The Client - Designer Relationship - Part 05 The Client - Designer Relationship - Part 05

We've been discussing how to ask questions of your clients - questions that will get the answers you need to help them and, at the same time, assist the clients in coming to a better understanding of what they really want.

How to Pose Questions

Most of the questions you're going to ask require more than a yes-or-no answer. In fact, the more detailed the answer, the more useful it will be for you. You want your clients, the Redfords, to think about themselves. In a sense, you need to act the role of a good television interviewer by asking probing questions that will elicit serious and sincere answers.

Be sure that the Redfords understand that it's to their advantage to answer as honestly as they can. Many people have a tendency to show off, or tell you what they think makes them sound good. For example, they may say that they rarely watch television and that they spend most of their time reading. More often, just the opposite is true.

You should point out to the Redfords that just as they would be honest with their doctor, so should they be honest with you. If they fool you, they are really just fooling themselves and will end up with a room that will not make them happy.

Your Attitude is Important

Realize that you're at the beginning of a client-designer relationship in which you will spend a great deal of time with the Redfords, and you will become privy to many of their most intimate secrets. As their designer you will, almost necessarily, be led into an understanding of their interpersonal family relationships, their bank accounts, even the nature of their marriage.

Make it clear that, as with a doctor, your relationship with them is totally confidential and that you will not divulge any of the information they impart to you. And be sure to treat it exactly that way - as totally confidential.

If you can establish an atmosphere of trust, you will be able to obtain just about all the information you need to get started upon a truly professional job. What's more, by handling the initial interview in this manner, you will let the Redfords know that you are a serious professional.

The Secret to a Successful Interview

The way to get the complete answers to all the questions you need to ask is to establish a relaxed, cordial, friendly atmosphere during the interview. Don't just start to pepper them with questions like a schoolteacher drilling pupils. Rather, sit down with them where they're comfortable, and just talk. Talk as friends. Hopefully you can make them understand that this time is very important and that telephone calls, pets, or children should not interrupt your conversation.

Bear in mind that if you aren't already friends with the Redfords, you may well become personal friends as the job progresses. This is one of the fascinating and wonderful aspects of being an interior designer. You get to meet interesting and successful people, and you end up expanding your circle of friends in the most unexpected ways.

Get them relaxed. Get them talking about themselves, about how they live, and about how they want to live. Once you've got them into a relaxed, sincere, trusting frame of mind, it's time to start asking specific questions and taking detailed notes. We'll list the questions you should be asking in the next installment.

Excerpted from the Lessons "Client Designer Relationship" and "Planning for People" from the Sheffield School Complete Course in Interior Design.
Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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