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I live to design, and I suspect many of you feel the same. We live to do our art, because it’s our passion. My other passion, though, is providing great service. I love nothing more than making my clients’ dreams come true. But to do that, first I have to make them my clients! I have to get the job.

Today I’d like to remind you, as well as myself, how to secure new clients who are shopping around. You know the ones I mean: they have a long list of vendors who they’re considering, and they’re shopping hard for the best price. More power to them, but how do you make sure they pick you?

You need to have this very straightforward conversation with all of your potential clients:

YOU: I’m excited about the possibility of doing your event, but are you meeting with any other vendors?

CLIENTS: (They might hesitate.) Well, yes. We’re meeting with three other vendors.

YOU: Can I make a suggestion? I’d love to get all of your information, show you some of my work, and get a real sense of what you envision for your event. Then, let’s have another meeting after you’ve met with these other vendors.

CLIENTS: OK, but can you give us an idea of how much everything will cost?

YOU: (This is the tricky part.) Right now I can certainly give you a price range for other events I’ve done that were similar in size and scope to yours. However, if you’re willing to have a second meeting with me, I’ll be able to give you a much more detailed idea of costs then.

Now, keep in mind that this approach isn’t an exact science. The good news, though, is that when you meet with potential clients for the second time, they’ll have met with the other vendors and will be much better informed. Most likely, they’ll also have gotten proposals from these other vendors, and you’ll be in a good position to make the sale.

The not so good news, however, is that you run the risk of clients meeting another vendor, falling instantly in love and hiring him or her on the spot. In which case, there goes your second meeting!

In general, though, I’ve found this approach works pretty well. The clients know that I’m very interested, and I get to give them my proposal last. This is important because by being last, you’re more likely to learn what they want to spend before having to commit to a number. And that of course puts you in a better position to get the job.

Readers, are you offended when potential clients show your proposal to other vendors? What are your thoughts on this practice? Please share.

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