Does this sound familiar? You drive out to see a prospective client, walk in the door, they take you to the space they are thinking of remodeling and jump into what needs to be done, how it is going to be done, and then start talking about how much it is going to cost.
In summary, they are telling you what they want, and you are giving them a price.
Here is the problem: the chances of really understanding them, knowing what the original problem is, and helping them solve their problem might never happen in this scenario.
Let’s turn the table. You are sick. Do you go to the doctor and tell them what is wrong, and what you need, surgery, medicine, etc.? NO!
You tell them your problem and then they give you solutions. The doctor listens to all your problems, symptoms, how long you have been experiencing the pain, and what if anything you have done to fix the problem. Then they will do a little checking for themselves, then, finally will provide a recommended solution.
Know the budget
Often when I talk to a client for the first time the idea they are proposing is a good one, but often needs to be tweaked to create their vision and solution. That vision can include how the project relates to surrounding areas, if it is feasible, if there are better or different solutions, or design options they might not know existed. And one final one: Is the solution right for their budget?
It is difficult when the client loves a design, it solves all their problems, they love the designer … and the project is $500,000 when their budget was $250,000. It is very hard for the client to settle for less when they have a vision of something much greater.
These are all elements of the solution. One critical part of the solution, unlike what a doctor has to usually do, is understanding the target budget expectations of the client PRIOR to recommending solutions.
If the solution doesn’t fit in the budget range of the client, it will not help anyone. I know often this is a cart before the horse conversation, yet it is an important ingredient in the solution.
Understand the why
So what is missing in the first scenario? One, major step — the WHY. One key ingredient in selling is the why. Before anything else, you need to understand the why.
Why did they pick up the phone and call you? They saw your job sign? OK, now why did they call you to remodel?
The why is their need to solve a problem. Just like when you go to the doctor. You didn’t call him because you saw his ad. You called the doctor because you had a problem and wanted a solution.
Remodeling is no different. There are several levels to this. For example in remodeling a kitchen, I often hear it is old or outdated, the client wants to “freshen it up,” or update the kitchen. These are good; usually there are more emotional reasons also.
For example, “I entertain and my guests sit in the family room and it is closed off from the kitchen, I want to be interacting with them,” or “We plan on staying here for at least another 10 years and the oven is too low.”
Don’t say OK and run back to the first scenario. Stick with it and see how many problems you can help the client understand. They might never have even said these out loud before, until someone asked them. The more problems you can solve with your solution, the better it is for the client.
If you really get to know your client and understand their needs better than anyone else, it could ultimately steer the project and design to something different than they originally envisioned. This is when you and the client win. They get a project that is truly solving more of their needs and problems, and you get the job.
Next time you meet with a client, before you jump into the what and the how, slow down, get to know them, get to know why they are doing the project and what they are trying to solve before they spend a dime. Then solve their problems with the what and the how.