How to Negotiate Your Design Ideas with Skeptical Clients

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Not everyone understands design and its impact on business. Even those who do understand may not always get your ideas. Designers usually have to explain their design concepts and explain how the design idea can result in tangible benefits to a business.

If you often find yourself having to convince skeptical clients, then you probably need these seven winning ideas to negotiate your design ideas like a pro. While most designers can cultivate the skills needed to sell their ideas, dealing with skeptical clients gets easier if you’ve participated in a negotiating class.

Here are eight core principles that can help you persuade even some of the most skeptical clients to embrace your design ideas:

Principle #1. Anticipate Client Concerns

As a design professional, you know your trade. You know how design affects customer experience and influences customer behavior. However, don’t assume everyone else knows the impact of your work.

Once you have formulated your design idea, try and look at it from a layman’s perspective. What holes can you poke in the concept? What story does the design convey to you? What justifies the time and expenditure spent on bringing your design to life?

If you can honestly and articulately answer these questions to yourself, then you may be prepared to face a skeptical client. A negotiation class or simulation can prepare you to better articulate your design ideas and anticipate client concerns. If you have a colleague or friend at hand, ask them to play the role of your client and present your ideas to them first. You may be impressed with their observations and feedback.

Principle #2. Reveal Your Logic

When negotiating your design ideas with a skeptical client, take the time to let them know your thought process. Patiently unraveling your logic and explaining your decisions (in this case, the design elements) allows you to invite your client to see concepts and emotions from your target market’s perspective.

Just like peeling an onion, you can go layer by layer. Start by explaining the big picture, such as your choice of the color palette. Slowly move into the finer details such as your choice of words, why you placed your call to action in a certain place, or your choice of white space placement.

Most times your client is skeptical because they probably don’t think you have thought through the design with the client’s results in mind. By taking the time to explain your design elements, it shows your client that the design is well thought out and that your focus is on the design’s impact on the client’s desired results.

Additionally, unraveling your logic shows your client respect and builds trust. Educating your skeptical clients has several other major effects, including:

  • Demonstrating that you have valid well-researched reasons for each design element.
  • Giving your client and your colleagues a good reason for picking your design.
  • Teaching non-designers to have a design mindset.
  • Building your confidence as you build valid reasons for your design choices.

Making future assignments easier as your once-skeptical clients come to know that you put enough thought into your assignments.

Principle #3. Show Evidence

In the beginning, skeptical clients may not take your word for your design rationale. A negotiating class can equip designers to provide third-party authoritative evidence to back up design choices.

For instance, are there any measurable metrics to show how similar designs performed in the past? Is there a psychological study showing how similar designs influence viewer decisions? When you bring up evidence, it has to:

  • Be relevant to your design.
  • Come from a credible source.
  • Be independently verifiable.
  • Connect with your current design project.
  • Offer correlated conclusions.

Be wary of presenting inaccurate data. If the information can be debunked with solid research, then you may lose your already-skeptical client. Take time to vet your evidence before you present it, and openly share any weaknesses in your evidence or source. Ensure you can demonstrate the validity of your recommendations and win the trust of your clients.

Principle #4. Know Your Prospect

Your design makes more sense if you know your client’s, or prospective client’s, needs. After all, you probably don’t have one cookie-cutter design that you present to clients across different industries.

Knowing your client means you understand their business needs. What message are they trying to portray with the design project? Who is their target audience? Who are the decision makers?

A negotiation class prepares designers to research on the purchasing habits of potential clients. Find out what motivates the client’s choices. Discover how your design project fits into their overall goals and strategies. Knowing your prospect not only enables you to sell them on your design but also makes it easier to develop a long-term sales plan.

Principle #5. Ask Questions

What are your skeptical client’s main concerns? The best way to know what problems your client is facing is by asking the client. Probe with well-prepared strategic and intelligent questions which may guide your client into revealing pain points.

Asking questions improves your own understanding of the project’s goals and client needs. By asking questions, you also give the client confidence that you’re working with their end objectives in mind. Additionally, your client’s answers to your questions will help define the scope of work.

Writing out your questions beforehand will greatly improve your wording. You’re also far less likely to forget to ask your most important questions, and you control the conversation by your sequencing of questions.

Principle #6. Be Transparent

Too often, designers present strong sales pitches that are full of bold claims yet divulge too little information. The thinking behind this tendency is that if you divulge too much, then your client gets more reasons to say ‘No’ to your offer.

Such fears are often misplaced as skeptical clients tend to respond more positively to transparent information. Transparency increases the client’s knowledge and bolsters confidence.

By being transparent, you communicate respect for the client’s decision-making, and your transparency shows you can be trusted to handle the positive and negative aspects of whatever comes up with the project. Your skeptical client has a well-developed inner critic. By addressing the negative or risk areas, you are highly likely to shut down your client’s need for their inner critic’s voice.

Principle #7. Offer an Incentive

A skeptical client may respond more positively if there’s an extra incentive. Most people feel better making a purchase decision when risks seem lower. An incentive reduces risk on the client while promising additional value.

For instance, if you offer a one-time discount on a new or additional service, the project could give rise to long-term repeat business. Some incentives a designer can offer skeptical clients include:

  • Free product or service trial.
  • Free support or upgraded support level.
  • Guarantees.
  • Early launch.

Principle #8. Don’t Compromise Standards

When negotiating a sale with a skeptical client, it is often tempting to offer to cut back on deliverables to match a client’s budget. Avoid cutbacks on deliverables that may adversely affect your work quality. Compromising on your design standards to meet a client’s budget runs the risk of diluting your brand image and fouling up your market perception.

Instead, negotiate to uphold your standards. Let the client know you’re the expert by presenting a detailed plan that directly meets your client’s stated needs.

Take control and responsibility for the project, even as you weigh the client’s concerns. Otherwise, if you compromise your standards you are communicating to the client that you quoted an inflated solution when a leaner service existed.

You’re in the best position to decide which aspects of your product and service offering can be cut without risking achieving your client’s goals. It’s best that you make clear to your client which options they have available to them, should they wish to save on budget.

Additionally, when the leaner package fails to live up to expectations, your client may blame you, forgetting that they are the ones who made the suggestions to cut back on deliverables.

About the Author!

Milena Gallo is a talented marketing advisor, with a specialization in digital marketing. Milena delights in the opportunity to create and carry out strategic marketing plans for negotiation classes and is skilled in tailoring messaging to effectively reach target audiences.

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