“Anyone thinking of working with an architect should definitely speak to some of the architect’s previous clients, if possible. But there are also two main elements to consider:
If you like the work they’ve done in the past; and
You get along with each other”
This advice was given by Houses editor, Katelin Butler, in an interview (Issue 122) on working with an architect, in response to the question “What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of working with an architect.”
You’d be hard pressed to come across a website for an architectural practice that wasn’t full of beautiful photos of past work. As inherently visual people, profiling the work you’ve done previously is an easy box to tick. As soon as a prospective client visits your site, they can assess whether they like your body of work.
But how are you helping prospective clients establish whether “they get along with you”? Let’s face it, projects are often long, with many points of interaction along the journey, so it makes sense for clients to want to work with someone they want to spend time with.
And with little to go on other than portfolio of beautiful homes, and perhaps a referral, it’s a gut feeling and first impressions that are likely to make or break the deal.
Here’s our checklist to help you create a positive first impression in that initial meeting with a prospective client:
Be on time – it may seem bleeding obvious, but failing to do so implies you don’t respect their time.
Listen – with focused awareness.
Ask questions – open ended questions that will require an expansive answer. Follow up with supplementary questions to clarify responses and extract that extra insight.
Strike the right mix of being interested and being interesting – clients want to know something about you as a person. Find the common ground you connect on.
Set honest expectations – have the tough conversations early. Don’t lead clients down the garden path at this point in order to win the work. That tactic will come back to bite you.
Empathise – put yourself in their shoes. What are their concerns, hopes and fears – both spoken and unspoken.
Feed back to the clients what you’ve heard. By doing this you demonstrate that you’ve heard what’s important to the client.
Don’t make assumptions!
There’s likely to be a bunch of smaller opportunities before and after this initial meeting that help form their impression of whether your someone they can get along with.
This includes the initial contact form enquiry submitted via your website. Have you checked lately that this form is still working and sending email notifications to the right person in the practice? When these forms encounter problems, it’s often months before it’s identified. Are you, or the Business Dev person, responding to the enquiry by phone within 24 hours?
Alternatively, the prospective client may prefer verbal communication and put in a phone call to your practice. Is the person staffing your phones warm and friendly? Are messages being passed on in a timely manner? Are you, or the Business Dev person in your practice returning the call within 24 hours?
These are all things you should be doing at a base level, and that you should assume every other architectural practice is also doing. Ask yourself, what are you doing above and beyond this to make prospective clients feel like they’ll get along with you?
One final thought. Avoid overuse of email, as a communication tool it is nowhere nearly as effective as a telephone call or better still a face to face chat over a coffee.
Creating a positive client journey in your practice is one piece of the puzzle. If you’re looking for more tips, strategies and advice on how you can lead a profitable and impactful architecture practice, check out our Programs and Courses. Alternatively, you can contact us directly by filling out this form, and we’ll find a time to chat about your needs and how Archibiz can help.