Walking the Path to “Yes”

Trial lawyers have a basic rule of thumb that says never ask a witness a question you don’t already know the answer to.  In sales, a similar maxim might be to never allow the client to gain control of the conversation.  Of course, you need to listen carefully and understand what the client wants.  All the time, however, you want to be like that lawyer, confidently and patiently guiding the client through an inquiry that leads to an inevitable “yes.”

Begin with the end in mind.  What does the client need to feel confident they are making the right decision in hiring you?  You should have a process – a path – in mind for how you are going to get the answer to that question.  While you need to allow some flexibility – this a strategy, not a formula – your path might proceed something like this:

  • Begin by engaging the client in a dialogue about their needs and their wants.  You want to probe not just for facts and details, but also any underlying judgments, assumptions or feelings that may be coloring the way they are thinking about their project.  Are there areas where you are sensing uncertainty, hesitation or concern? Ask the client to talk more about those and get them out in the open and out of the way.
  • Keep the conversation positive and constructive.  Ask questions that prompt the client to give an affirmative answer or to reaffirm something they have already said.  Get them in the frame of mind to say “yes.”
  • Invite the client to explore ideas with you. Make them an active participant in the process, rather than talking to or at them. Engage their imagination so they can begin to envision working with you to realize their project.
  •  When you sense the client is engaged and feeling positive, ask them a “stepping stone” question that will take them the next step on the path toward “yes,” such as, “Is what we have been talking about more or less what you have in mind?”
  • Assuming the client agrees, now is the time to bring the conversation to a close and ask for the sale, for example, “How shall we get started?” or “When would you like to begin?”  You want to sound confident but not pushy. Affirm for the client that this is a good arrangement for the two of you and that you are looking forward to working with them on the project.

In order to make a purchasing decision, clients need information, but they also need reassurance.  By maintaining a positive tone and taking them confidently step by step through the decision-making process, you give them what they need to say “yes.”

For more ways to build client relationships, be sure to come to our Interior Design Summit to hear Anna Ruby share her best practices that have helped J Banks grow to 40+ employees with global clients.

Gail Doby

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