Selling vs. Consulting in the Client/Designer Relationship
A Conversation with Chris Do
As a graphic designer and brand identity consultant, I’m always looking for ways to improve my service delivery to clients. My goal, first and foremost, is to provide amazing design solutions to all of my clients. Almost as important however, is how effectively I can do this. It seems that no matter how long the actual time frame is, all clients have this ‘sense of urgency’, regardless of the size and nature of the company — developing a smooth, effective, and accountable line of communication between client and designer is crucial.
I recently had a conversation with Chris Do about the importance of certain aspects of the Client/Designer relationship, particularly, the role we as designers should take in the process, and how we can better serve our clients.
Anchorpoint: “Hi Chris. First off, thanks for all your great content. I always enjoy watching and listening to your stuff and find it extremely informative. I had a particular question concerning the client/designer relationship, and our role as ‘salespeople’, particularly at the beginning of a project: I am a freelance designer/entrepreneur. I don’t work for a big agency, I don’t have any employees or a compliment of marketing and branding strategists to confer with. As such, I don’t necessarily work with large corporate entities where the need for intensive brand consultation is always desired. I often work with the (smaller companies) who ‘just want a logo’. By (smaller companies) I am referring mostly to your small start-ups, 1 to 2 man shows, mom and pop shops, etc. Obviously, as a developing designer, I understand the importance of a cohesive brand identity, and that such is much more than a pretty logo or business card.”
“How would you go about ‘selling’ the importance of a (more time-intensive / expensive) brand identity development to ‘smaller companies’?”
Chris Do: “I don’t try to up sell or even “sell” the client on anything. If you want to be more valuable to the clients, stop selling. Selling implies what’s good for you and not what’s good for your client. Instead, be of service to them. What do they need help with that will actually generate money or increase market share? Ask them, what are some of your marketing or business goals? Maybe I can help. Then listen and ask diagnostic questions along the way.”
“When you have a complete understanding of the problem, their needs, who their customers are and the features/benefits they provide, then prescribe a solution.”
“Go from being a vendor to a consultant.”
Anchorpoint: “Is it even necessary (to push a full brand identity)? Are there instances where a full, cohesive, brand strategy is not important?”
Chris Do: “There are many times when more design is just more design and not good for business. Have yYou ever gone into a store wanting to buy the deluxe model? Then a salesperson asks you a few questions only to determine that you don’t need the fancy model and advises you on the one you need? How does that make you feel? Like you trust this person?”
“That’s the secret to building relationships and trust — it’s when you serve others despite your self interest to sell.”
Anchorpoint: “At what point do you ‘let it go’ and just do the damn logo?”
Chris Do: “I let go all the time. I have to ask myself, what is driving my desire to do something the client doesn’t want/need or want to pay for? Is it my ego? Am I trying to impress the client? Am I trying to demonstrate how smart I am or how much I know about design? Those aren’t good reasons.”
One of the most interesting and though-provoking points that I took away from this conversation is how Chris emphasized the idea that, as designers, should be acting as ‘consultants’ — not ‘salespeople’. We need to learn that effective design is not about trying to ‘sell’ something to the Client, but rather, to act as ‘consultants’ throughout the process. The main goal is to work with clients in developing a solution that will provide the best results for their company/brand. Once we understand this, the more successful we will be as designers.