How to Win (and Lose) Design Clients.
For almost 7 years, maoStudios has been working with clients from the very first point of sale, to ongoing, long-term relationships. We have seen the best and the worst ways to get and work with clients, through our own experience and watching other firms.
If you are new to the design industry or are a client and are not familiar with how designers interact with each other, we will give you a clue; we aren't competitive. Especially design professionals in Seattle. Most designers have either a) gone to school together or b) have worked together at another agency. It's a small town, most of us work with each other on overflow or see each other outside of work socially. There are of course, a few chosen companies who isolate themselves and do not inter-mingle, but those are usually companies who for lack of better words, are not real designers.
Most industries seem to be fairly competitive, it's kind of an anomaly that the design industry is not, but I suppose designers by their very nature are NOT trying to be better than the next designer, they are just creating a subjective piece of work. One client could love it, the other could hate it. Designers are usually introverts, emotional thinkers, who never played competitive sports or majored in business. They are creatives who were fine artists, writers, or musicians at one point. So considering how we are, I will start with how we win clients.
How to Win Design Clients.
1. The very first contact you have with a client is the most important. It's usually a phone call or email. We always recommend calling a lead before responding via email, hearing an actual voice on their end means you are a real person, i.e. company. Same goes for you, you know they are a real company too.
2. What is your phone voice like? If you aren't sure or have been told it's not friendly, make it friendly. Smile while you talk and ask the client a lot of questions that both pertain to their business and to your qualifying information gathering. Be sure to listen plenty too and only ask questions when the client is done speaking.
3. Obviously, your online web presence is extremely important. Having a clear portfolio, list of services, ways to contact, blog, etc. are all just general 'should-haves.'
4. When a client asks for costs of your services, never give a firm number. It's hard for you to know that the number you give is actually accounting all of your time, especially if you just had a 5 minute conversation. We always give a range and that gives a potential client a good idea of what they might end up paying us.
5. If the potential client says your range sounds good, ALWAYS schedule an in-person meeting before you send over a proposal. They need to know you are serious, but more importantly, you need to know they are serious. This 'free consultation' will allow you to ask more in-depth questions and get to know the potential client better.
6. After you have met, be sure to give yourself enough time to develop a top-notch proposal. When we say this we mean; include a competitive analysis of the potential client's competition, sitemap, business breakdown, costs analysis, and your contract. This will help you stand out, especially if the potential client is considering multiple firms.
7. Make sure to deliver your proposal within a week of your meeting, if possible, sooner. Obviously, your company is busy, but clients don't like to wait either.
8. With almost every proposal submittal, our sales team follow up to make sure the potential client received it. We also follow up weekly if we have not heard back on their decision.
These are the typical ways of winning a client. There are other points of entry. Say for example your company assists a client with one service and there are opportunities for you to offer that client more services. In every situation, it's important to always be positive and just talk with the client in a friendly matter about their needs. NEVER, in any situation, bad mouth another agency who that client may be working with. This leads me to our next section, how to lose design clients.
How to Lose Design Clients.
1. Not responding. If you don't respond to phone calls or email requests, you will lose your opportunity, period. Make time to answer the phone or emails in a timely manner. If you let it go too long, the potential lead will already have a bad taste in their mouth about you.
2. Choosing to only communicate over email, is unprofessional and nonconfrontational. It tells a potential lead that you are not a professional and are not truly interested in working with their company.
3. If you speak with a potential client on the phone and are not inquisitive, engaging, or friendly, that potential client will never call you back.
4. Giving a fixed quote over the phone, without having an appropriate discovery meeting only sets the relationship up for disaster. You will lose money and the client will ultimately not feel good about how you work together. Especially, if you keep charging them additional hours.
5. Never submit just an invoice to a potential client, unless they have already been working with you long-term. An invoice has no information about how you work, your understanding of their company, or your contract.
6. If you meet with a client at your office or a coffee shop, make sure it's clean and quiet. A client doesn't want to be interrupted and wants to feel like you are fully listening to what they have to say.
7. Do not ever bad mouth your competition, other agencies or designers. That reflects poorly on you. Actually, it goes without saying for any industry. Spreading negativity breeds more negativity and a client who is won over by those tactics, is a client who resorts to those same tactics when it serves them best. Not only that, if an agency lost business because you said something untrue about their service(s), they will have legal grounds to sue you. They also are probably well-connected and will never recommend your company to anyone, ever. Like I said, it's a small community and if we like each other, we help each other out.
Of course, there are many situations that happen throughout a working relationship that go well and not so well. We will save those tips for another blog post about how to maintain current clients.
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