Some time ago…
Some time ago, the conversation with a potential client would be something along the lines of:
“How can I help you?”
“I want a website to sell my products.”
“OK, great, this is a price and you’ll have in a month.”
A month later…
I’d show her the site, and the reaction would be: “Well, this is not even close to what I had in mind…”
I had to change the game and ask more questions 🙂
“What colors do you like?”
“Red and blue.”
“Great, and font wise?”
“I want something elegant, precise!”
“Oh, something joyful and warm…”
“Excellent! This is the price; you will have the site in a month”.
A month later…
I’d show her the site, and the feedback is: “This red is not red enough, and now I realize the red and blue are a bad combination! Can we try yellow instead of blue? And the font is too girly for what I have a mind. We are going to need new images as well. The top one is ugly, and the rest don’t match the brant at all.”
Oh, the frustration.
At some point, I’ve spent two weeks back and forth, trying to nail down the shade of blue. That was a waste of my time and the client’s time!
I had come to believe that the clients don’t know how to communicate (I had a much shorter description for this). I had resolved that I would never even discuss with someone who could not write a technical specification that we can agree on, and that I could deliver.
This decision blocked many customers, but more importantly, blocked important learning.
I was watching a video from Chris Do. He’s a designer who also teaches business, and I admire his style. To me, it feels like he is talking to me specifically. The kind of decisions you need to make in design apply in software and for anyone who uses creativity to solve a problem. But I digress.
Back to the video.
He was taking questions from the audience, and someone asked: “How do you deal with clients who don’t know how to communicate what they want?” Ah! The golden questions! I had the same struggle. I perked up, waiting for the knowledge to be bestowed on me.
Chris looked into the camera, and you could tell that the question was really testing his patience. Hm… And he said: “How many times do I have to tell you that the good-communication is on you! It is your responsibility to help your client articulate her problem and then discover if you can help her.”
All the pieces began to fall into place in my mind. I suddenly understood that in blaming the client, I was not only asking the wrong questions, but I was not developing a critical communication skill.
In the present time…
When a client wants to work with me, they better be ready for a ton of questions :). As someone jokingly said, they need to feel like they’ve been to the shrink after the first discovery session.
Here is how the conversation might look like:
“I want a site that can help me sell my products.”
“Sure, that is something that I specialize in, but out of curiosity, what problem are you trying to solve?”
“Well, I need to increase my revenue, obviously”
“OK, that makes sense. How do you know that having a website is the best way to solve this problem?”
“I don’t know… everybody does it… what other options are there?”
“I am glad you ask. Before I can answer that, I’d need to know more about your business. It’s OK if I ask you a few questions?”
“At the moment, how do you generate your revenue…”
And this would go on for a while.
In the end, what I need to know is:
– what is the biggest problem that this customer is facing
– how can I help them discover this problem if they don’t know it
– how can I help them articulate their underlying needs
– in the end, are we a good fit? Can I help her with what she really needs? Can she afford me? Do we like each other well enough to work together for a few weeks or months?
And by the end, the client would also need to know
– how do I work
– can she trust me
– what is my price range
– what kind of a solution can she expect
– is hiring me the right choice for her
Make sure you correctly diagnose the problem before you prescribe a solution. If the solution you’re thinking of is not the right one, you need to find out as soon as possible, not at the end of the process.
If you found value in this article, let me know in the comments below or on Facebook. This feedback will help me understand what to focus on in the following posts.
Go create the New Paradigm today!