to make them see that pain, and then outline how you’d solve it, emphasizing the “profit” or what they’d gain by bringing you on board as a virtual project manager.
Now, to be realistic, not all pain points or profits are significant enough to turn into projects. But it’s a great practice to help a client understand why something might not be worth their time or energy (or yours).
At the end of the day, it increases their trust in you, so that when you come up with a better plan to alleviate that pain point or they have another project in mind in the future, you’ve built enough trust that you’ll be the easy choice.
What methods do you use to find new clients as a virtual project manager?
Hailey is the head Project Manager & Chief of Staff at BrainSpace Optimized. She and her team are obsessive about helping tech leaders become more available, generous, and accomplished. Want to get in on that? Get in touch! At home, Hailey is wife to a talented carpenter, mom to one wily toddler and spends her free time reading fiction, traveling and weightlifting.