By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
You’ve probably had the experience where you are listening to a salesperson rattle on about the features of a product or a service person explaining the problem you’re having and you haven’t a clue what they are talking about. You nod your head, interject an “aha” every now and then, and try to disguise the fact that your eyes are glazing over.
When we’ve been doing something over and over again for a long time, we start to forget that other people are not as familiar with that activity as we are. It’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to sound like a professional by dropping a lot of jargon and referring to practices that the prospect is not familiar with. That’s when you start to get into trouble. You and the prospective client are no longer communicating. You are talking at cross-purposes, and neither party is really hearing what the other is saying. Rather than admit they are confused, the prospect may decide to “think about” your proposal and never contact you again. Or, they may agree to a proposal they don’t really understand, and later on challenge your decisions, ask for changes, question your billing practices, or accuse you of malpractice.
As the professional, it’s your job to make sure you fully understand your client’s expectations and that they fully understand and accept the services you are offering to meet those expectations. There are several things you can do to help avoid miscommunication and the problems that can follow from it:
- Make up a list of the technical and industry terminology you commonly use with your team, colleagues and vendors, and then think of an ordinary word or phrase you could use in its place when talking with a prospect who is completely unfamiliar with interior design and what designers do.
- When discussing the client’s needs and expectations, ask follow up questions to be sure you understand in detail what they want. Then restate to them what you heard them say to confirm you are correct.
- Take notes as you go along. At the end of the discussion, review your notes with the client and reaffirm you both are in agreement with what was said.
- Do the same with your explanation to the client of the services you propose to provide to meet their expectations, how and why they will meet those expectations, how you work and how you bill.
- Confirm everything in writing and send to the prospect for their review as soon as possible after the meeting.
Because you are clear in your own mind what you plan to do, and have done it successfully many times in the past, it’s tempting to simply reassure the client that everything will be fine. Resist that temptation.
Before terminating the interview, double check with the prospect to see if they have any questions or lingering doubts or concerns. Taking just a few extra minutes to ensure everything is clearly understand and agreed upon can make the difference between closing a sale and having a good client experience or not.
More positive ideas on working with clients can be found in my article-Acting with Confidence Will Help You Close More Design Clients.