5 Smart Sentences that Clients Need to Hear from You

5 Smart Sentences that Clients Need to Hear from You

“Thanks, but we decided to go with someone else.”

You don’t understand what happened. You’ve lost the gig… but everything was going so well! The client seemed keen to work with you, you’d hammered out the details, and the only thing left was the final go-ahead to start the work.

Instead of getting a green light, you receive a one-line email from the client that says they chose another freelancer.

It’s a difficult position to be in. You could always ask the client, “What happened? I thought we were good to go,” but that isn’t very professional. So you console yourself by thinking they must’ve found someone cheaper, or better.

It happens. There are other clients to woo.

Then it happens again.

You shrug it off, but you’re starting to wonder what’s going on… and then it happens a third time.

That’s when warning signals start going off in your head. And finally you entertain the possibility that the problem may not be with the client – maybe the problem is you.

Your mind goes into overdrive. Is working with you too complicated? Are you coming off as unprofessional? Are you no good at what you do? Oh god… what if you’re doing something wrong?

Before you launch into a full blown panic attack, take a deep breath. You’re probably just not saying what potential clients need to hear.

Here are 5 easy sentences that can change the game. Implement these into your client communication right away, and it likely won’t take long before you’re turning “we went with someone else” into “we want to work with you!”

  • 1. Feel free to ask me any questions.

Always invite potential clients to ask you questions. They get conversation going, they move it along, and the more you engage with prospects, the less you have to work to convince them you’re the right person for the job.

I routinely receive emails from potential clients who aren’t sure whether they need a blog content plan. I don’t dismiss them thinking they don’t know what they want or assuming they won’t become clients because they’re not hot leads.

I explain how they can figure out whether a blog content plan is right for them, and why they might need one. I also lay out what it can help them achieve. And I end my explanation with, “If you have any questions, please feel free to send them over.”

It never fails to engage further conversation.

I end almost every email with that line, and you should do the same. The more questions you answer, the more potential clients trust you. They see you helping them, even though they haven’t promised they’ll hire you.

You might have to answer several rounds of questions before landing the gig, and that’s okay. Take the time to respond in detail. Educate potential clients, inform them, and assist them. They’ll love you for it, and they won’t walk away any time soon.

  • 2. Let me know if there’s any way I can help you.

Every now and then, a client will email you about a problem. This person may not mention needing a freelancer or even hinting that there’s potential work for you on the table. In fact, it sounds like they just want to pick someone’s brains.

Sometimes these are tire kickers or people looking for free help – but in most cases, these people are often looking for a freelancer who understands the problem, has a solution (or two) and is willing to provide support, feedback and information while they decide on the best course of action.

They aren’t sure they want to hire anyone. Yet. Present yourself as willing and ready to help, and they just might become solid clients of yours.

Men with Pens used this method very successfully. Go through their testimonials, and you’ll see that a lot of their clients say they didn’t know what they wanted when they first contacted James. They had a problem, and they reached out.

They rave about how James listened to their confused ramblings and delivered exactly what they wanted. That’s high praise!

The reason that Men with Pens does such an excellent job of turning strangers into clients is because they encourage their clients to talk and ask questions, and James is always ready to help – even when there’s no guarantee of being hired.

Do the same. Let your client know that you’re willing to offer your assistance. Share advice, encourage questions and listen to what potential clients say. The more you understand their problem and the more you can show you can solve it for them, the better your chances of being hired.

  • 3. I’m sure we can work it out.

Having working terms & conditions is always a good idea. You should always have clear boundaries to protect yourself.

But what happens to a potential client who can’t meet those conditions?

Maybe the client can only pay a 20% down payment instead of the 50% you typically require. Maybe the client can’t afford your rates but could manage to pay in full, up front, if you’d lower your rates a touch in return. Or maybe the client really needs the work done urgently but just can’t find the money for that rush fee.

They might be great to work with… if you can work it out with them.

Telling the potential client that you’re sure there’s a workaround to your usual policies that satisfies both of you doesn’t mean you’re making promises – you’re extending an invitation for the client to talk about his issues to see if you can find a solution together.

You can decide not to be flexible. You can change your mind. It’s your prerogative. Just keep in mind that there’s usually a way to find a compromise and create a win-win. It might end up being the right decision.

  • 4. I’ll send you a brief recap to make sure we’re on the same page.

This is my secret weapon. What better way to show a client you know exactly what they want than recapping everything in a concise email? You’ll provide proof that you’re definitely on the same page for everything you’ve discussed so far.

A recap shows you’ve read all the emails, heard all the client has to say, and have clearly understood the problem at hand, as well as what’s expected of you. The client can clearly see you’ve paid attention and listened well, which is extremely reassuring.

So the next time you meet with a client or have a phone call together, immediately send them a recap email of your conversation. Mention the problem, what you’ll do about it, and the results the client will achieve.

Put everything in writing. You’ll avoid any potential he-said/she-said situations, there won’t be any confusion, and you’ll have a clear, written record you and your client can both refer back to.

An extra tip? Include suggestions and ideas they can use regardless of whether or not they hire you. It’ll help show them you’re the right freelancer for the job.

  • 5. I’d be happy to refer you to another freelancer.

When it seems like the client still might not be convinced of hiring you, offer to bite the bullet and refer them to another freelancer.

Nothing shows a client they matter more than demonstrating that if you’re not the right person for this job, you’re confident enough to accept that and refer them to someone else who is. You can even offer to facilitate the introduction, if they’d like.

Just make sure the freelancer you refer is professional, and that the quality of his or work is above par. After all, your reputation is on the line!

Sure, the work may go to someone else, but you gained more than you’ve lost. You’ll earn this potential client’s respect, and if you gave a good referral, you’ll also earn his or her trust.

You might even earn yourself work down the line, because your chances of being hired the next time there’s a project up for grabs has increased tenfold. It’s surprising how many people remember you once helped them, and decide that while you weren’t the right fit for that particular job, you definitely might be for this one!

Warning: Wooing clients is an art, not an exact science.

There’s no specific road map that helps you know exactly what to say to each potential client so that you land the gig every single time. You’re making educated guesses at what people want to hear, and it doesn’t always work out the way you’d hoped.

But it’s darned good practice. The work you’ll put into figuring out the right words will pay off over time, because good customer service never goes out of style.

And you’ll see the results for yourself. As you master the art of improving your communication and wooing clients, you’ll be rewarded with a more consistent workload, better projects, and satisfied people who appreciate what you do.

I can practically guarantee that the “thanks, but no thanks” emails will become a thing of the past. You’ll be rejoicing over emails that say, “That’s exactly what we want. Let’s get started!”

Post by Samar Owais

Samar Owais is a freelance writer and blogger who loves writing (kinda goes without saying), road trips, and lava cakes. She also helps freelancers get better paying clients through her free report, 10 Unexpected Places to Find Freelance Writing Clients.

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  1. Hi Samar, Great post! I absolutely swear by points 1 and 2, Here is how I end any offer be it by email or written

    “Thank you once again for the opportunity to submit my proposal/offer/quotation.
    Should you have any queries, need further information or require clarification on any part of the proposal please do not hesitate to contact me by email at ……….. or directly on my cell …… (only if I am quoting local vendors).”

    • That’s a great sign off, Tony. I like that you include your phone number for local clients. It’s a personal touch not many freelancers add.

    • If I could suggest one copy-edit switch to that email ending, Tony, it’d be to change “do not hesitate” to something more positive – check out this article to learn more about the psychological effect of negative wording! https://menwithpens.ca/are-you-writing-website-content-that-turns-readers-off/

      • Whoa. That hadn’t even occurred to me, James. Brings to mine a conversation I had with a client of mine last week. We were going through the stats of how my posts for them had performed.

        We found the ones with a positive spin to the headline performed much better than the negative ones. So anything about mistakes, what not to do, etc didn’t work in terms of traffic, social shares etc. Not that they didn’t work at all – just that they didn’t work as well as the positive headlines.

      • Totally agree about keeping it positive, but I would tweak it a little further. I’ve always felt that telling a customer or potential customer to “feel free” or “do not hesitate” to call carries a whiff of presumption. They are paying or considering paying you, so they don’t need “permission” to get in touch with you. I just say, “Please call me if you have any questions.” (Or email me, contact me, let me know, etc.)

        Great post, Samar!

        • Thank Rob. That’s an interesting view point and definitely food for thought. A lot of the times, communicating with clients is as much gut as everything else. I’ve found encouraging clients to ask questions reassures them and often leads to them asking more questions than they were originally planning to. Since I can’t read the client’s mind, I need to know what answers they want. And the only way for that to happen is if they ask me questions.

      • I couldn’t agree more. I live in Paris (I’m English) and the French use ‘do not hesitate’ a lot in emails – it must be related to culture.

        The positive stance is far more inviting.

  2. Hi Samar,

    What a great list. I found myself reading through it and thinking, “I say that, I need to start saying that, that one makes sense…”

    I think it’s too easy to forget to say these things, but as you point out, they can make the difference in closing a deal. Since most freelance writers don’t come from a sales background, this is very important information.

    • Hi Laura,

      Glad the list helped you. I lost a few clients before I realized something was wrong. It took a comparison of the email exchange I had in the gigs I lost and the ones I got for me to see the light.

      Heh, just the word sales gives me the shivers. What helps is thinking (and believing) it as helping clients and wanting the best for them.

  3. Another great post Samar (and thanks too to James for that great link). It definitely pays to keep the positive language in your head (especially if you are having a bad day!) And listening is definitely one of the biggest parts of selling – everyone wants to feel listened to. If you listen and can then demonstrate that you “get it” you are a long way towards signing the deal.

    • Hey Polly,

      The recap email is my secret weapon to closing deals. I usually don’t write proposals and quotes. To me, email is everything. I’m already discussing everything with the client via email – creating a proposal etc just adds to the noise. Recapping everything in an email gives me (and my client) a central place to refer to when I need to go over client requirement. I’m surprised more people don’t do it.

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      • Hey Samar,

        Great post! I agree with keeping everything at a central point. Email works like a charm. Some of my clients prefer communication on Skype, so I simply copy what we discussed in a Skype chat and send it off via email as a reference copy.

        I don’t do contracts either and I heart email 😉


  4. Rahul Shariff says:

    Thanks a lot Samar for the wonderful advice. I have not been able to get clients for the past few months and the article has helped me understand what I might be doing wrong. Hope to get back to my winning ways with your useful advice.

  5. Fabienne Raphael says:

    Thanks so much Samar for such great content. Those sentences are definitely the key to good communication and trust building between you and the client.

    I would like to add another comment on your last point, when you say that we should refer to someone else if we feel the client is not convinced to hire us. Actually, that is very true. Starting a project with a client who did not show complete trust at first can be very difficult to handle; it could lead, for example, to overrated expectations by the client.

    Bottom line is sometimes, we should not push the sale. Intuition plays a big part in those situations. Listening to it (even when it’s a tiny little voice) is important!

  6. Hi Samar,

    You don’t realize how grateful I am for this helpful post. Do you know what? From my SEO consulting business, four clients suddenly disappeared in the course of getting a go-ahead to start working on their request.

    On reading through this listed points, I must say I’m guilty and I never really did any of those points you mentioned.

    Thanks for this helpful post, you just made my day lively!!


    • Put your client first and you’ll always be a winner, James. But clients need to be made aware that you put them first. Silently doing so might not register on their radar. Just don’t be obvious or pushy about it. Using the sentences mentioned in the post is a good way to tell clients you care.

      All the best!

  7. Great list of tips! It seems to me that the world is changing into a direction where customer feedback is becoming the center of all business processes. Still few years ago customer service and feedback management was a very low priority and often an outsourced function. Today it’s completely the opposite and these skills are becoming really important. Looking forward to see more of your content to this topic!

    • Customer service has always been a big deal. Case in point: every time we’ve taken our business elsewhere because of crappy customer service – even if we had to pay more. Businesses are just paying attention to that fact more and taking it seriously.

      Glad you found the post helpful. Thanks for commenting!

  8. Yeah, these are all great points. Personally, the general strategy I use is to ask a lot of questions and listen like crazy. The more you show you genuinely care about the client’s problem, whatever it is, the more likely they are to hire you.

    But, I also have to have the willingness to turn them down if I’m simply not going to be the right fit for them.

    • You’ve got it, Dan 🙂 Not only does asking questions tell clients you’re invested in their project, it also helps you do a great job.

  9. Samar – what an awesome and informative post. Number 5 can also be used as a way of saying no to business. When clients come to me to write their copy, they often ask me if I offer blogging services. I used to, but not any more. So I refer them to writers that do – it’s a great way to add something positive to the relationship.

  10. Great tips Samar.

    Funny enough I use the first two in almost ANY correspondence I have, including non freelance writing related work, even as just a matter of habit!

  11. Hi Samar,

    So good of you to share these golden insights. All of theme are true and positive. I like the third one “I’m sure we can work it out.”

    God bless!

  12. One thing I’d add is that your clients need to hear you say thanks. They can choose from thousands of us, and saying “thank you” shows that you value their time as much as you want them to value yours.

  13. Great list of positive discussion points that can serve us well in many areas of business. Making these questions part of your dialog can help foster transparency and strong communication. In particular, keeping Number 3 in mind at all times can help the others fall into place.

    A supervisor of mine once framed Number 3 as “How can we get to ‘Yes’?” and that question resonates with me still as I work with clients of all sorts.

  14. Great points. Particularly the “I’ll send you a brief recap to make sure we’re on the same page”. I found that potential clients love it when I say that. No matter how little information you tell someone on the phone they will most likely forget something. So, a followup email is always very appreciated.

  15. Great tips to, which I put into practice already. And see I could do a little fine-tuning moving forward. One point you bring up at the very beginning struck a cord with me though, which I don’t necessarily agree with.

    “It’s a difficult position to be in. You could always ask the client, “What happened? I thought we were good to go,” but that isn’t very professional. So you console yourself by thinking they must’ve found someone cheaper, or better.”

    In the 8 years I’ve been in the industry for web design, among other services, I have found it extremely helpful to ask the prospect why I wasn’t able to earn their business. For example, just a couple weeks ago, I lost what I thought was a sure-shot new web design and maintenance client. But, they ultimately went with another company out of the blue. Once I received their email, I replied back immediately asking them for feedback. This is an impactful practice I have used since day 1 which has helped tremendously to adapt myself and my company to all types of businesses and personalities. Real email communication below of what I’m talking about. Another item I practice is to never apologize for “losing” their business, ie: “I’m sorry we didn’t meet your needs” or “I’m sorry we couldn’t work together on your project”, etc. They have made their decision and it’s best to say “Thank You”, ask for feedback, let them know you will be around if they need anything and move on to your next priority.

    From Prospective Client Dec. 15, 2014:
    Hello Patrick, thank you for your efforts with OUR COMPANY. We have selected another website firm to help us with our future needs. We wish you the very best and appreciate your time and attention through this process.

    Reply to Prospective Client Dec. 15, 2014:
    Thank you for the reply and update, Terri. We’ll be around if anything changes for you as we enter 2015 and things don’t go as you plan with the other vendor.

    One quick request, may I know any feedback about your choice to work with someone else and/or dealings with me? I only ask so I can continue to take constructive criticism and grow as a person and professional for the betterment of the company.

    Reply from Prospective Client Dec. 16, 2014:
    Patrick, we chose to work with COMPANY B because we feel their staff could handle our project needs with the potential redesign. We know it will be a large project and we know we will be high maintenance. They also have more experience with TransFirst on other non-profit websites. This is not a direct reflection on you as a great web design company, rather, solely based on experience with our current online payment systems and need for a bigger team to handle our ever changing ideas.

    You were wonderful over the phone and in person and I’m sure you’ll continue to do great things. Have a fun and safe New Years!

    • That’s a really good perspective, Patrick. I think it really depends on the rapport you establish with the almost-client. If you’re uncomfortable asking the question, it’ll come across. Finding a way to do so in a genuinely curious way which doesn’t show uncertainty (like your email did) is a great way to get feedback. Thanks for leaving such a detailed comment!

    • Patrick, I think that’s pretty smart, and you executed it well. At worst, they won’t give you feedback, and at best, you get constructive feedback and maybe even a referral to a project that better suits you.

  16. Thanks for your very helpful article, Samar!

    I can really relate to 1, 2, and 4. I’m finding that the more I learn about creating content for businesses, it’s becoming easier to help clients make the most of their websites, and it really shows – that personalized, “I get you” approach is just what they need and deserve. I don’t normally add “do you have any questions?” to my messages, that’s definitely something I’m going to try.


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