This post is based on a question I was posed on Quora.
Based on this question, my gut reaction is that they are looking for a sense of a) how deep do you go with similar clients in similar situations, and b) what’s the outside norm in terms of project length for a similar clients in similar situations.
Key things to be aware of though are what is the client thinking and what you are thinking. With respect to client thinking, are they really talking about any client? Or are they more likely to be talking about a similar client in a similar situation? Where on the spectrum? In terms of what you are thinking, do you think the client has the right perception about any client versus similar client?
How you should respond depends on where you think the client is anchored and where you think they should be.
If they are anchored on similar clients in similar situations, then you could qualify to what extent you see them as similar and then give a range of how long you’ve worked with such clients depending on whether X was involved or X, Y, and Z were involved. You can use this opportunity to answer their questions while also giving them a sense of your depth of involvement.
If they are anchored on any client, then you probably have more work to close any deal. They may be just kicking the tires. If you want to close a deal, you’ll probably need to figure out how to shift perceptions so that they see themselves as similar to clients you’ve worked with, work you’ve done, and/or processes you’ve used in the past. The client prospect could very well be a fit for what you do, but there is a psychological gap that should be addressed.