Over my career I have been asked many times by other designers what I attribute my success to. I often surprise them with my answer. Although I certainly feel my talent as a designer is one of my assets it is not the only thing that establishes my success. I believe that a great deal has to do with my ability to establishing a trusting relationship with my clients from the moment I have my initial phone conversation with them.
As a designer chances are very good that you have never met the person or couple who are reaching out to you for an appointment. If they become your client your job will be to work with them in their most private space. You will need to be professional while establishing a personal relationship. How do you do that?
I begin by asking them what I can do for them or what they are looking for. I make sure I let them talk without interruption all the time jotting down notes about what they are telling me. I will listen for key information like where they are from or if they are empty nesters or have children still in school. I ask them pertinent questions like what type of decor they would like to work with. I find these notes come in handy when I mention something they may have told me and they are surprised to know that I was listening and remembered what they said. In this day of multi-tasking the key thing to remember is to pay attention during this initial conversation.
The second thing I do is try to make an appointment as soon as possible to meet the person or couple. Studies by researchers in business sales show that once you meet a new client and make a personal connection the chances of your success increases 75%.
To help you to set up your own steps in establish a relationship with the client here are a few tips.
- When the client calls for an appointment establish a day and time to meet as soon as possible. Even if you are busy, make an initial appointment. They are shopping and will continue to talk to other people until you meet them and show them you are the person they should use for their project.
- After making the appointment send them a personal note to confirm the date and time you will be meeting and thank them for the opportunity. In the past I would send a hand written note card however in today’s world of electronic communication most people have no problem with a personal email.
- Attached to my correspondence, I add literature about my business. Perhaps a couple of pictures of projects that I have completed. When sending pictures make sure you choose those that align with the client’s decor. Sending a modern window covering with modular furniture when they have told you they want a cape code look might make them question your ability to meet the look they want.
- The day before the appointment I will often send a quick email reminding them of the time of our appointment and letting them know I am looking forward to meeting them.
- On the day of my appointment I always arrive at my clients house on time and organized. I do not try to overwhelm the client with ideas but listen to what they are trying to accomplish. The key is to give the client a sense of confidence in you as their designer.
- After having an initial tour of your client’s home often the question of cost will come up. I think it is very important to establish a budget during your initial meetings. Many seasoned designers will do a quick estimate based on an established price per foot of window. I prefer using the method I teach in “Estimating and Budgets”. My method walks through a realistic step by step way of moving though various ideas with ease and accuracy. Whatever your method of establishing a budget, it is important to do this before investing time in designing a window treatment that may or may not fit in the budget they have in mind.
- Lastly I always have an agreement with me with a retainer amount determined based on the size of the project. At this point, if your client is serious and is moving forward and not just shopping around they will be prepared to sign your agreement and give you a retainer
Whatever steps you choose to start your relationship with a client, the most important thing is to have a plan and follow the plan in a professional manner. Clients appreciate designers who are good business people as much as designers who are talented artists. Building a positive relationship will lead to future referrals and successful projects.