Frequently Asked Questions: Should you give a new client ideas or design before they sign a contract?


I’m happy to be bringing you a new series called Frequently Asked Questions. At my speaking engagements, in interviews or even sometimes on the street, I get asked a lot of the same questions from aspiring designers and planners. I thought I’d share the questions and answers here with you once a week.

If you have a question you’d like to ask me, please leave the question as a comment on this blog, post on my Facebook page or tweet to me at @prestonrbailey.

Today’s question is…Should you give a new client ideas or design before they sign a contract?

place settings, table setting,flowers,wedding centerpieces,bouquets,arrangements

An example of a presentation I gave to one of my clients

This is a great question, and an important thing to consider since our ideas and designs are the very heart of what we do. I get great pleasure when I receive letters and comments from folks all over the world informing me how they have gotten some kind of inspiration from my books and designs.  Often, I am asked if I mind being copied. I actually do not. In fact, I find it to be a great compliment. And guess what, THAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THESE BOOKS and that is why YOU BUY THEM.

table setting

Detail shot of the presentation table

However, I resent tremendously when a client comes to my office and asks for a meeting, picks my brain on what she should do, then takes my ideas and uses someone else. I call this THIEVING, and of course I feel incredibly powerless because there is nothing I (or anyone else this happens to) can do.

This no longer happens to me because I can sense the serial shopping client a mile away (you know the one–she interviews everyone in town with the main purpose of collecting free information).

place settings, table setting,flowers,wedding centerpieces,bouquets,arrangements

Final design of client’s wedding

As I said in previous blogs, I take client service very seriously. The main goal, however, is to never ever forget that your design, ideas and services are precisely what you are selling.

We can talk more in a future blog entry about how to wow your clients, but first, here are some suggestions for that initial meeting with your potential client:

  • You need to be a great listener. For me, this comes very easily because I find meeting new people truly fascinating.
  • Never make your new clients feel judged.  Most clients need to feel you are with them and that you understand them.
  • Ask them their likes and dislikes. This is an extremely important question. Even if they say they don’t know, make sure you ask for more details. Some examples are: Do you like modern, eclectic or traditional?  What colors do you prefer? Do you want an event that is more understated or dramatic? Personally, I prefer a client who knows her/his own mind. The answers to these questions also help you understand your client better to make an easier sell later.
  • The most important tip: This meeting should not be about making a sale, it should be about making a lasting impression (even if, most of the time, they are ready to sign by the end of meeting).  It’s like romancing a new lover, you want to show them you are trustworthy before asking them out.

What do you think? Have you ever been burned before and how?