During this week’s class of “The Exceptional Experience” the designers and I spent a great deal of time discussing leading clients, how to do it effectively, efficiently, and in a way that clients are happy to go along with. So I wanted to bring that topic here and discuss this question with all of you – how do you remain in control, but not be controlling? How do you show the client that you have things under control and are the lead on the project, without seeming overly bossy?
Being In Control without Being Controlling
Well, first let me start by saying, you absolutely want and need to be in control. You know who needs to be contacted to get things done, where that budget needs to be spent, and what selections need to be made and where they should be placed within the room. So yes, you do need to be in control.
But what you don’t want, is to come off to the client as controlling. That’s when they start to resist following. That’s when they start bucking the system and may start to try and take over, or stop responding all together. Because well, people don’t want to be controlled. No one does. That’s why a toddler’s favorite and most frequently used word is “No”. I know that was Weston’s favorite word for a very, very long time.
Control the Project, Not the Client
So the difference in being in control versus being controlling is this – being in control, means being in control of the project. Being controlling, means trying to control the client themselves. Trying to control every single interaction you have with them, to the nth degree. To not allow time and space for questions, for opinions, and for honest feedback. Basically, it’s steamrolling the clients, ignoring them and their opinion, and forcing them into something, even if they clearly don’t want it.
Now I’m sure that you’re not controlling the client, and just trying to be in control of the project. And you may even be worried that it seems like you’re trying to control the client, when you’re actually just trying to control the project. So how do you actually SHOW the difference? How do you manage to just be in control of the project, without also controlling the client? And how will the client recognize what you’re actually trying to do?
Balance. You want to lead the client through your process, your meeting and call agendas, any site visits that they may come on, etc. But, you also want to spend a great deal of time connecting with them. You want to engage with your clients, ask their opinions, get their thoughts on the overall process and how it might be improved, and really seek to understand what they want and make sure to incorporate it as much as possible in the design. Then above all else, respect the fact that this is their home and their investment.
Invest in the Emotional Connection First
Because the more you can invest in the emotional connection with your client, the more you will be able to lead the client, without controlling them and without them feeling controlled. People feel controlled when someone starts bossing them around with no care or concern for whose on the receiving end of that bossiness. There’s been no time spent to make a connection, to consider whether or not this actually is the best decision for that person, and no attempt has been made to ensure that this is a respectful partnership. Instead, the only time and consideration has been on what the boss wants.
So as you work through your role as a leader, how to become one within your own firm and your own process, and how to lead so clients will follow, remember you must care and connect first. You need your clients to be willing followers. You don’t want to be dragging them unwillingly from one project phase to the next.
You want them eager and ready to follow, because they know you have their best interest at heart. You want them to be fully aware of how much you respect them, and their partnership and position in the project. And that is why you are leading them. You lead because you care. You lead because you genuinely and sincerely want the best absolute outcome for the project, and the way to do that, is by following you.
I’d love to hear in the comments below, do you ever worry about whether you’re being controlling or just in control? How do you handle it?
And if you’d like to be one of the designers taking part in “The Exceptional Experience,” now’s the time to register for the last session of 2019!
During our time together you’ll get even more ideas on how to provide the kind of client experience that gets you greater loyalty, efficiency, and profits, register here now!