What You Need to Know About Negotiating Design Ideas with Skeptical Customers

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Design is a key part of branding and marketing. Great design can boost user experience and can offer higher profit margins. Since business owners realize the important role design plays, they can often be skeptical in design pitches, especially when your designs reflect new approaches.

For many designers, negotiating design ideas can seem daunting. It can be tempting to roll over and deliver what the customer wants, even if, as the design expert, you disagree with the customer’s ideas. Here’s what every designer needs to know about negotiating design ideas with skeptical customers.

Maintain a Positive Attitude

Designers need to know that objections from skeptical customers seldom mean rejection. Your skeptical customer also isn’t likely to be trying to fleece or lowball you by discrediting your design. Most customers are likely just wanting the best results for their business.

With some negotiation training, we learn to view negotiation not as a conflict but as a meeting of minds. Objections are an opportunity to refine the ideas on the table.

Prepare for Negotiations

Too often, designers pitch their ideas without preparing for objections. Yet, sales pitches rarely pass without some questioning.

The customer may not always see why your design concept answers their problems right off the bat. In many cases, the customer will prefer their own ideas until you explain the key features of your design.

Prepare to walk your customers through your design concept. Explain why each part of your design meets the customer’s specific needs and the brief. If you can’t explain the reasoning behind your ideas, you risk rejection. With early preparation, you can explain common customer concerns.

List Key Objectives

Your customer will likely be more receptive to your ideas if your design goals align with their business objectives. With each design and negotiation, aim to accomplish a particular goal. Start by listing down your key objectives as well as any side goals. Some examples of negotiation objectives to aim for include:

  • Defining project scope.
  • Pricing for design elements.
  • Customer benefits to expect from the design.
  • Use of data and accessibility features.
  • Collaboration modes between your team and the customer’s team.

Be an Active Listener

One of the crucial lessons to take during negotiation training is active listening. When you pay attention to the customer’s words, you gain extra insights into the customer’s needs and desires.

Active listening involves asking relevant questions. Your guided questions inform your design decisions and increase the customer’s confidence in your concept. For instance, when you ask about the customer’s existing artboards, you reassure the customer there can be continuity across the designs. Like you, the customer doesn’t want a chaotic design that veers from their corporate identity.

Expect Some Give and Take

Most design customers enter negotiations with preconceived ideas about what the design should look like. It’s only natural for people to form ideas about how their brief will translate, and it can be surprising to customers when your ideas don’t match theirs.

While you may be a highly trained design expert, you should also respect the customer’s business expertise. Treat the negotiation as a session to brainstorm ideas. Trust that the owner knows what works in their market and industry.

Work together with the customer to find common ground between their business needs and your design concept. Be ready to integrate some of your customer’s ideas into your design wherever possible.

Be Firm on Deliverables

Even as you accept your customer’s ideas, be wary of suggestions that compromise on your design intentions. Make sure new ideas fit with the design goals.

When you compromise on deliverables, your design likely won’t provide the results you promised. Your skeptical customer will blame you, even if the customer’s ideas watered down your design’s effectiveness. Ultimately, it’s your duty to ensure what you put out delivers on your word. Some of the most crucial deliverables typically include:

  • Product vision (why the design exists in the first place).
  • Sitemaps and information architecture.
  • Wireframes and intended user behavior.
  • Usability testing.
  • Reporting for usage analytics.
  • Timelines and budgets.

Show Proof of Concept

Skeptical customers need some assurance that your concepts can meet their business goals. Use your experience to show proof of how your design concepts can achieve those goals. The use of statistics is a great way to back up your claims. Some script examples to persuade skeptical customers are:

  • In my last role, my design increased shopping cart values by 46% within three months, providing an extra 8% per month in revenue.
  • A similar design I created for (name of past customer) reduced shopping cart abandonment by 65%, earning the company an extra 3% in previously lost sales.
  • My design for (name of past customer) based on the same concept contributed to a 400% surge in traffic and a 512% increase in page views over the campaign period.

Present Visual Aids

One of the main reasons your customer may be skeptical could be an inability to visualize your information and ideas. Prevent this problem by preparing clear design outlays and interactive prototypes to illustrate your ideas. You can also use visual aids for training your customers on product usage.

Preparing visual aids can take some extra time (unless you take from a design system library), but can save you a ton of time during negotiations and implementation. Prototypes provide a user flow for your design process. A life-like, fully interactive prototype created in UXPin can reduce confusion on expectations as both you and the customer are visualizing the same end product.

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