Are You Speaking Your Client’s Language?

Imagine trying to sell your services in a foreign land where nobody understands what you are saying.

No matter what you say the people just don’t understand. To make matters worse, unless you find a solution, you’ll starve.

Luckily a good Samaritan comes along and teaches you the local language.

Armed with your new speaking skills, people suddenly understand you. They’re excited and motivated to buy from you. You become rich and wealthy and life becomes good again.

How Does This Analogy Apply
To Selling Architecture?

When it comes to selling services there are two languages

1. The client language
2. The architect language.

All architects think they speak ‘client’ yet only a very few really do.

Those who do, win deals they should never have won. They work on projects they love and have people flock to them even if they aren’t the best firm for the job.

99% of architects don’t know they can't speak CLIENT.

The problem is you architects know too much. The poor client is still trying to understand what ‘concept drawings’ are.


Most architect talk is based on what we call features. You assume clients understand the value of 3D models, concept drawings and CAD (or BIM).

Here’s a secret: we don’t, at least not without translation.

My Confession

I’ve been coaching architects on marketing for three years solid, and I still don’t really understand what you do.

Architecture is overly complex and confusing and there is too much detail.

It took me three months to learn to spell the word ‘architecture’.

This means we (the potential clients) get confused and scared. Of course we don't say anything – we don’t want to look dumb. Most prospects are like little children.

My Wife’s Buying Criteria Exposed

My wife, Julia wants a new Toyota Highlander 4WD. Julia gives her requirements to Andy, a friend who knows a lot about cars. Here are the features she wants:

• 4 wheel drive
• Less than 3 years old
• Under $40,000
• 7 seats

Andy finds a car that meets ALL the feature requirements. In fact, what Andy found was BETTER than Julia wanted.

Please read the next line carefully.

‘People buy on emotion …and justify with logic.’

Julia looks at the perfect match and says, ‘No – the car is maroon’.

Maroon doesn’t make her feel good.

You think hiring an architect is much different? It’s not.

When trying to win a project here is architect language:

• 25 years experience
• XYZ qualifications in BIM and ZAM and WAM
• 15 projects similar to yours
• Concept drawings, working drawings, construction documentation

Here is what the client is thinking:

• He/she seems very serious. He might get angry with me if I don’t understand what I am doing.
• I don’t like his shirt – not very stylish for a designer.
• I bet she is expensive, look at her leather bag. I wonder what she charges per hour.

When I explained this concept to the architects who joined us in Las Vegas at the live Petrie Method training event they were skeptical.

However, within half an hour they were converted to fluent speakers of ‘client language’.

They could feel the power of speaking in a client-aligned way. Suddenly they were talking more persuasively than ever before. And they loved it.

Logical speaking has its place, but we put it in the BACK seat where it belongs.

In the FRONT seat is the same language used by the most powerful influencers throughout history like JFK, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali.

Their language moves nations and inspires people to great things.

It is simple when you know their secret.

Want to learn the F.A.B. secret?

Say after me:

‘People buy on emotion
…and justify with logic.’

Let’s break this down into three parts known as F.A.B.

‘F’ stands for FEATURES and a feature is what a this IS.

‘A’ stands for ADVANTAGES and this is what a feature DOES.

‘B’ stands for BENEFITS, this is how your feature can potentially change someone’s life.

Features are logical.

Benefits are emotional.

Here it is again:

1. Feature -> Logical (Architect speak) -> What a service IS
2. Advantage -> What your service DOES
3. Benefit -> Emotional (Client speak) -> How your service emotionally IMPACTS your client's life (often expressed using emotional stories)

So far so good.

Here’s a basic example:

  1. Feature: This car has an airbag safety system.
  2. Advantage: This means in the event of a severe accident the system will automatically deploy a cushioning system for the occupants.
  3. Benefit: This airbag will SAVE YOUR LIFE!

Did you get that?

Which statement is the ‘money shot’ …air bag …or save your LIFE?

Let’s bring this back to an architectural example.

You might hit the client with the following:

1. Feature: We use ‘BIM’, a process that begins with creating an intelligent 3d model.

Client: “Yaaaaaaawn – sorry about that, I suddenly felt sleepy!”

2. Advantage: This helps you make more informed decisions earlier.

Client: “Interesting – had a late night last night.”

3. Benefits: BIM projects turn project sponsors, like you, into heroes. My last client got promoted because his BIM run project turned out so well.

Client: “What? Promotion… How?”

Here what Winston Churchill did not say:

‘We will use 30,000 soldiers, 1,000 aircraft, and 123 ships to fight the Germans until we win or lose – at that point we’ll reassess the situation.’


Instead, he said:

‘We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing grounds, we shall fight them in the air …and in a thousand years from now they will look back and say… this was their finest hour.’

Repeat one more time:

‘People buy on emotion
…and justify with logic.’

According to Business Week magazine, selling on benefit driven emotional stories increases product survival rate by 300%.

Of 901 new products and services studied over a 5-year period, the survival rate for feature-driven marketing was only a 13% survival rate. But products that were marketed with specific emotional benefits showed a dramatic advantage: 38%.

It won’t hurt to say this one more time:

‘People buy on emotion
…and justify with logic.’

Kevin Roberts, the global head of Saatchi and Saatchi advertising agency said:

‘The whole of advertising has got it wrong … they are asking ‘What do you want?’ instead of asking ‘How do you want to feel?’

One final example before we get to the video training.

Architect A walks into a potential client’s home and outlines his training, his experience and his firm’s portfolio hoping to win the job. The meeting finishes after 60 minutes. Architect A is the best person for the job.

Later, Architect B walks into the same home, looks the wife in the eye, and says, ‘Have you ever walked into a home and had your heart go ‘WOW this place is amazing, I love the feel of this place, I wish I could live in a place like this?’

He pauses for an answer.

The wife smiles and says, “yes!”.

The emotion is visible on her face.

Architect B looks her in the eye again and says ‘I want to design a house for you that makes you feel that way, everyday …for the rest of your life.’

The battle between the architects was over after 9 seconds.

The Most Powerful Communication
Skill On The Planet For Architects

If you like what you read here and you want to apply this in your practice, you’re in luck.

We’ve prepared a free, 20-minute video training that explains this 3-step F.A.B. concept in greater detail, along with examples of how you can apply this technique easily and simply in your practice.

This video training includes:

  • An action sheet to help you turn each of the services you offer into powerful, ‘client-attracting' benefits
  • Real, live examples from architects applying this principle (shot live on location at our recent Las Vegas Petrie Method training event)
  • A step-by-step overview of the F.A.B. framework that you can use from today forward in your practice

This video training is a fully functional, condensed version of the full Benefit Busting F.A.B. Module which is part of the Petrie Method training series.

The full video training retails for $197, however today you can get it for free because we love you (and if you like it we're hoping you'll want more like this).

You’ll be amazed at how easy this is to implement, and how this short training course will improve the way you present and talk about your services.

To get access, click the green button below and tell us where to send the video:

Send Me The Training >>

5 comments on “Are You Speaking Your Client’s Language?

  1. Arch Happy Herbert Kasoro on said:


  2. Kahina on said:

    All my life, i’ve always used emotion to convince people, and now as an architect i still do. For some reason i haven’t yet figured it out it doesn’t work here with my clients. I am a sensitive person so i used the 3 step F.A.B. i just didn’t know that’s how u call it. And yet my clients rarely fall for that. Please help me figure out what is it that i’m not doing right.

    • Richard Petrie on said:

      OK find out what the client wants AND how they want to feel in a space, then link relevant features you can offer to those wants. Easy enough. Richard

  3. Ric Stott on said:

    I read this last night and realized that it is probably the most important (and timely) thing I have ever heard. Its not that I haven’t heard it before, I have. Purchases are made on emotion, of course, we all know that. But did you know that architects can churn emotions that make people need you and not the others? All of a sudden – it clicked. I’ll try it out at an important interview next week for a municipal building design. I’ll tell you exactly how I do it and I’ll tell you if it worked.
    Thank you.

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