It’s been a while since I wanted to write this post about how to get ready for your first meeting with a client. I remember when I started my own interior design business in Moscow it was one of the most daunting things to do for me. Especially when you don’t have a mentor around to guide you, it takes some time to figure out what’s the best way to do it. So in this post I want to share some tips and I hope they will be useful for you.
- Preparation is the key
As with anything, if you want things to run smoothly, do your homework. Before your meeting write an outline of it. Think about what question you need to ask your client and what questions they might ask you. The main goal of this meeting is to connect with a client and understand whether you are a good fit for this project. Ask him or her to bring some images of the interiors that they like – or bring your own magazines and look through them together. Try to understand their style and color preferences. Do you think your preferences and vision for this project match?
2. Nonverbal communication
You can’t neglect the important of nonverbal communication, such as posture, body language, facial expression. Do little rehearsal in front of the mirror and observe all above mentioned. Do you smile enough? Do you look friendly enough? Do you look confident? Here are some tips to make a great first impression:
- focus on eye-contact
- knowledge that you listen carefully with little nods but avoid excessive nodding
- don’t cross your arms or legs
3. Your image
I already wrote about the importance of image for interior designers but your first client meeting is definitely an occasion to look closer at your wardrobe and personal style. You need to look elegant and expensive, your appearance should radiate confidence and success, as well as justifying the X amount of money that you quote as your hourly rate. For women I recommend to wear heals and stylish accessories – scarves, jewelry, watches. You are not a lawyer so your outfit shouldn’t be too much official and actually you can allow yourself to look more artistic and extravagant. The most important think is that your image reflects your personal style.
4. Get rid of anxiety
First meeting is always stressful. One thing that always helped me to cope with nerves is to stand 5 minutes in the power pose just before meeting starts.
5. Things to bring on the meeting
Here is what I usually bring to my first meetings with clients:
- notepad and pen to take notes
- ruler tape (even though I make proper site survey only after signing a contract with client, I always bring a ruler tape on the first meeting, just in case a client will ask me a question like “do you think a double bed will fit in here?”)
- camera to take pictures of the space (I usually use my smartphone)
- my portfolio (I normally have pictures uploaded in my laptop or tablet)
- some interior design magazines
6. Things to talk and not to talk during your first meeting
- do talk about scope of works, what is required and what is desired
- don’t talk about the cost of the project yet. If the client asks, you can answer that you will need to make an estimate based on the amount of hours you are going spend on this project.
- don’t ask client about his budget yet. Of course knowing how much a client is going to spend definitely helps, but as I said this meeting is meant first of all to establish connection with a client first, so you can postpone money talk to the next meeting.
7. Don’t be afraid of giving away ideas
So many times I heard from some designers the following advice: “don’t give away all your ideas, otherwise a client might steal them and can hire somebody else who is cheaper or even implement them himslelf”. My thinking is that idea by itself is worth nothing, its implementation which makes it valuable. Yes, you can suggest to a client to build a fountain in the patio of his home, but only you know what kind of fountain it should be to make it look nice. If the client doesn’t understand it, maybe you don’t need this client. If he understands it, giving away ideas and showing off your creativity is the powerful tool to win a project.
Have you conduct your first ever client meeting yet? If yes, was it successful or not (did you sign the contract?) Share your experience in the comments below – it might be very useful for other people!
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