You know that nervous feeling just before your’e about to sell your design ideas to your clients?
It’s because you know they’re going to ask why, and you’re going to have to think up some sort of explanation. And you’re going to stutter through it with meaningless phrases: “It works because of balance” “I think this is the way to go.”
Why not instead enter the meeting with a solid argument in your back hand. To truly convince a client, nothing beats a lucid, coherent argument based on actual evidence. You may be a designer, but when it comes to pitching an idea, you have to act like a salesman.
Here are four techniques for making a good convincing sale.
Sometimes, your client is trying to tell you things they don’t know how to express themselves. Your role as a designer is to pick through the subtle ties and pull out the truths they’re not being explicit about. Before you can make a valid case for any kind of solution, you need to know what the problem is. And that means listening.
Listening helps you determine what the constraints of a project really is, what the client’s concerns are. It helps you see whether or not you’ve already got the right argument in hand or if it needs looking at again.
It also helps put your client into a mindset. Repeating what you’ve heard back to the client you’re listening to is the No. 1 way to make a client feel they are being heard to the ideas you’re about to show. It shows that your forthcoming recommendations will be tightly relevant to the client’s needs.
A good designer should ask questions—about the business, they’re concerns, they’re needs, they’re prior decisions, they’re team and goals. A great designer wants to see the whole picture.
They ask questions because they’re really curious. They ask questions because the answers can help them see what they’re getting into. They ask questions because they want to work toward a vision they can use to make good design decision. Asking questions lets them do that.
Asking questions lets a designer form a coherent debate. Asking is as important as listening. It’s actually part of listening. Asking means dragging more information out into the spotlight.
Next time you walk into an interview, ask questions. Next time you need to make an informed decision ask questions. Next time you need to fend off a bad idea, someone’s bias, your own bias, ask questions.
A client asked me to add “click here” to a link. They were worried users wouldn’t know what I meant for them to click—the link was a question like “Forgot password?” I explained the reasons for not including “Click here.”
We all know it takes time to explain things like this. That email took 15 minutes to write.
But it’s worth it. It buys you respect, and it shows your client respect. What they hear is that you care enough to explain your rationale. It also demonstrates that you have a rationale for everything you do. It can build trust.
Educating your clients and co-workers and stakeholders with every recommendation you make has effective effects:
- It guarantees you have a reason for your recommendation.
- It gives everyone a good reason for the recommendation.
- It has a long-term effect: It teaches clients to think about design. To think like a designer. To think like a consumer. It teaches them that every decision has an impact on a user’s experience and therefore should be considered. Do this well, and over time you won’t need to form an argument for your reasoning.
If you can present your case and do it at the start, you won’t need to argue. Your narrative will address every concern before it comes up.
It helps to apply an essay-style structure to your presentation. When you’re presenting design work to someone, that essay can be helpful. It’s a template. Its tells a story.
Here’s one tip for how to keep an audience captive while you’re making your rationale.
A lot of times, your audience, especially smaller ones will want to ask questions during the presentation. This is fine if it’s a minor question with a quick answer. There is no quicker way to derail your argument than to let something like this distract you and leave everyone forgetting what you were hoping to achieve.
The tip is simple: Ask your customers to hold their questions until the end of the presentation.
In many examples, especially if you’ve anticipated their concerns, you’ll have already answered most of the big questions. This doesn’t mean you’re done. It’s practically a guarantee that someone will ask you something you haven’t yet thought of. This is why the questions are at the end.
If you let these things throw you off track in the middle of a presentation, you may never answer the other important questions. If your meeting is an hour, leave 5-10 minutes at the end for questions.
Whatever the case, leave some time. Questions are the only way you’ll know what you’ve missed.
In Summary: It can always be a tough sell to convince your’e client your reasons for why you design a project the way you do. Steve Jobs put it so well “The customer is always right was told by the customer”. People don’t know what they want, you need to show them. Believe in what you do and why you do it. Remember customers come to you because they can’t do it themselves.