Winning an argument isn’t about satisfying your ego, it’s about reaching a consensus to make something that works and hence, satisfies both parties.
Knowing how to convince a client is always going to be a valuable skill. Designers and people in creative fields often have someone in client servicing to act as a medium between client and creatives but what happens when the client servicer isn’t available or cannot explain design the way you can? Here’s where knowledge about how to convince people and more importantly; how to win a design argument will become a part of a valuable overall skillset in knowing how to impress clients.
Most designers will agree that convincing clients will make their work easier and their clients happier. We put together some ideas that will let you know how to convince clients that your design is the one they want. But first, ask yourself:
Does your design fit the brief of the client?
As Steve Jobs famously said, ‘Design is not what it looks like or feels like. Design is how it works.’
Keep this in mind for your client. A design that looks and feels spectacular will go some way in convincing clients but it won’t be the one they choose if it doesn’t work for them. Spend some time reading or re-reading the brief and the brand guidelines then check to see if it what you made for them is appropriate and fits the brief and the guidelines.
Is your ego playing a part in this?
Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’
You might have years of experience designing for a variety of people that utilised various techniques but that also means years of building up an ego without realising it. One of the most important things to realise before trying to figure out how to win a design argument is to examine the degree of influence your own ego is having on your thoughts. Don’t think too hard about the consequences if you’ve done something that doesn’t work. It may eat away at more time but it’s better to think of this as another chance to make something that works for them. If you find yourself getting defensive rather than thinking progressively, it’s your ego talking.
Did you do enough research on your clients to understand their method of communication?
Your client’s words might not be enough to give you a clear idea of what they are looking for. Sometimes you need to read between the lines and do extra research to understand what they really want to convey. This is especially true when clients aren’t clear in their written communication. However, if you’re sure you understand what they want, getting them to clarify it in writing will also count as research and you will have something to refer to. Add it as a method of convincing clients later about your design.
Once you’ve determined that it is time to have a conversation with your client about your design and their disapproval, there will be a few things to keep in mind:
Raise your points systematically
If you start shooting off all your points without explaining why you are stating them in the order you are speaking about them, chances are that you will confuse them rather than showing you know how to convince people. You are not having this discussion to create more confusion, you’re trying to lessen it and let everyone have clarity. Don’t let people be asking you:
Use facts and references to speak confidently
A lack of confidence will kill your ability to convince people and show your clients that not only do you don’t know how to win a design argument, you don’t know how to use design thinking. Having research at your disposal will help you be more confident when speaking about the design you created. You have to keep your mind on the facts and to keep your statements under control. This will show your client that you’ve done your homework while in your head, you can be smug and keep this image in mind:
Show them it’s not personal
When thinking about how to win design arguments, remember that your clients see the monetary gain you are getting and neither how you approached the project nor your history of professional work. Use examples from your past to explain how your approach worked for another client and what you altered to better fit the business goals of your current client. Speaking to them in terms of achieving what they desire will show them that you cared enough to keep their business goals in the forefront of your thoughts. It will be a great reminder to them that you have been professional in your work.
Don’t think about winning.
The goal isn’t to win an argument for the sake of winning, it’s to satisfy the client in a way that protects their interests from their whims to grow business for the both of you. Listen actively to what they are saying because your business is a collaboration; it isn’t only about you. Then think about what they are saying after they are done saying it. Inform them what they are right about then ask them how, rather than why, your design doesn’t fit with what they are saying. This will lead to a far more structured discussion that allows you to see their point of view. A compromise, more often than not, ends up with both people as winners rather than as losers. The Prisoner’s Dilemma below is a great example of that.
It isn’t easy figuring out how to convince client but keeping these points in mind will help you go a long way in understanding how to win a design argument and how to impress clients with professionalism and in general how to convince people when you want the best for everybody.
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