Business Deals – Communication Is Key

In any business proposition, deal or project, the real key to success is communication, and that needs to start right at the very beginning and continue on through until completion. Simply said, if you don’t know what a customer wants or needs, how can you possibly deliver the goods?
Recently I experienced a blown website design deal with a potential customer for just this reason, and I admit that I should have asked more questions up front so-as to get a better understanding of what the client’s expectations were. Sadly I didn’t, and three full drafts later, the client still wasn’t happy with the direction I was headed. The lack of understanding on my behalf resulted in the potential client walking away a bit frustrated and not wanting to do business with me. Admittedly, this customer did have some other pressing issues that were no-doubt a factor in their final decision to walk away from the project, but I’m still out at least 15 hours of work when I might have been able to salvage the deal had I simply spent more time asking questions.
It’s hard to know what a client wants sometimes – to understand what they see in their mind’s eye as their future website, business card, or graphic design. But as difficult as it is, that’s precisely what I get paid to do, and exactly what you should be doing as well if you’re a web or graphic designer. So where do you start? What type of questions should you ask so this sort-of thing doesn’t happen to you? Well, that’s not so easy to answer because every client is different, however here’s some basic rules that I try to follow.
Find out what the timeline is. You need to know when the client is expecting to have the project finished and actually delivered. Generally speaking, if you have a short time to finish a project, you don’t want to spend a lot of time making the first draft fancy. That doesn’t mean get lazy and attempt to deliver a plain, uninspiring design. It just means work on the major components – layout, text, fonts, some graphics first, and then work on the rest later.
Next you need to know what color combinations to go with Find out if the client already has a color theme, logo, or any other identifiable symbol, because obviously if they do, you’ll need to incorporate that into your design. After this find out if they want Free Legal Advice Family Law any additional services like Flash animation, Search Engine Optimization, Analytics, and so forth. Be sure to outline any services that are above and beyond the package deal they are wanting so they know what the cost will be before they get into it.
Communication is a two way street, so you’ll need to communicate as well. Let your customers know what to expect from you – when they’ll be able to see a mock-up of the site or design. Whether or not they’ll be able to view it live before they commit to purchasing. What they’re options are at any point during the project.
As a rule of thumb, you should try to have the first draft sent off to the client within two days. This is of course assuming you have more than two days to complete the entire project. If the customer is expecting to have everything wrapped up in a week, you know you’ve got your work Consulting Publication cut out for you, so you’ll need to jump in with both feet in order to make the deadline. Make sure you let the client know if you can make their deadline. It’s easy enough to say something up-front, and chances are they’ll give you the time you need to come up with a great design.
When you get that initial call or e-mail asking for a quote or more information, don’t just ask the basic, what do you want, how much do you want to spend type of questions. Be personable, inspiring, and appreciative that they contacted you in the first place. Not a single client wants to be asked how much they want to spend in the first minute of that call. Instead try listening to what they are describing to you, then in your own words, repeat it all back to them so they know you understand. Then, when you think you have a grasp on what the project will entail, give the client a cost estimate and then ask if the price you quoted is in the ball park for what they wanted to spend.
And remember that you can always negotiate, but don’t be afraid to come down a little if you feel like the customer isn’t going to accept your initial estimate. It’s generally better for you if you accept the project for a lower fee than have that client go find someone else to do it.
After the initial draft has been shown, and accepted, be sure to go over it with the client noting which areas they like best and why, and what parts they believe need some work. Again, this is all for your benefit. Every piece of information gleamed now will result in a better design and less re-work later.
Obviously this is not a step-by-step approach to conducting business or dealing with customers, but I think that often times we forget how we want to be treated when we’re on the other end. This will hopefully serve as our reminder.

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