We all like to think we make decisions based on logic and reason; however, evidence indicates otherwise. It’s actually our emotions that play a bigger role in decision-making. And somewhat surprisingly, that’s true for little things, like choosing a pen to write with, as well as the bigger things — like choosing a style and designer for our homes.
I think it’s especially important for interior designers to understand how emotions influence their clients’ decision-making process. After all, emotions are bound to weigh heavily on decisions about something as personal as the spaces where they and their families sleep, eat and play.
If you want to land your dream clients, you have to focus on their emotions first. Whether they know it or not, they aren’t only paying for design. They’re paying for the feelings of calm, inspiration or joy that they’ll get from spending time in a beautiful space. If you can give them that, they’ll be thrilled to work with you, rehire you and tell all their friends about you.
Why All Decisions Are Emotional
Scientists discovered just how entwined emotions are with decisions after carefully observing the behavior of patients who couldn’t feel emotions.
This article has a good summary of the phenomenon, discovered by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio. Basically, people with brain damage that prevented them from feeling emotions could “describe what they should be doing in logical terms, yet they found it very difficult to make even simple decisions, such as what to eat.” That’s because logic usually can’t help with the many decisions we all have to make each day that don’t have a clear, rational best choice.
Choosing and paying for something as subjective as home decor is definitely going to be coming from the emotional part of the brain. Sure, your clients may use a bit of logic (or at least tell themselves that they are) in the process. However, designers work primarily in the realm of emotions.
And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that! Helping people feel calm, comfortable and powerful in their homes is what great designers love to do.
How Design Ties Into Identity
Of course, emotions are subjective. What makes one person feel cozy may make another feel unsettled. What energizes one can be overwhelming to someone else, and so on. Your clients need to feel like their space reflects their personal values and makes a statement about who they are. If not, they won’t truly feel like they’re “at home.”
For example, if someone identifies as a high-flying, glamorous career woman, she will love a space that reflects that. If she identifies as nature-loving and down-to-earth, those values should come through clearly in her space. That’s why the design that will best achieve emotional goals for any given client will vary wildly from one to the next.
That doesn’t mean your portfolio can’t — and shouldn’t — address all of these needs. As I discussed in-depth in my post on making your design business stand out from the crowd, you need to project a consistent, distinctive style for your business. That will give your work a stronger emotional appeal to clients who have similar values and aesthetics to your own.If your portfolio dabbles in too many design types, you’re diluting the emotional impact for each potential client. Click To Tweet
However, even within the same distinctive aesthetic, your clients’ emotional goals will vary. The key is to get a clear understanding of those goals and attitudes in the beginning of your relationship.
Selling a Feeling
Your sales process should start with an understanding of your clients’ end goals and the way they want to feel about their space.
Unfortunately, many designers get it backwards: They start by listing the features of the service and may never even get around to the end benefits and accompanying feelings. This Inc. article has a good summary of value-based selling vs. benefit-based selling. Here’s an example for interior designers:
- Examples of Features: This is a great opportunity to highlight your design super power and the trades that help you bring it to fruition. Highlighting hours or offering multiple concepts is not a good idea. See related post: Free Yourself From Hourly Billing Now
- Examples of Benefits: Positioning clients’ lifestyle after the reveal is important. A space designed beautifully for the client’s personal needs.
- Examples of Value: The feeling a client gets when they come home each day and walk into his or her beautiful space.
As you can see, the features are important, but what your client really wants are the benefits. If you’re struggling to focus in on those end benefits, use this advice, courtesy of a copywriting technique: “To get to the bottom of each feature’s true benefit, keep asking the question ‘What does this mean for your prospect on an emotional level?’”
Questions to Ask
To develop the type of services that cater to clients’ emotions, you need to get specific. Too many designers focus mostly on logistics (timeframe, space and budget) as they interview clients.
You can get to the heart of any potential client’s pain points by building questions like these into your client evaluation process:
- What would be the perfect space for you? Why?
- How do you use this space now? How would you like to use it?
- What don’t you like about this space the way it is? How do you feel when you look at it now?
- What is keeping you from transforming this space? What has kept you from transforming it in the past?
- What are your favorite parts of your house and why? Or, what did you love about other places you’ve lived?
- Describe how you’d like to feel when you walk into this room.
- What are your or your family’s favorite activities in this room? Or, what would you like to spend your time doing in this room?
- Have you worked with a designer before? What was that experience like?
- Why do you want to work with a designer now?
- Why specifically did you reach out to me?
Of course, you can tailor those questions as you see fit. Questions like these can go a long way toward clarifying what your client really expects to get out of his or her investment.
Once you know more about your client’s goals, you can take steps to make sure that the emotional end-benefits come through in your proposal.
For example, think about how these scenarios make you feel:
- Settling into an armchair to read your young son a book
- Hanging up your coat and heading to your own bar for an in-home happy hour
- Entertaining friends around the dining room table
These go miles farther than vague adjectives or dry descriptions to help your clients really feel what they’ll be getting.
If you want to know more about how to structure the sales process for your interior design business, I’d love to work with you. I help designers make the shift to CEO through business coaching, consulting and classes. You can use this form to contact me. I look forward to hearing from you!
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Interior Design by Ines Martins Design #IDMCDesigners
Photography by Kris Tamburello