You know that nervous feeling you get when you recommend something to clients?
It’s because you know they’re going to wonder why, and you’re going to have to spit out some sort of explanation. And you’re going to stutter through it with meaningless phrases: “That’s how it’s usually done.” “I think this is the way to go.”
Instead, enter the discussion with a solid argument. To truly convince a client, nothing beats a coherent argument based on evidence. No matter what your job is, when it comes to pitching an idea, you have to act like a sales rep.
Here are four techniques for making the sale:
- LISTEN AND REPEAT THEIR WORDS
Oftentimes, your client is trying to tell you things they don’t know how to express. Your job is to pick through the subtleties and pull out the truths they’re not being very explicit about. Before you can make a case for any kind of solution, you need to know what the problem is and that means listening.
Listening helps you determine what the constraints of a project really are, what the client’s concerns and goals really are and it helps you see whether or not you’ve already got the right argument in hand or if it needs revising.
- ALWAYS ASK QUESTIONS
Ask questions—about the users, the business, the concerns, the needs, the prior decisions, the team, the goals. You want to see the whole picture. Asking is as important as listening. It’s part of listening. Asking means dragging more and more information out into the sunlight where it can have holes poked in it and arguments formed for and against it.
- PRESENT YOUR CASE LIKE AN ESSAY
If you can present your case well and do it up front, you don’t need to argue. Your narrative will address every concern before it even comes up.
It helps to apply an essay-like structure to your communication. When you’re presenting design work to someone, that college essay structure can be helpful. It’s a template. It’s time-tested. Its structure of thesis–support–conclusion tells a story.
- POINT TO THE EVIDENCE
There is one other way to argue without arguing.
Evidence can be found in all sorts of places. It can be a study you read about on a psychology website. It can be the results of a usability test. It can be data you recalled from a previous project that involved a similar problem.
It doesn’t really matter where it came from as long as it’s credible, the conclusions are relevant, and you can connect the dots between the evidence and your current project.
Finally, be confident with your pitch. Sound excited to bounce ideas back and forth with the client. Make sure your tone is clear and your ideas and explanations are specific, easy to understand and interesting. Change your client’s mindset from skeptical to trustworthy and excited. They’ll come to rely on you rather than their guesses.