Our interior design process begins in studio with a free Meet & Greet. This is an opportunity to visit with the prospective client, understand their wants and needs, and share with them how we operate. There are many questions to ask, but 5 most important ones must happen in this first conversation.
This visit is the opportunity for both parties to be sure the personalities align and also watch for any red flags. Interior design is such a personal service, it is imperative to ensure everybody involved has a mutual respect and trust. We encourage our prospective clients to ask questions, and we also pepper the conversation with our own. Amongst the many, there are 5 questions you must ask a potential client to ensure expectations are set and met.
Question 1: How did you find me?
Or where did you hear about me? I always want to know if it is a referral, so I can thank the person who pointed them in my direction. If not a direct referral, I want to know what marketing efforts are working.
Question 2: Have You Worked With A Designer Before?
I learned this one the hard way. A client who had worked with “many designers and just hadn’t found one that fit”. Yah. Huge red flag in retrospect. Most prospective clients don’t have this story, but it is still important to find out if they have had experience with a designer because we don’t all operate the same. It is key to ensure that your practices align with their expectations.
Question 3: Where is the project located?
Here in the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex, the client could live 5 minutes or 55 minutes away from our design studio. The geographic details are important to considering whether or not to take on the project simply from a logistical standpoint as well as how much time will be involved in the commute. Drive time is design downtime (other than making phone calls) and needs to be factored into the overall scope and design fee.
Question 4: What is your timeframe?
More often than not, our prospective clients do not know how long the interior design process takes. HGTV has created an expectation of almost immediate gratification with our industry, and it is likely necessary to undo the “magic of television” and give a dose of (real) reality.
Our full-service interior design process has sixteen steps of sanity that we follow to ensure each project goes off without a hitch. This includes a lot of front end work such as questionnaires, interviews and lots of photos and measurements before any decisions are made.
When clients have exceptionally tight timelines we provide the option of expediting the project, with an additional fee attached to the quick turnaround. Or we share the actual process and re-align their timeline to fit within our standard operating procedures.
It is imperative that the client understands the importance of our processes and procedures to see the project through. When a client understands that our practices are for their benefit, it makes the entire process much more enjoyable for everybody!
Question 5: What is your budget?
I usually save this question for last. Until now, I’ve been working on building trust and being straightforward about details that are pretty easy to address. For most people who have walked through our door for the first time, they have no idea how much this whole project is going to cost and it’s up to me to set their expectations.
None of this information is going to bubble to the surface unless you’re asking the right questions.
Talking about the budget should not be uncomfortable…what is uncomfortable is trying to work design into an unrealistic budget and
hoping praying the client will be happy with the results. So have a frank conversation about your design fees and how they are separate from the purchasing budget. Explain that the investment in the furniture will result in years of happiness and that construction costs also need to be factored in.
If you’re not sure about costs, tell them that you’ll do a little research before spending time on the project site. During our Scope of Work presentation, I like to share an estimated budget with the client for their specific project, room by room, item by item. This is super helpful for them to gauge what the overall investment is going to be.
The discovery call or meet & greet is a great place to forge a new client relationship. Make the most of your time by asking the right questions.