By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
Most of us interior designers donâ€™t like to think of ourselves as sales people, and we shouldnâ€™t. We are in fact high-level consultants that guide our clients to make good investments in their homes or businesses. One of the big differences between selling and consulting is how you listen and what you listen for.
If youâ€™re not comfortable with the idea of â€œsellingâ€ (which for many people means persuading someone to buy something they donâ€™t want or didnâ€™t ask for), then look for other ways to uncover your clientâ€™s and prospectâ€™s needs and show them how you can fulfill those needs better than any other designer in your area. The reality is that 44 percent of all designers are hired because they â€œclickâ€ with the client. Of course, you have to show your ability to do the job well and you have to show your creativity. But before you get to that point, you first have to make the client feel at ease and earn their trust.
One of the most important tools for connecting with a client is active listening.Â Active listening has two essential components, asking carefully crafted questions and letting the respondent know you have heard and understood what they said.Â If you have not mastered this skill, you need to.
Here is a checklist of some typical active listening behaviors:
- You are mirroring the body language of the other person exactly.
- You are looking the other person in the eyes.
- You are fully engaged and your mind is not wandering.
- You are focused on what the other person is saying, not thinking about the next thing you want to say or how you will respond.
- You let the other person complete their side of the conversation before responding.
- You check to see if you have clearly understood what the other person has said by using phrases like â€œso what you are saying isâ€¦â€ or â€œwhat I hear you saying isâ€ and then paraphrasing, without embellishing, what they just said.
- You check that you have received the full message: â€œDid I miss anything?â€
- You probe to find out if the other person has any unspoken hesitations or objections, using questions like â€œWhat other concerns do you have?â€ or â€œIs there anything I have just said that you have a question about?â€
- You check to be sure nothing has been left off the table: â€œIs there anything else?â€
- End by summarizing the entire conversation: â€œSo what I hear/see/feel you saying is _____________________.Â Did I understand you correctly?â€
If you can master these listening skills, youâ€™ll have better connections with your prospects and clients, and you are less likely to run into conflicts later on.Â The better your listening skills, the better you will be able to answer their greatest concerns. This will result in more business and more success for you.Another way to improve your communications with clients is to determine their linguistic modality, that is their preferred way of processing information (visual, auditory, kinesthetic). Here is a series of questions you can ask to determine a prospectâ€™s modality:
- What is the first thing that caused you to buy your home?
Was it something you saw or read about (visual)
Did someone tell you about it? (auditory)
Or was it the way you felt about the Realtor or home? (kinesthetic)
- Iâ€™m curious because I really want to fulfill your needs
Once you have ascertained their modality, you can communicate with them more effectively by using types of words that coincide with it, such as,
- Visual â€“ see, envision, imagine
- Auditory â€“ hear, sound, rings a bell
- Kinesthetic â€“ feel, in touch, wrap it up
These are not new principles. In fact, I learned these techniques from Unlimited Power with Tony Robbins, written in the mid-1980s. They are as effective today as they were then. The bottom line is, when people feel you are truly listening to them, they are more likely to trust you. That frees you up to do your job.
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