You may be a professional web designer, but that doesn't mean you're also a mind reader - that's why it's crucial to have a process for communicating with your clients effectively.
This is the first post in a new three-part series, "Your Guide To Better Client Communication". Over the coming months, we'll be exploring how you can establish a better flow of communication with your clients, starting on day one of your business relationship.
Talk About Their Business
When meeting with a client, what's the first thing you talk about? For most successful Web Designers out there, the answer is unanimous: talk about the client's business.
It doesn't matter if they're a cold prospect or someone who's found and approached you - this is your chance to make your pitch about genuinely improving their business rather than focusing on technology or your own skills.
It's a matter of one simple question:
"So, before we get into it - tell me about your business"
Find out when they started, how business is going, what they sell and how they sell it. Show interest and ask questions - "that's an interesting sales process, how does it affect XYZ?" - you're fishing out information about the way they sell and run their business, so you can customize a solution for them.
Your goal is to set the agenda of the first meeting as being about your client's business and what you can do in your capacity as a web designer to help them improve. Everyone loves to talk about their own business, so this is also a nice way to break the ice.
Understand What They Want
Now that you have a firm grasp of how your potential client's business works, the next logical question is: "what are you hoping to achieve online?"
You've got to understand what their expectations are, their motivation and their desired results. Why are they going online? Why do they want to work with you?
Try and get them to express their goals in business oriented terms - I need to: "reach a wider audience", "generate online sales", "get old customers to come back" etc. Some clients are not going to have a clue and look to you for guidance. Others will think they know everything and promptly go about showing off how much they know.
Both the content of their answers and their attitude in answering gives you important information. You may need to alter their expectations, dialing down their enthusiasm to a more realistic level. On the other hand, you may need to significantly ramp it up, opening their eyes so they can see the possibilities they're missing out on.
The key here is to get inside the head of the client and understand how they work and exactly what they want, before proceeding with the project.
So you've talked in-depth about their business and gained an understanding of what the'yre looking to achieve online - all from the very beginning of your designer / client relationship.
The open flow of communication and level of understanding you've established has set the stage for better results and a happier a client.
In the next post, we'll be continuing the series by looking at how you can start talking strategy and setting business targets with your clients.