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What Do Prospects Fear Most?

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

One of the biggest hurdles to closing an agreement with prospective clients is getting them past their fear of working with you. They may be ready to undertake a project, feel comfortable with you, like your work, but still be reluctant to make that commitment to move forward. What’s stopping them? What is it that they fear so much they are willing to let it get in the way of achieving their dream? In a nutshell, lack of control.

None of us likes to feel vulnerable. But that is what many prospects experience when they are faced with letting someone they barely know modify their home and spend their money. Designer horror stories in the media or on remodeling TV shows don’t help. Most likely, the prospects are not going to express these fears openly, so you have to take the lead and start the conversation.

If you sense that the prospective clients are inclining toward hiring you but seem to be hesitant, ask them about it straight out: “I sense you may have some concerns or doubts about what we’ve discussed so far. Let’s talk about them. I want you to be completely confident that you are making the right choice.”

Even so, the prospects may be unable or feel embarrassed to say what’s on their minds. You may have to probe deeper. In general, what prospects fear most is losing control of the project. Often that comes down to the following:

  • Designer costing more than they have in their budget
  • Designer doing what they want vs. what the client wants
  • Designer making them look stupid or uninformed, or questioning their preferences or taste
  • Designer being difficult to work with
  • You may need to query them discreetly about each of these areas to find which are the most sensitive for them.

Once you’ve identified the source of the prospects’ fears, reassure them that they will have the final say in all decisions. Reaffirm that your job is to deliver the result they want, not to impose your ideas on theirs. Explain to them your process, the written agreement and budget you will provide, and how decisions will get made and documented. Discuss with them what is the best way to maintain communication and keep them informed throughout the project. Provide them with references who can attest to your work style, reliability and integrity.

It’s important not to make light of their fears or to become defensive. That will only increase their sense of uncertainty. Be open and specific. Demonstrate your professionalism. That is the way to gain their trust, which is the key to allaying their fears and closing the deal.

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