"Remember that there is nothing stable in human affairs; therefore avoid undue elation in prosperity or undue depression in adversity." -- Socrates, 469 - 399 B.C.
While it is important to provide the prospect / client with as much information as you can, it is also important to find out as much as possible about their business. In doing so, we might think about a strategy for the specific kinds of work on which we would like to partner with clients. The best way to do this is by conducting a Client Needs Assessment. The basis for conducting the assessment is simply to identify the client’s needs and objectives. It will also give you and the client the opportunity to brainstorm and create a plan that the client can clearly see will address their needs and objectives. The key is to strategize and present this information in a way that addresses their questions and concerns before you ask for their business.
HELPFUL QUESTIONS FOR THE CLIENT NEEDS ASSESSMENT:
1. From your perspective, what would be a valuable way for us to spend this time together?
2. What would be useful for you to know about our firm?
3. What prompted your interest in our meeting?
4. In talking to my clients in your industry, I'm struck by a couple of particular issues they are grappling with. These include: [give examples]. How would these resonate with you and your management?
5. How is your organization reacting to. . .? (a recent, important development in this client's industry or function)
6. How are you handling. . .? (new competition, low-cost imports, a new regulatory framework, etc.)
7. Is there is a particular competitor you admire?
8. Can you tell me what your biggest priorities are for this year?
9. What are your most significant opportunities for growth over the next several years?
10. What exactly do you mean when you say. . .? (“risk-averse”, “dysfunctional”, “challenging,” etc.)
11. Who would you say are your most valuable customers?
12. What would your best customers say are the main reasons they do business with you?
13. Why do customers stay with you?
14. Why do customers leave?
15. When customers complain, what do they say?
16. How have your customers’ expectations changed over the past five years?
17. How would you describe the biggest challenges facing your own customers?
18. What's the driving force behind this particular initiative? (What is behind the drive to reduce costs, design a new organization, etc.?)
19. What would “better” (risk management, organizational effectiveness, etc.) look like?
20. How did you reach the decision to seek outside help?
21. How much agreement is there, internally, about the problem and the possible solutions?
22. From your perspective, given everything we've discussed, what would be a helpful follow-up to this meeting?