In virtually every industry and profession you’ll find certain terms that are unique; jargon that is identifiable and particular to the niche involved. Among trained sales professionals, the word “qualify” is ubiquitous. What does it mean? In the simplest of terms, qualifying a client is the process of asking questions, and listening to their answers, in an attempt to find the best solution for them.Qualifying your client is a process of discovery, and it is often as valuable to them as it is to you. Since many clients have no idea what is available or attainable, or how to get there, being questioned by a professional can lead them to a place of discovery they had no idea was possible. Asking the right qualifying questions is critical to this process of discovery – for both you, and them.
Your first critical task as an interior designer is to gain an understanding of exactly what your client hopes to achieve through working with you. After all, if you do not understand their goals, how can you help reach them? Knowing your client’s vision for the outcome of the job at hand will be crucial to the successful completion of the job. There are no shortcuts here, and the time you spend on the front end will be invaluable to ensuring their satisfaction.Here are some examples of qualifying questions that must be answered for you to gain insight into what your client truly desires:
- What is the problem you’d like to resolve, or the goal you're trying to achieve? This can encompass many areas, from the relatively simple task of creating more space in a given area to completely reimagining the client’s home (or office). This type of questioning will not only enable you to better understand the client’s needs and wants, it will also present you with the opportunity to explain to them what is possible.
- Why now, and what has prevented you from doing it before now? While the most obvious (and expected) answer here is lack of funds, it may also be true that your prospective client has simply never met a designer with whom they felt comfortable. In that case, you have a distinct advantage over other designers, since they must be at least minimally comfortable with the idea of working with you.
- Have you ever used an interior designer before? If so, the client will have certain expectations, which may change significantly if the answer to this question is “No”. Further, if your clients were unhappy with a previous designer, it’s critical that you understand why, or they may wind up being equally unhappy with the work you do for them.
- What is your hoped-for time frame to complete this? Among all of the most unrealistic expectations a prospective client may have when hiring you, the expected time-frame for completion may be even more unrealistic than cost. You need to be very clear about the amount of time required to complete the job, as well as the extent of disruption to their lives if you're doing a major overhaul of their home.
- What is your budget for this? Again, controlling your client’s expectations is important, perhaps even more important than the value of the work you’ll be doing for them. Explain as much of the cost as necessary, without overdoing it. Most clients will not want every detail of your estimate (though some will), so take the time to outline as much as you need to close the deal. Once they say “Yes”, stop selling!
As mentioned in a previous post, you must be clear on who is the “decider” during your presentation. Your qualifying questions should be directed to that person, while also taking into account the input of others. Why? Because if the “decider’ did not want their opinion, they would likely not be included to see your presentation.Do you have other qualifying questions that have been valuable in closing the sale of an interior design job? If so, please feel free to share them with us in the Comments section.