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Most clients don’t really know how to evaluate design firms. Also, since large sums of money are being spent on projects, they tend to be scared of making choices they’ll be blamed for or regret.

Imagine how you might apply empathy to this situation. Rather than being reactive to onerous RFPs, why not meet with potential clients well in advance of the selection process? Instead of talking about your work for most of the meeting, you can use your time “getting in front of the client” to shift from Me! Me! Me! (oh right, you)…..to You! You! Me!

Yes, we should bring our portfolio and be ready to tell a story that demonstrates our depth of knowledge. Yes we should focus on a relevant example that paints a picture of what it’s like to work with us. But we can enrich relationships and gain an edge by interviewing our clients. Maybe we can help shape the content of the RFP and be the proverbial firm with the inside track. I have been in this advisory/winning position several times, so I know it can be done.

Empathy-driven questions for a client might include:

1.  What do you see as your biggest challenges?

2.  What do you look for when choosing a design consultant?

3.  What problems do you seek to avoid?

4.  Do you have any dissatisfactions with your current RFP process?

5.  How important is the fee in your selection?

-Sharon VanderKaay