Picky Clients: 9 Tips on How to Sell Web Design Services
Since everyone needs a website these days, you decide to offer your web design services online. Soon, with the power of the internet and word of mouth, you find yourself closing deals left and right.
Everything seems to be going better than you expected – until the day you meet your first difficult client.
Suddenly, you can’t do anything right – everything is more complicated than it needs to be, and you become frustrated. More importantly, it seems like you won’t be able to close the deal at all, and you’re pretty much ready to give up.
But the truth is, picky clients are just a part of running a business, and you’re bound to come across them at some point. And since it’s your own business, you can’t exactly call the manager to step in and take care of it.
What you can do is follow these nine steps and learn how to deal with demanding clients to increase your chances of closing a sale.
1 – Get them talking
As a web designer, you already know that you need input before working on a project. But when it comes to picky clients, you need to do more than ask a series of questions – you need to make them feel heard.
More often than not, clients are demanding because they have concerns about the process. After all, they’re hiring you to revamp their online presence, and they’re aware it could make or break their business.
They feel like they have no control over the process, so their first instinct is to micromanage. You have a client focus when you work with clients.
First, you need to know what they need so that no stone is left unturned and all your efforts are directed at their needs, not yours.
To spare yourself the hassle of explaining every minute detail, take some time to listen. Asking your client about their concerns will make them understand you’re focused on solving the issue.
The best way to do this is to use the strategy of active listening. Next time you have a client who says nothing is working, help them pinpoint the problem.
It’s as easy as staying calm, asking follow-up questions, and acknowledging their feelings. For example, if your client doesn’t like the proposed layout, set up a call where you can go through it together.
Remember that you’re the professional here, and some of your design choices may not make sense to your client, which brings us to the next point.
2 – Stick to the facts
As if closing deals wasn’t tricky enough, now you have a picky client in the mix as well. It will take much effort to convince them you’re the right person for the job makes your stress level go through the roof.
So, what can you do about it? Show them the value of web design by pointing out the opportunities they’re missing.
If your client isn’t really on board with the proposed design, use your expertise to show them the gaps on their current website.
There’s bound to be something you can fix, from crowded layout and confusing navigation to not-so-great user experience.
Once you’ve established that, talk to your client and use facts to prove your point. Explain the advantages of your design and how it can help them attain their goals.
The key here is to steer the conversation in an objective direction. The website’s primary function is to appeal to visitors. Making your client understand that will help them not question your every suggestion in the future.
3 – Ace your pitch
Your web design pitch is your ally in winning clients over. And while it’s essential to have one with every potential client, it becomes indispensable with the picky ones.
Since you know that you’re dealing with a demanding person, your pitch should be thorough. But before you start putting your ideas on paper, make sure you:
- Get familiar with your client’s business. This will require some research. Find out who their competitors are, what their industry is like, and how they run their company. Are there any design trends in their industry? What does their website look like right now? The more you know about your potential client, the better you will present your web design services.
- Use what they don’t like to individualise your pitch. The thing about picky clients is that they don’t know what they want, but they do know what they don’t want. Discovering their web design needs is as easy as asking the right questions. Once you know what they don’t like, you can tailor your pitch to their specific taste.
- Impress them with your web design portfolio. That way, you can establish yourself as an expert in your field, and your potential client can see what they can expect. If you still don’t have a portfolio or you haven’t had many previous clients, you can offer mock-ups instead.
When it comes to picky clients, starting on a positive note isn’t always easy. That’s why you need to make sure you’ve done all you can not open yourself up to criticism from the get-go.
Establishing a dialogue with the client early on will set the right tone, make you come across as reliable, and help you manage expectations.
4 – Get everything in writing
Once you’ve established what the client needs, make sure you cover your bases. While pricing and scope of work are the prominent elements of your design proposal, try to be as detailed as you can.
Including terms and conditions, pricing for extra services, and project milestones can save you many headaches in the future.
When you have a picky client on your hands, the easiest way to avoid conflict is to have them sign off on the project.
That way, you won’t end up taking on more than you agreed upon, and the client can’t blame you for something out of the project scope.
And if you’re not sure what elements to include or don’t want to spend hours working on the perfect proposal? You’ll be happy to hear that there are online platforms you can use to get it done and signed in minutes.
5 – Don’t bite off more than you can chew
While having your client sign off on the project is a good start, making sure you both stick to it can be a bit tricky.
If you’re dealing with a picky client, you might be tempted to accept additional responsibility to show them there’s no reason to doubt you. As a result, you may end up with much more than you initially agreed upon, and it can derail your entire timeline.
Instead of taking on more tasks, use your signed proposal as proof of work you both agreed on. That way, you’re letting your client know that they need to respect the boundaries and leaving yourself enough time to finish the project.
And if you do have the time to do more than the project scope, let your client know that you’ll need that in writing as well.
6 – Don’t take it personally
As hard as it may be, keep in mind that the client isn’t torturing you on purpose. The thing about picky people, in general, is that they look for the best-perceived option, even if it might not realistically be the best.
In other words, you could be the best web designer in the universe, but it wouldn’t matter. A picky client still wouldn’t think so – if it doesn’t match their perception of the best, that is.
When you get frustrated, keep in mind that the client needs your design services and that you’re the expert in the conversation. If their wife’s second cousin thinks that the layout isn’t quite right, try not to sigh in annoyance.
Instead, try to stay calm and talk your client through the situation. Chances are, they didn’t notice any problems before someone close to them pointed it out.
In that case, subtly remind them why you recommended the design and how it can help them get to their goals.
7 – Don’t let them cross the line
It would be best to always stick to your boundaries no matter how much you want to win the client over. For example, if the client sends you an email late at night, resist the urge to reply immediately.
Every time you communicate with a client, the way you do it impacts your reputation. To not become the designer, you can reach 24/7 to discuss minor details, resist the urge to be available outside of working hours.
That said, there will be clients who will try to bend those rules. It’s your job not to let them.
8 – Know when to throw in the towel
Sometimes, it’s just not meant to be. Despite how hard you try and how many conflicts you try to resolve, some clients aren’t a good fit. In that case, you need to think about cutting your losses and calling it a day.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to let a potential client go, make sure to end it on good terms.
It’s crucial to stay professional and explain to the client why you think you aren’t the right person for the job.
That way, you aren’t damaging your reputation, and your calmness will make the client more inclined to accept your reasoning.
And if you want to take it a step further, you can refer them somewhere else. The truth is, your nightmare prospect might be the perfect client for someone else.
9 – Learn from the experience
Sure, picky clients aren’t always the most accessible people to sell to. But before you think to yourself that you spent all that time for nothing, remember that you can always learn from the experience. Ask yourself:
- Is there anything you could have done better?
- What was the client sceptical about?
- Was the communication between you and the client clear?
- What parts of your design pitch didn’t sit well with the client?
- Can you improve your process, so you don’t come across similar problems in the future?
Once you have the answers to those questions, you can refine your sales process. For example, if the potential client didn’t seem difficult at first, maybe you missed some red flags along the way.
The sales funnel is a time-tested way of getting to know your client and ensuring the collaboration between you will be successful.
Before you start your sales pitch, you’re bound to talk about project requirements. You can learn a lot about the client and what your collaboration could look like at this stage.
Next time you’re considering taking on a new client, watch out for the following.
They underestimate the workload
If a client says the project is “easy” and “shouldn’t take too long to finish”, take it as your first warning sign.
As a web designer, you already know that nothing is as simple as it seems. And even if it is simple for you now, it took you years of education and practice to get to this point.
More often than not, a client who states it’s a simple job will end up nitpicking your rates and asking for a discount.
If this happens, remind them of all the time and skills to finish the project. At the end of the day, if they can’t afford your expertise, they can always go elsewhere.
They want it done yesterday
No matter how attractive a project is, remember not to let clients dictate unrealistic deadlines. Now, sometimes clients aren’t aware of the amount of work to finish their project.
That’s why you should suggest a more realistic timeline before you write them off. But if the client still insists on a tight deadline, you need to weigh your options.
Chances are, you already have multiple projects lined up.
If you take on the new project, will the tight deadline disrupt your other work? Will you have to delay your other clients’ timelines to accommodate this one?
If you answered “yes” to either of those questions, now is the time to think about the consequences.
The new project will bring in more revenue, but the cost will be several unhappy clients. Sure, you could always tell them there was more work than anticipated, but they’ll be let down anyway.
In the long run, it could mean they won’t come back and bring in more business. Whether it’s a risk you’re willing to take is entirely up to you.
No matter what kind of business you own, you’re going to run into a picky client at one point or another. Yes, it will take more energy and effort to convince them you’re the right person for the job, but it will pay off in the end.
If you find common ground with your picky client, chances are you will benefit from repeat business. And even if you end up not taking on the project, you will have learned when to let go.
Picky clients are just people. And dealing with all kinds of people is what will ultimately make you a better business owner.
Author Bio: Petra Odak is a Chief Marketing Officer at Better Proposals, a potent yet straightforward proposal software tool that helps you send high-converting, web-based business proposals in minutes. She’s a solution-oriented marketing enthusiast with more than five years of experience in various marketing and project management fields.