Counsel Clients When Selling Your Design Concept
Managing client expectations is one of the most challenging aspects of the initial phase of a design project. Clients often have only a vague idea of what they want or what their budget will buy them. They have trouble envisioning what the final result will look like or how their lives will be different in the new space. When presented with the design concept, they may feel some uncertainty, which they express as criticism or push back. That’s when you need to take off your designer hat and put on your counselor hat and reassure them that the result will be fabulous.
We all know that asking for advice is easier than receiving it. It should come as no surprise, then, that clients may balk when first presented with your design concept. Unlike designers, most people don’t know good design until they see it, and likely they aren’t really sure what they want until they have something more concrete to respond to. It’s all part of the process.
Clients hire you for your design expertise, yes, but also because they need help formulating their own thoughts and wishes. At this stage, you can best serve the client by listening carefully and providing expert counsel. Reassure the client that what you are proposing is in their best interest and in keeping with the budget parameters they have specified. Help them to understand how your design choices will result in the look and outcomes they say they want, but anticipate that they may change their mind. Be open to making changes and providing options. Explain how those will affect the final result, to avoid any future misunderstanding.
Counseling the client requires a balance of flexibility and confidence. You want to let the client know you have heard their objections and can modify the concept to some degree. At the same time, you want to maintain your standing as an experienced professional who can be trusted to give sound advice. Your goal is to move the client from ambivalence to comfort.
We all want our work to be appreciated. Ultimately, however, we have to earn the client’s trust in order for the project to go forward. When you adopt the role of counselor, you change the dynamic of the relationship with the client from one of seller and buyer to one of advisor and confidant. This eases the decision-making process, and gives you the opportunity to make an ally of the client. With both of your working toward the same goal, you have a much greater chance of sealing the deal.
And, when the project is complete, just remember that the client needs additional reassurance that the result is beautiful. They look to you for the final “OK” that they have made a great decision.