Sophie is an instructional design consultant. She’s tired of spending hours and hours writing proposals for clients who don’t end up hiring her or really aren’t a good fit in the first place. Help Sophie follow a new process for screening clients to see if this is actually a good fit for her skills and to establish a professional relationship with her new client.
[[Let's get started.]]Sophie receives an email from a prospective client, Robert.
My company has 4 classroom training courses we'd like to convert to online. One of them is a half day course; the others range from one day to four days long. Can you please tell me what you would charge to convert these courses to online?
What should Sophie do?
[[Send Robert a price estimate.]]
[[Send Robert some client screening questions.]]
[[Send Robert questions on the course length.]]Sophie provides a fixed-price quote based on her limited information. Robert immediately accepts without negotiating, making Sophie wonder if her price was too low.
One month into the project, Sophie realizes what a terrible mistake she has made. She severely underestimated the scope of the project and the time required. She's frustrated, and her client is annoyed at how long everything is taking. Sophie works long hours for weeks--so many hours that her effective hourly rate is much lower than usual.
Once the project is finished, Sophie vows to never give a price estimate again unless she has more information.
[[Try again|Let's get started.]]Robert replies with his answers to the screening questions.
1. What are your goals for this project?
//We want to convert our training to online to save money on travel costs.//
2. Do you have a budget for this project? Is that budget at least $5000?
//Yes, we have a budget, but we'll need to talk about how much the whole project will cost so we can prioritize. We might not be able to do it all this fiscal year.//
3. When are you hoping to get started on this project?
4. Are you the owner of the project? Should we plan on inviting other members of the team to the initial consult?
//I am the owner of the project. We have some SMEs and trainers who will need to be involved later in the process.//
5. Is this a new type of project for your organization, or have you worked with instructional designers in the past?
//All of our current courses were developed by the trainers. They serve as both trainers and IDs. We have no experience with online learning though.//
What should Sophie do?
[[Schedule a call to discuss it further.]]
[[Decline the project due to red flags.]]
[[Send Robert a price for a small project to start.]]Sophie realizes she doesn't have enough information to provide an accurate estimate. She asks Robert to clarify how long the courses actually are.
Robert replies with the details.
//Course 1 is a half day (3.5 hours).
Course 2 is one day (about 6 hours).
Course 3 is two days (about 12-13 hours).
Course 4 is four days (about 26 hours).//
What should Sophie do next?
[[Send Robert a price for the whole project.|Send Robert a price estimate.]]
[[Ask Robert what level of elearning he wants.]]
[[Ask Robert some high level questions about goals and budget.|Send Robert some client screening questions.]]
Sophie thinks these responses all seem reasonable, so she sends Robert a link to her calendar so he can schedule a meeting.
Sophie starts by summarizing her understanding of the problem Robert is facing and asking him to confirm.
Robert says, "Yes, that's right. Our existing classroom training is good, but it's just too time consuming and expensive to fly everyone in from all over the country for on site training. We want to move to online training to reduce those travel costs. We also want to convert these to shorter modules so they don't disrupt people's work days for so long."
What should Sophie ask next?
[[How long do you want the modules to be?]]
[[Tell me about what changed that made you realize you need to move to online training.]]
[[What level elearning do you want?|Ask Robert what level of elearning he wants.]]Sophie asks, "How long do you want the modules to be?"
Robert replies, "I'm not really sure. I know we don't want it to be 6 hours of straight training. Is a two hour training good for elearning?"
How should Sophie respond?
[[Two hours is pretty long for elearning.]]
[[Two hours works to convert the half day course. I'll send you a proposal for just that part of the project.|Send Robert a price for a small project to start.]]
[[Let's back up and think about why we're doing this project.|Tell me about what changed that made you realize you need to move to online training.]]Sophie says, "Tell me about what changed, or what happened, that made you realize you need to move to online training."
Robert replies, "We've been doing classroom training for managers for ages. The problem is that the company is growing and expanding. Classroom training was great when we were all in a single location. We just expanded to Toronto, and before that Chicago and Phoenix. Now that we have four different locations, the travel costs have gotten out of hand.
"We have also gotten some pushback from the managers who take the training. It's hard for them to be away from their teams for so long, especially for that four-day training. With travel time, that's a whole week that they are away from their jobs."
Sophie replies, "OK, so you have two big goals with moving to online. First, you want to eliminate the travel costs. Second, you want the training to be shorter, in smaller chunks, so managers can still do their jobs while they're being trained.
"Has the training itself been successful so far?"
"Yes, our classroom training has been well received. We have good scores on our satisfaction surveys."
"Are you measuring anything else about the effects of your training?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, this is manager training, right? So maybe one outcome from that would be lower turnover for employees whose managers have been through the training."
"Ah, I see. That would be great, but I don't have any of that data right now. Could you help me figure out how to measure that? I'd love to be able to show that value to my managers."
What should Sophie say next?
[[Sorry, but you'll have to get those numbers to me before we can proceed.]]
[[I can include that in the price for the project. Let's talk about road mapping.]]
[[I can include that in the price for the project. Let's talk about more details so I can give you a firm estimate.]]
Sophie says, "Sorry, but you'll have to get those numbers to me before we can proceed."
Robert replies, "OK, let me do some research and I'll get back to you."
Unfortunately, Robert never gets back to Sophie. She follows up a few times, but Robert picks another vendor. Sophie loses the opportunity.
[[Go back|Tell me about what changed that made you realize you need to move to online training.]]
[[Restart the scenario from the beginning|Let's get started.]]Sophie replie, "Of course! I can include that in the price for the project. That leads me to the next point. I only want to work on projects where I can make a real difference. I don't want you to spend money creating online training unless it really helps your business continue to grow. To help me do that, I do a short road mapping process at the beginning of each project."
Robert is a little confused. "What's road mapping?"
"I'll give you a list of questions to prepare, like your initial thoughts on what metrics we might use. I'll talk to you and some other stakeholders you help me identify. I'll also review your existing training materials and survey data. Based on all of that, I'll give you recommendations and a road map for how to proceed.
That road map will include plans for breaking up the current training into smaller segments, organizing it, prioritizing which training to create first, and the process and timelines for completion. The road map will also include how we'll know we're successful."
"That sounds great! But if we go through this road mapping together, does that mean we have to use you for converting all of the training?"
"Not at all! You're not locked in to work with me. You could take this plan and find another vendor if you'd like. I'd prefer you work with me, of course, but there's no long-term commitment."
"OK, what's the next step?"
"I'll send you the agreement to do the road mapping. Once you sign that and send the deposit, we can get started."
"That sounds good. I'll look for your email. I'm looking forward to working with you."
"Me too! This sounds like a really exciting project."
[[Congratulations!]]Sophie says, "I can include that in the price for the project. Let's talk about more details so I can give you a firm estimate."
Sophie and Robert discuss more technical details, including the length of the modules, the level of complexity, and the type and amount of multimedia.
Sophie sends Robert a proposal for the entire project, with milestones for each course. The price for the whole project is fairly high, taking into account the scope of the work for developing and meauring impact.
A few days later, Robert calls Sophie.
"I'm sorry, but I couldn't get the budget approved for this whole project with you. My manager felt it was too much of a risk with a vendor we haven't worked with before. I'll keep you in mind for the future if we have a smaller project though."
[[Go back|Tell me about what changed that made you realize you need to move to online training.]]
[[Restart the scenario from the beginning|Let's get started.]]
Sophie is feeling better now that she knows how many hours of training need to be converted. She emails Robert.
//To give you an accurate estimate, I need to know how complex you want the elearning to be. See my attached document comparing levels 1, 2, and 3. What level would you like?//
//Let's go with level 3 elearning. I really want to see all the bells and whistles so people will be really impressed with our courses.//
[[Send Robert a high price for the whole project.]]
[[Send Robert a low price for the whole project.|Send Robert a price estimate.]]
[[Send Robert a price for a small project to start.]]Sophie is thrilled that Robert wants complex elearning. She's looking forward to getting to stretch her design skills for something really creative.
Send sends him a proposal for the entire project with a high price tag to cover all the bells and whistles he has requested.
Unfortunately, Robert turns down the proposal.
//I'm sorry, but this is way out of our price range. We had no idea it would be so expensive. We're going with another vendor.//
[[Try again|Let's get started.]]Sophie feels like she has enough information to give Robert an estimate, but she knows this will be a huge project to convert all of this training.
She sends a proposal to convert just the half day training first. She figures she can see how it goes for this first project and then adjust her price later for the remaining courses.
The first project goes OK, but Sophie realizes she underbid. There were additional stakeholders she didn't know about until late in the process. That increased her time for revisions dramatically.
For the next course, she quoted a higher rate to cover the additional time. Unfortunately, Robert had a hard time justifying this higher rate when Sophie had already done one course at a lower rate. Sophie couldn't tie her costs to the benefits for Robert's organization.
Robert chose another vendor to convert the rest of the courses for less money. Sophie decided that next time she would learn more about the business goals so she could justify her costs.
[[Try again|Let's get started.]]Sophie says, "Two hours is pretty long for elearning. I recommend 30 minutes as a maximum."
Robert replies, "Gee, that's going to end up with a lot of modules."
Sophie explains, "It will, but it will give you more flexibility in the long run."
"OK, I guess more shorter modules would actually be good. Then maybe people can just take the parts they want, or they can review just a small section."
What should Sophie say next?
[[I'll send you an estimate for just the half day course first.|Send Robert a price for a small project to start.]]
[[What level elearning do you want?|Ask Robert what level of elearning he wants.]]
[[Let's talk about the problem we are trying to solve here.|Tell me about what changed that made you realize you need to move to online training.]]Sophie is worried that this is too big of a project with a company who has zero prior experience with online learning. She politely declines the project and refers Robert to one of her colleagues, Jessica.
Two months later, Sophie and Jessica meet for coffee.
Jessica says happily, "Thanks again for referring Robert to me! He has been fantastic to work with."
Sophie is a little surprised. "Really? I thought this might be a disaster with their lack of experience."
"I have had to do a lot of education with them. They're really starting from scratch. I have no problems teaching them the process though. They want to learn, and they're motivated to do it right."
"That's great to hear. Did the scope of the project end up being reasonable?"
"So, this is likely to end up being a huge project that will take us a year or more. I started with a road mapping session to figure out what they really need and to come up with the overall plan. Robert really needed that. Doing that small planning project first reduced his risk and made him more confident. Do you ever do paid road mapping with your clients?"
"No, I haven't been, but maybe I should start."
[[Go back|Send Robert some client screening questions.]]
[[Try again from the beginning|Let's get started.]]
Congratulations! You gave Sophie a strong foundation for her working relationship with Robert.
Creating a process for screening and qualifying clients helps you waste less time with clients who aren't a good fit and more time helping clients solve problems.
1. Send prospects a list of screening questions like the one Sophie used. You can use whatever price you want for the budget question, but don't skip that one. It helps you screen out prospects who want thousands of dollars of work for minimal payment.
2. Schedule an initial call with the prospect. Use a tool like Calendly to avoid all the back and forth emails matching up calendars.
3. During your initial call, focus on finding out the business problem you're trying to solve. Later, your proposal will tie back to how their investment will address that problem.
4. Propose a short paid road mapping, especially for larger projects. It's easier for clients to trust you if they have already worked with you on something small (plus, you can screen them more and make sure you really want to work with them). The outcome of the road mapping is a proposal with a plan for solving their business problem.
If you want to see the other outcomes, you can [[try the scenario again from the beginning|Let's get started.]]