What? Have I lost my ever loving mind?
Let me explain why in the business of interior design you need to tell your client the reasons they should NOT hire you. It is not as crazy as it seems. Interior designers are often making proposals to a client who is apprehensive about working with an interior designer in the first place.
Presenting negatives can make it much harder for your client to think of any themselves. This is an ironic but true statement. Writer Adam Grant calls it the “Sarrick effect” in Psychology
The resulting communication about the positives can be that much more impactful when the negatives are on the table. Believe it.
4 reasons why this strategy works. And it is no sales gimmick. It is being real.
1.Disarming people with an approach not expected works beautifully when done honestly. It is sincerity that works to relax people enough to be opening to listening. Not every designer is a good fit for every client both economically or aesthetically. And that is ok. You can gain more respect by the truth rather than a bunch of ” I am the answer to all of your problems” dialogue.
2.Leading with some “limitations” can be construed as you knowing enough to not get in over your head. This makes you look smart. Smart enough to know what you know—and what you do not know.
3. Establishing trust is a key component to any strong working relationship. Pointing out the areas that may not be in your wheelhouse does not mean you won’t get the job. It may mean you bring in an expert in the areas you are not as skilled in–this is called building a team and we just did this with a new home build. I will be driving a lot of the bus, but I have my areas of expertise and am smart enough to know where I need help too. This direct approach further strengthened the trust the clients had in us–as we did not pretend to be the complete solution–but the driving force of the solution.
4.Talking about potential objections or concerns gets the discussion on the table–up front. You cannot deal with objections not expressed right? In any sales whether it is selling your expertise or selling your creative skills or selling a pet rock, their will be objections- bring them up yourself and then address them.
Being over confident is a turn off.
Especially when your audience has their protective shield up expecting attempts to be persuaded. Admitting some of the down sides to hiring you–in a sense–is making you look smarter by acknowledging the limitations up front.
If you are new to design-admit it.
Tell a client up front you are new- do not let them be the ones to find out when you can’t handle something. But turn this into an advantage by emphasizing your fresh training, your “new” eye or your eagerness to do a great job.
If you are not a contractor, say it.
If you are getting into a new construction or big remodel and know you can handle it but want to make sure the client “remembers” you are not a contractor- say it up front.
“I am not a contractor and do not try to pretend to be one. However, I can guide you in decisions to be made in a timely manner so we do not hold the contractor up–or delay the job.” My experience allows me to have this inside knowledge to help you navigate the language and the basic tenets of the building process.“
If you might piss a contractor off as so many of us seem to do–own it.
If you are not the touchy feely type who is going to ruffle feathers because you believe in DOING YOUR JOB, then say it up front. Address it before a sub or contractor tells the client you have “upset” a sub by making him tear out a row of tile.
“Do not hire my firm if you want someone who gets along on the job site always- because we won’t. We believe in plans being done to an exacting level and then for the subs and contractors to follow them. If something goes wrong, we are there to help, but it does not mean we are going to be voted most popular people on the job. We left high school popularity contests a few years back!”
Get the objections out on the table – bring it up first.
This not only allows your client to feel a sense of relief that you know what you do not know–but the added plus for you to be able to sell why you still are a good choice for the project.
For example if you are concerned about your level of experience in a particular arena of design like so many we see post in groups- do not hide it as your client has assuredly done some research and may like your style but is a bit worried you can handle their project.
” I have done xx projects similar to this and while that may not be as many as some, my experience in xyz gives me a unique outlook that might be missing from some others who – perhaps- have been doing it so long their approach may be tired. Here is what I will promise you- if I do not know the answer, I will never say I do. But what I will do is say–I will find out.”
Your clients need to know what you do and how you work.
They need to trust you to be good stewards of their money. They need to know you can handle their job and solve their problems. They need to believe in your abilities and know your awareness of your own limitations. This is the foundation to a great relationship and a strong referral base in the future.
I can promise you there are many former clients who might tell a possible referral – “Boy that Cheryl and her team is wickedly talented but they also do not suffer fools gladly” Or something like “Cheryl is a bull in a china shop but she does not miss a thing.” or “You will love Liz, she is the greatest, but she will be on those subs like white on rice.”
Or my favorite from a heartfelt client review- Not so sure the contractor would have the same opinion- but he was not my client. And that- is the bottom line.