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Question:

I met with a new client last week who was referred to me, and we talked about her plans to work on all the rooms in her house. Several days later I e-mailed my Letter of Agreement and proposed budget. I was dismayed that it took her several days to get back to me.

Her reply was that she didn’t want to do it all, and that she was hoping I could just charge her for a couple of hours to help her pick out a few things.

I am so frustrated as this is not at all what she said when we met at her home. I thought this was going to be a good job and I spent a lot of time developing my LOA and the budget.

Answer:

Several things are going wrong here with your process.

First of all, DO NOT e-mail a Letter of Agreement.

You set yourself up for failure when you do. Here’s why…

You don’t get an opportunity to engage or make a connection with your client, talk about, explain, sell, or anything. You have not opened the door for discussion and have lost control of the relationship. It is almost like telling her she is not important enough to visit again.

You must present your Letter of Agreement in person if you want to get the job!

Think about it… when you send a budget via e-mail, the budget may look scary, like you are telling her how much she must spend and that she has no choice. This scenario is bound to cause fear and resistance.

Instead, create a budget in person with her and agree what to spend on each item. Make it a two-way street – be interactive, conversational and friendly. This will build her confidence in you as the expert, and have her saying “yes” to you as you craft your budget. And by the way… this “budget on the fly” is always a casual piece, written out by hand and given to her as a gift.

Here’s another good tip to remember. Create a proposal letter with offers on three levels (Good, Better, Best) so that your client can choose the level of design service she wants. You will discover the offer that is just what she wanted, and then you are in a good position to negotiate from there and get the job.

Having said all that… Here’s some damage control.

Get another appointment with her in person.

Figure out some new ways to meet her needs and cover your time. Here are some suggestions:

  • Tell her that billing hourly can be done (with a hefty retainer), but it always costs the client more in the end.
  • Tell her that developing a design plan is absolutely essential to having this project work out beautifully.
  • Underline that when you have a plan, she doesn’t have to buy it all at once.
  • Demonstrate the economics and benefits of buying through you, the expert.

Sell this job, get this client!

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