Standing out from the crowd isn’t easy in today’s competitive design market. In this article, we covered how great branding can put you head and shoulders above the rest. As important as your branding is, however, it’s only 50% of your first impression. How you engage a potential client for the first time determines whether you’ll end up with an unanswered quote or a returning customer for life.
Here are some tips to help you make the right impression and secure potential clients.
1. Listen to them from the get-go
Of course you’ll want to talk about your background and market your abilities – and you must. But tread carefully. This is not a job interview where the sole purpose is to sell yourself. A monologue about where you’ve come from and what makes you fabulous is not going to make a client feel heard. Instead, focus on their circumstances and ask them questions. Identify what their problem is and advise them why you are the best person to help in their situation (a neat opportunity to get some key USPs in without it feeling forced). Answer their questions about your business as they come up instead of launching into a Shakespearean-style speech.
2. Be authentic
When you talk about your journey in design, tell them the real story. You might have had challenges that you’ve overcome, or perhaps your history isn’t an exciting “overnight sensation” news headline. That’s ok. Don’t dress things up or down according to what you think the client wants to hear. You don’t need to be a clone of the latest social media star – your power lies in being uniquely you. Anyone worth their salt will eventually sniff out deception and you’ll lose both a client as well as damage your reputation.
3. Know how to spin a story
This is not a direct contradiction to the point above, but rather refers to how you tell the story of what their design experience will be like. They have come to you as not only the expert but also the magician. Your wizardry is going to transform their space and, as every Harry Potter fan knows, much of the magic is in the telling of the tale. Use words and visuals to paint a picture in their minds of what you can do together. Once they’re sold on the story, you can talk prices, policies and procedures.
4. Dare to be different
As you’re discussing the design project, think about why the client should choose you over someone else. What can you do differently and what brand attributes of your business make you the perfect choice for this project? Work this into the conversation so that they understand from the outset what sets you apart. You’re aiming to secure the business of clients who best fit your business objectives. If this means not taking a project that you believe you won’t do well, so be it. It’s better to have fewer projects that will use your unique assets to their best advantage and enhance your reputation.
5. Manage expectations
It’s your responsibility as the designer to manage your client’s expectations. While it might be tempting to say yes to everything in that first meeting to secure their business, it will come back to haunt you later and ultimately result in an unhappy client and tarnish to your brand. Interior design reality shows are responsible for wild expectations as hour-long programmes can never accurately show the work that goes on behind the scenes. If your potential client has clearly been seduced by one of these, you’ll need to set the record straight without entirely eroding the magic of the design experience.
6. Build the foundation for mutual trust
Trust is not something that happens overnight but the foundation can be built in your first few meetings. The client needs to feel like they are a match for you as much as you are a match for them in order to have a successful working relationship. Take the time to walk them through your processes and answer all their questions, even when they ask the same ones repeatedly. Allow for some initial scepticism and indecisiveness in the beginning, then work hard to earn their trust before they agree to anything. They should feel absolutely sure and secure in their decision before you start on a project.
For more tips on growing your design business, get in touch with our design experts who can run you through everything from building your client base to the project management tools that we offer. Built for designers by designers, we’re confident in our ability to help you be successful.