A big part of my role as a Business Coach for interior designers is helping them realize they need to focus more on the business end of their design service.
Many of us wish we could simply focus on the art and let the business take care of itself, but that’s not reality. Any business needs to be numbers-focused to survive, and that’s just as true for creative businesses like interior design as it is for any other business.
By “the business side,” I mean things like process, accounting, marketing, and, yes, sales.
A beautiful website and an interesting social media presence may go a long way toward generating interest in your business, but in the end, you still have to go out and close the sale personally. I’ve noticed more and more that this final stage is often one that trips up many designers.
Here are the three major steps that designers can take to get more people to make the jump from being prospective clients to paying clients.
Step 1. Clarify Your Brand
I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating: In order to attract the best clients, your work has to stand out. It has to be distinctive. You don’t want to try to appeal to everyone who could possibly want to pay for design. You’re better off trying to connect with a smaller group of people who personally identify with your aesthetic.
Designing for people who love your style means you’ll be doing more meaningful work and contributing to a portfolio that distinguishes your work from an increasing number of competitors.
I go into exactly how you can define yourself in the market in the following posts:
- How to Find the Perfect Clients for Your Interior Design Business
- How to Make Your Interior Design Business Stand Out From the Crowd
Establishing a clear brand identity is the first step in the sales process because it directly affects your ability to make a compelling pitch. A consistent brand will also make your services more consistent, which can simplify your sales process.
Step 2. Connect with the Client
Your clients aren’t just paying for an interior design. As I mentioned in my post on positioning your design services as a luxury product, they’re paying for your point of view and experience. And part of that is working with you personally.
They admire your work, which is why they got in touch with you. They were willing to take a pass on the garden variety furniture catalogs and cheaper design alternatives (such as online programs) to work with you directly. But, as you can imagine, this exclusive benefit becomes a lot less exciting if they find that they don’t really connect with you on a personal level.
For example, if they get the sense that you and they wouldn’t quite get along, or even that you’re someone they wouldn’t exactly be thrilled about giving their money to, that will put a big damper on the sales process.
If you want to win any potential client’s trust and respect, you have to connect with them personally. In many cases, that’s as simple as finding common ground with them and showing them you care about their personal issues.
The designers who can easily chat with potential clients and find common interests, likes, and dislikes are typically the ones who will win lasting business relationships.
You’re not looking for a new best friend, of course. The connections I’m referring to are things like shared background, mutual friends and experiences, and hobbies. This should be particularly easy for you when you’re in their home for the initial meet and greet, because you can intuit a lot about them from the way they live.
So, relax during your potential client meetings. Tell a few personal anecdotes. Ask questions. Business relationships aren’t much different than social relationships when they first start out.
Plus, cultivating better relationships with your clients will mean that you’ll get a better feel for what they want and will feel more comfortable communicating directly, which will naturally yield better design results.
Step 3. Go Past “Pretty” to Show the Deeper Value
In a world where we have tons of exposure to picture-perfect rooms on places like Pinterest and Instagram, your potential clients can get a good idea of what they want any given room to look like. But they still don’t know what it actually takes to bring that kind of design to life.
Part of convincing people that they should work with you is showing them not just what their space could look like, but why you’re the best qualified to make it a reality.
If you give potential clients a little taste of the logistics required in creating a well-designed space, it will increase their respect for your process.
After all, there’s a lot behind the design that the client will benefit from: There are sketches, elevation drawings from multiple angles, furniture layouts, and other detailed plans that support that artistry. Plus, as with every design project, you will be consulting with a network of professionals, from furniture makers to artists to trade specialists, who will be bringing their deep expertise to the table for their project.
Your clients also should understand that when they choose to work with you, they’re getting access to all of those resources. These are perks that your clients are unlikely to get elsewhere for less, and it’s your job to make that clear.
Step 4. Bring the WOW Factor
Of course, the first steps won’t land a sale if the client eventually doesn’t connect with the vision that you deliver.
To increase the odds that the clients will love your design, you have to frontload your work a bit. Make sure that you get a deep understanding of what they value and how they intend to use the space before you embark on the initial design concept.
Then, as I go into detail in my post 3 Steps for a Powerful Interior Design Design Presentation, make sure you give yourself enough time to deliver work with a real WOW factor. Practice your presentation thoroughly before you give it so you can present with confidence.
Remember, you’re the expert they hired to get this job done. Be prepared to explain and defend your artistic choices.
Step 5. Get it on the Calendar ASAP
The final step to closing the sale is to actually get the project on the calendar, which requires a deposit from the client.
Hopefully, by this time they’re just as excited to start with you as you are to start with them. Take advantage of that excitement. The more time that elapses in between your meet & greet and their actually sending the cheque in, the more that excitement could fade.
I always urge my interior design clients to remember that this service is one that is paid with a clients’ discretionary income. That means it’s especially at risk of getting pushed off the list of your client’s top priorities, especially if they have any hesitations about it.
Once they’ve signed back your proposal and they’ve paid a portion of your design – you want to get the design concept presentation locked into your calendar. Getting the client to commit right after the meet & greet might be as simple as just asking them directly if you can get started.Potential clients will be excited about your design right after you present it. Use that excitement to get a YES and move forward. Click To Tweet
Are you ready to take your sales process to the next level? We would love to help. We specialize in working with interior designers who are trying to step into the CEO role for their businesses. We have availability for one-on-one coaching and “mastermind groups” in which driven, talented designers meet to keep themselves on track and compare best practices. Contact us to learn which services might be right for you.