The Designer Within

Turning Consultations Into Sales: Ten Steps for Mastering the Interior Design Consultation

May 31, 2024 John McClain Season 1 Episode 47
Turning Consultations Into Sales: Ten Steps for Mastering the Interior Design Consultation
The Designer Within
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The Designer Within
Turning Consultations Into Sales: Ten Steps for Mastering the Interior Design Consultation
May 31, 2024 Season 1 Episode 47
John McClain

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Can you imagine transforming every client consultation into a surefire sales opportunity? That's exactly what you'll learn in this episode of the Designer Within Podcast with me, John McClain. We explore the essential strategies for mastering successful consultations in sales-driven businesses, especially for creative entrepreneurs. By embracing consultations as crucial sales calls, you’ll discover ten actionable steps that have driven my own business success. From setting clear legal expectations and leveraging online scheduling systems to delivering valuable insights during the meeting, this episode will empower you to turn consultations into a powerful tool for winning clients and closing deals.

Come along as we uncover the best practices for design consultations. Learn how to use comprehensive design questionnaires to extract deeper insights into your clients' preferences and aspirations, ensuring every meeting is as informative as it is effective. I share personal anecdotes on how specific questions can reveal crucial information, ensuring you understand and meet your clients' needs. Setting clear expectations, providing printed materials, and creating a structured consultation process are key takeaways that will leave a lasting positive impression and foster successful client relationships. Elevate your consultation skills and boost your business in just 20 minutes!

Download your free Interior Design Consultation Questionnaire: https://john.myflodesk.com/consultquestionnaire

 Check out MY LINK HERE for a free 30 day trial to MyDoma Studio and organize your clients and projects the easy and efficient way!
https://www.mydomastudio.com/john/ 

For all things John: www.johnmcclain.co
For more information on my online Courses & Coaching Program for Interior Designers, visit: https://designsuccessacademy.com/
Order a signed copy of John's book: The Designer Within (or purchase anywhere books are sold!) https://buy.stripe.com/dR67vBgmo41j1PyfYZ
JOIN OUR DESIGNER WITHIN CLUB for all of the latest news, updates, and freebies! https://view.flodesk.com/pages/649dd053cac3e37f36e4a45e

CHECK OUT MYDOMA STUDIO WITH A FREE 30 DAY TRIAL USING THIS LINK!
https://www.mydomastudio.com/john

Connect With John!
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LinkedIn

...

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Can you imagine transforming every client consultation into a surefire sales opportunity? That's exactly what you'll learn in this episode of the Designer Within Podcast with me, John McClain. We explore the essential strategies for mastering successful consultations in sales-driven businesses, especially for creative entrepreneurs. By embracing consultations as crucial sales calls, you’ll discover ten actionable steps that have driven my own business success. From setting clear legal expectations and leveraging online scheduling systems to delivering valuable insights during the meeting, this episode will empower you to turn consultations into a powerful tool for winning clients and closing deals.

Come along as we uncover the best practices for design consultations. Learn how to use comprehensive design questionnaires to extract deeper insights into your clients' preferences and aspirations, ensuring every meeting is as informative as it is effective. I share personal anecdotes on how specific questions can reveal crucial information, ensuring you understand and meet your clients' needs. Setting clear expectations, providing printed materials, and creating a structured consultation process are key takeaways that will leave a lasting positive impression and foster successful client relationships. Elevate your consultation skills and boost your business in just 20 minutes!

Download your free Interior Design Consultation Questionnaire: https://john.myflodesk.com/consultquestionnaire

 Check out MY LINK HERE for a free 30 day trial to MyDoma Studio and organize your clients and projects the easy and efficient way!
https://www.mydomastudio.com/john/ 

For all things John: www.johnmcclain.co
For more information on my online Courses & Coaching Program for Interior Designers, visit: https://designsuccessacademy.com/
Order a signed copy of John's book: The Designer Within (or purchase anywhere books are sold!) https://buy.stripe.com/dR67vBgmo41j1PyfYZ
JOIN OUR DESIGNER WITHIN CLUB for all of the latest news, updates, and freebies! https://view.flodesk.com/pages/649dd053cac3e37f36e4a45e

CHECK OUT MYDOMA STUDIO WITH A FREE 30 DAY TRIAL USING THIS LINK!
https://www.mydomastudio.com/john

Connect With John!
Instagram
Facebook
Tik Tok
LinkedIn

...

Speaker 0:

This is a sales call. We can label it as whatever the heck we want. You can call it a consultation, you can call it a meet and greet, you can call it a chit chat, you can call it whatever you want. My friends, it is a sales call, and until you stop trying to make it something other than a sales call, you are going to lose the whole reason of why you were there. So remember, we are salespeople and again I like to say selling is serving, of course, but this is a sales call and you are there to win that client over and to show them why you are the best designer, the best firm and the best team to work with them.

Speaker 0:

Hey, y'all, you're listening to the Designer Within Podcast, episode number 47. I'm John McClain, and welcome to the Designer Within Podcast, the business-minded podcast created for creative entrepreneurs by a creative entrepreneur. That's me. I know firsthand the challenges, but also the victories that can come with our careers, and I'm here to sip and spill the tea with you. It's time to dive deep within yourself and redesign your own business and your life from the inside out. Together, we will uncover secrets and share valuable insights. So prepare for a transformative experience, my friends, because it's time to unleash the designer within. Hi friends, welcome back to another episode of the Designer Within Podcast. I'm John McClain and I'm very happy to have you here.

Speaker 0:

Today's episode is a teaching episode, and I haven't done one of these in a bit and I just felt it was time to do so, and it is actually spurred by the fact that I just did the task that I'm going to talk to you about today, which is a consultation. So yesterday I just had a consultation with a client and it reminded me of all of the things that go into a consultation in the preparation, during the consultation and then, of course, after the consultation. And I will admit, the first few years of my business I was not so great at the consultation as far as being prepared for it. Now, once I got in front of the client, yes, I could win them over, close the deal and move on to the project, but in the beginning I did not have the organization that I have now in my business, and I wanted to simply share with you some of the things that I do within my own consultations that might be helpful to you as well, and things that I teach to students in my programs, too. Now, I know each one of you handles your consultations differently. That is understandable and totally fine, and I'm not saying what I'm going to discuss today should be the bible of consultations. I'm just simply saying these are tools that work for me, these are plans that work for me and steps that work for me and have led to many, many closures of deals and happy clients and large projects signed, so I do want to share those with you, and let's jump in and talk about some of the things that I do to master a successful consultation. That I do to master a successful consultation.

Speaker 0:

Okay, first and foremost, there is a lot of preparation that should go into preparing for a consultation. It is not simply someone calls you and then you run out to their home or you do an online consultation. That is not how this works. You need to do a lot of behind-the-scenes work to get ready for that consultation, and this can be things such as setting time frames for your consultation, paperwork that you want to take with you, deliverables, etc. Etc. Etc. And we're going to talk about those today, and I actually have a list of 10 things that I share with my own students, so I'm sharing part of my program with you right now. These are 10 steps that I feel will create a successful consultation, and then I'm going to sort of interject some things that I picked up on yesterday during the consultation that I had with my own client as well.

Speaker 0:

So, first of all, it is so important to define a legal understanding of your consultation, and I can just tell you right now I am not an attorney, so you need to define your own legal understanding. But what I mean by this is, early on in my business, I would just go to the consultation without any sort of understanding of what the client owed to me and what I owed to the client as far as deliverables, how the cancellations work, if they were unhappy with what they got at the consultation, what were they expecting, etc. So then I decided to develop basically a one paragraph understanding of what the clients had to agree to before they could book the consultation. And if you don't know how I book my consultations, my consultations are all booked via an online scheduling system. They book everything online, they pay before the consultation is scheduled, they choose the date. It is very, very easy. And before they can choose the date, they actually have to agree to the terms of the consultation Because, as you know, we change a lot of things in our businesses by learning from what we do with boots on the ground, right. So this was after I went to a client's house and we did a two-hour consultation and it was a long consultation. I gave so many deliverables and, by the way, my consultations are not just hi, how are you Give me a tour of your home? It is dropping information. It is giving them lots of tidbits that they could frankly take and apply on their own if they were really listening and wanted to take that and run with it.

Speaker 0:

But this client in particular felt that he did not get what he wanted to get out of the consultation and wanted a refund. And I said, oh my gosh, I literally spent two plus hours at your home and it was, first of all, he looked like a hoarder, the house was a mess. Oh my gosh, I could barely see the floor through all the things that he had in the home. So little did he know I was going to turn down the project anyway, but regardless, he reached out and said you know, I don't think I got my money's worth for this consultation and, by the way, this was when I was only charging $200 for a consultation. So he wanted his 200 bucks back and he was adamant about it. He really wanted that money back in his pocket and I was just kind of flabbergasted that someone would even do that, because it was the first time that that had happened to me and, as I said, we change things in our businesses based upon what we learn and what we have happened to us and what occurs in the daily operations of our firms. So I decided to create an agreement that the client has to agree to and it does work now. So the client agrees to this. The consultation is non-refundable after the consultation has occurred, and there's lots of other things that they have to agree to within this. So I want you to basically define an understanding of the consultation, what you're going to deliver to the client, what the expectations are, and then also if you are going to offer refundable fees for that or not. Just think about these things before you go in to meet with that client.

Speaker 0:

Next, set a time frame for your consultations. Don't just go into the consultation and not have a limitation to the time you're going to spend there. If it's an hour, if it's an hour and a half if it is two hours. Please, please, please, have a time frame for your consultation. And here's a little tip I actually set a timer on my phone for 10 minutes before the consultation ends so that I can start wrapping up and let the client know that we are nearing the end of our time. I have to go to another appointment and is there anything else that we have missed that we need to discuss? So set a time frame for your consultation and let your client know what that time frame is. Next, set a price for your consultation.

Speaker 0:

I am a firm believer in charging for consultations. I know this is a tricky area with a lot of designers. Some people say no, no, no, don't do it. I say yes, yes, yes, do it, because for me it does weed out a lot of people who should not be hiring a designer to begin with, and there are, as you know, a lot of tire kickers out there who will waste your time, who think that we are basically selling a commodity, that we are going to bring items to their house and do a free consultation and then move on with it, and they picked our brain. So your time is worth something, my time is worth something and I say charge for your consultations, and you should charge more than whatever your hourly rate is. If you are charging hourly, as I said before, define what value and services you're going to provide. Let them know what's going to happen During the consultation.

Speaker 0:

I love to send out an email before the consultation, and this is again what spurred me to do this episode was our client had to reschedule their consultation and so my automatic reminders for our calendar system goes out automatically and it has all the reminders built in there. It has all of the understandings, it has all of the attachments any sort of things that I want to attach, such as a menu of services or a pricing guide for investments, etc. And that did not happen because this client needed to reschedule. So I manually typed an email to this client and it was honestly a great refresher for me in things that I would now want to change within my automated system that I send out to clients, and it was a very, very detailed understanding of what was going to happen during the consultation, from the minute I arrive until the minute I leave. What is going to happen during the time that we're together, what are the expectations from the client, and then what am I going to give to that client as well? Are we going to sit down and talk at the end? Are we going to do a tour of the home? When are we going to talk about pricing? You know all the things that the client wants to know. Put that in an email and send that out to them prior to getting to the consultation. I promise you, everyone loves organization and they will so, so, so appreciate the fact that you were organized and they're going to look at you and say, wow, if they're this organized on a consultation, imagine how organized this designer is going to be on our project.

Speaker 0:

Of course, have a design questionnaire as well. I am going to include in the notes section of this podcast a free download for you. This is the actual questionnaire that I use on my consultations and it will really allow you to understand the client a lot better. Some of these you might have already had answered when they filled out their form for the consultation, but it really, really is a great questionnaire where you can go in depth and find out more about what the client likes. The client yesterday actually told me that some of the questions I was asking they're like um, I don't know. And then they said oh, actually I do do Pilates and I do have certain hobbies that I do. Because one of the questions is something along the lines of do you have any hobbies that require a special room or special space in your home to do so? And they never told me about it on the tour, but when I asked them about it during the questionnaire portion of our sit-down, they actually had things to mention to me. It really proved to me that the questionnaire does work and, even though you might feel that some of the questions are redundant, I do encourage you to take a written questionnaire with you to the consultation and sit down with the client.

Speaker 0:

The client loves to know that you are taking the time once again to find out more about them and their family, how they use their home, how they want to use their home, and it really just gets their juices flowing too. And another question, for instance, that my client that my future client had mentioned yesterday was. I said how do you entertain? And the husband instantly said oh well, we don't entertain. And then his wife said actually, I want to start bringing my colleagues over and have cocktail parties with them. And he said oh, you've never mentioned that to me before and she said, yeah, it's something that I've been thinking about and I really want to start doing that to help myself grow within my business. And it was just a really wonderful moment to spur conversations not only about design, but again it showed them that we collectively are going to start thinking about their home. So get your questionnaire in the download section of this podcast.

Speaker 0:

In the notes section, have some deliverables for your consultation. Let them know what you're going to deliver to them. Let them know that, if it is just a tour, let them know that you're going to deliver to them. Let them know that if it is just a tour, let them know that it's a tour. As I said, send out that email and tell them what they are to expect during that consultation. For instance, again, we do not just go out and do a handshake and a tour of the home. We let our clients know that this is a quote-unquote working consultation where we are going in depth on their home. We have a questionnaire. We are not only finding out more about the spaces in their home and how they use them and how they want to use them, but we are giving actionable advice on the spot. Clients like to know that you are giving them something for their money when you are charging them for that. So come up with some deliverables that you are going to give that client.

Speaker 0:

Next, number seven have some basic information on your processes and investment requirements. Have this with you. I actually like to print those out. I have a nice neat folder. The folder has our logo on the front of it, has my business card inside of it or my team's business card, and inside of that is investment requirements, and then I list of our general processes that we follow. The client yesterday was so happy that we actually have processes. He said he's never seen someone so organized within a company before and he and his wife both love the fact that they are in good hands with us because we have a system in place for every single part of their design process.

Speaker 0:

So know your processes. Know at least a generalization of that. You don't need to go into detail. Don't overwhelm them. They're still in that excited stage, as I call it right now during the consultation. But let them know some little tidbits of how you are organized. Drop some little hints of how your process works and then definitely talk about investment requirements. Let them know what your minimums are. Let them know what your design minimums are. Let them know what your product minimums are. Let them know what your product minimums are, etc. And discuss those. Now is the time to do that. Also, know number eight which physical items you will bring with you. If you have a consultation bag, if you have things that you always bring with you on the consultation, have those with you and know which items you are going to bring with you. Number nine set next steps for you and your client. So don't just leave there saying thank you so much, I'll see you later. No, before you leave that consultation, give them a definitive timeframe for when you are going to reach back out to them. Again, it is not their responsibility to reach out to you.

Speaker 0:

This is a sales call. We can label it as whatever the heck we want. You can call it a consultation, you can call it a meet and greet, you can call it a chit chat, you can call it whatever you want. My friends, it is a sales call, and until you stop trying to make it something other than a sales call, you are going to lose the whole reason of why you were there. So remember we are salespeople and again I like to say selling is serving, of course, but this is a sales call and you are there to win that client over and to show them why you are the best designer, the best firm and the best team to work with them. So set next steps for your client and be specific about the next steps.

Speaker 0:

Next Tuesday I'm going to have you a proposal, and that proposal will be your pricing and it will talk about all of the things that you need to know to decide whether you want to move forward with your project. You don't have to go into massive details about that. Just let them know that they will be getting something on this date and what that something will be. So they need to know from you what is happening next. And I actually follow up with an email as well. Ours is automated, as I said. So one day after our consultation, our automated calendar system sends out an email thanking them for the consultation, sending them out another PDF that we have added on, as well as another deliverable, and then it just lets them know that we are still following up with that. But I also like to mention it verbally when I'm there with them in their home, with them in their home, and, lastly, leave behind some kind of tangible information, some kind of tangible piece of literature, something for that client.

Speaker 0:

Now, I have, as you guys might know, a coffee table book, and I know you don't have to have a coffee table book, but I leave my book and I sign the book for the client. I even flip through the book and say, oh, here are some projects that I think relate to what you're discussing with me today. They love that I have the book signed. I leave it with them. You don't have to do that. But let me tell you, you could create your own little mini book. You could create your own little pamphlet, your own little printout, even if you just sit it on your computer, on nice paper, on nice high stock paper. You could print out photos of your project, and they don't have to be a full page photo. It could be multiple photos on one page, but you could print that out and take it with you and basically create your own leave-behind book, your own little leave-behind pamphlet. Now, if you want to go and have it professionally printed, I encourage you to do that as well. So have something, though, that you do leave behind with them.

Speaker 0:

Talk about what you value within your company, talk about how you treat your clients. We leave them with some testimonials in our package. We leave them with, of course, our process, our general process, and then I leave them, of course, with the book. I also had a water bottle made a few years back and I leave the client with the water bottle that has our logo on it as well. So I leave them with my book and then the water bottle that has our logo on it. So it's just a nice little thing for them to say oh my gosh, what a great experience. We had a great time at that consultation. They were so informative and they were so nice and they left me these goodies.

Speaker 0:

And I can guarantee you later on down the line, when someone comes to their home and sees something that you left for them there, they're going to ask them who is that? What's that about? No-transcript? And of course, you guys know there are so many more things that go into a successful consultation. You want to, of course, first be personable. You want to have a personality. Please be excited when you go into this client's home. Do a little bit of research ahead of time. You don't want to do too much. You don't want to spend hours and hours of research, but you do want to know something about their home. Look it up online, make sure, of course, you've done all the vetting process before they actually schedule the consultation, and that is including the discovery call that you've already had. So by the time you get to the consultation, in front of the client, you know pretty much that if they were to move forward and if you agreed to move forward, that they are a pretty good fit for you and your company, you've done a lot of the legwork ahead of time because of the vetting process that you have.

Speaker 0:

So having a consultation does not mean that you let everyone have a consultation with you. It means the people who have been filtered through your system up until that point now have made it to the point of the consultation and it's up to you to win them over during the consultation. And I think you should look professional, dress professional, I think you should act professional. I think you should have all of the things in line, be on time. All of these things, of course, go without saying, but I know how imperative those first impressions are with me and I know with you as well. So think about that with your own clients. You don't want to show up late. You don't want to show up late. You don't want to show up missing things. You don't want to show up without tape measure. If you take that with you on your consultations which I always do and I want you to just be prepared, be prepared mentally and be prepared physically, and again, when you leave that consultation, you want all those warm and fuzzy feelings that that client is going to sign with you, warm and fuzzy feelings that that client is going to sign with you. And, as I tell my students in my program, this is the time to go ahead and let the client know how you run your business. This is that courting phase, if you want to call it that. This is that phase of the process of the marriage that you're going to go into with this client, that you're in that dating phase, right? So you're just getting to know each other. So now is the time to let them know. I have these minimums, I have this time frame. This is when we can start your project.

Speaker 0:

Don't hold back, don't lie, don't give them misinformation. Tell them exactly how you run your business. For instance, my client yesterday was asking about our shipping and warehousing and so forth. And I said, yes, we charge a flat fee for that and that's separate from everything else. And the client said well, do you give me a breakdown of the shipping costs and of the warehousing fees? And I said, nope, I do not, because in all of my years of experience, this is the rate that I've come up with for production, and the whole reason that I do this quote unquote production charge is to save you time from being invoiced every month. And he said, okay, perfect, I can respect that. So once again, I could have danced around it. I could have said oh well, yeah, I could do that for you. I guess. No, have your rules in place, have your systems in place, have your I'm not going to bend on this rules in place before you go to meet with the client and then just tell them don't be afraid Again, this is the time to tell them exactly how you run your business, alrighty, so I hope you have enjoyed this sort of recap of mastering a consultation.

Speaker 0:

I love an in-home consultation. I think it's just this fun period. I'm excited about the project, the client is excited about the project and I think when you are excited about working with a client and you've done, as I said, all of the vetting and you know that this could be a great potential project for you to work on. You just have to kind of follow through with all of the things that you need to do at the consultation. It's almost palpable when you're with the client, right, there's just a great synergy there. When you are in their home and you are touring their home and you are performing all the things that you need to do during the consultation, the synergy just aligns and everybody can feel it.

Speaker 0:

Now there are times, of course, when it doesn't align and that's a whole different conversation, and that is when you need to tell the client that this is not going to be a fit. But at the end of that consultation, if everything still aligns and you still feel good and the client still feels good and they agree with what your terms are and all of the minimums and all of the way that you run your business, that means it's time to move to the next step. So that means following up with the client, letting them know what the next step. So that means following up with the client, letting them know what the next steps are, letting them know when you're going to do the proposal. And, as I said, if you don't feel that this is a fit for you and your company, you can leave a consultation, thank them for their time. You can decide to tell them right there on the spot that you don't think this is going to work, or you can type a nice professional email once you get back to your office and let them know that you've had some time to think about it and this is just not going to be a great fit for you and your company.

Speaker 0:

There are two sides to the coin, but I'm speaking today mostly about a positive consultation that does have great synergy and that does align for both you and your client. Alrighty, get out there, book those consultations, charge for those consultations and win over those clients in your consultations. And I wanna thank you so much for being with me today on this episode and I will see you next week on another episode of the Designer Within Podcast. I'm John McLean and remember to make big changes on the outside, sometimes we have to look within. I'll see you next time. No-transcript, and for more information on this podcast, including how to be a guest or my design services in general, go to johnmcclainco. That's johnmcclainco. See you soon, friend.

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