How your potential clients make decisions about you

You are selling something invisible (your design service). Imagine you just lost a project where you KNOW you were the best qualified for the job. How could the client be so foolish? You are going to learn exactly why this happens (and how to handle these fee objections), but first you need to learn how to bake a chocolate cake.

You are selling something invisible (your design service).

Imagine you just lost a project where you KNOW you were the best qualified for the job.

How could the client be so foolish?

You are going to learn exactly why this happens, but first you need to learn how to bake a chocolate cake.

Let’s say you want to bake a chocolate cake.

Step 1: You go through a recipe book looking at photos.

Step 2: You pick the cake that looks right because it makes you feel right. (This cake to our left does it for me. Diet can wait till tomorrow … am I right?)

Step 3: You follow the recipe.

Notice that you need to SEE each cake first. Each cake gives you a different feeling. Some give you no desire, others look too hard to make. You choose based on how each cake makes you feel and VOILÀ, you have a decision.

When you buy shoes, you look at all the shoes in the store. You pick a pair that looks nice, you try them on to make sure they fit right, then each shoe gives you a different feeling. Some make you feel “professional,” others make you feel “sexy,” some make you feel “cool.”

In the end, you pick the shoes that make you feel the best.

People buy feelings, heavily influenced by what they see.

Our subconscious works on images and feelings. The two interact, what you see influences how you feel and how you feel influences what you see. 

The problem in selling design services is that what you are selling is invisible. I do not see the architect's end product before choosing an architect for design. And I don’t see the design or build process. I don’t see the relationship that you and I are going to enjoy (or not) along the way.

This is the client’s problem, but the client's problem becomes yours.

In order to hire an architect, I need to SEE my options. So, I meet you and maybe your competition and imagine what the end product, the process and the relationship will be like. The key word is “IMAGINE” because it’s a future set of situations I am buying.

The only way to truly know who is best is to let each architect do their thing, compare the end product and then choose. Since this cannot happen, I do the only thing left … I imagine instead. This is a very unscientific process and one of the key reasons you lose projects to less qualified architects or designers or even builders or draftspeople.

People even tell you, but you may not hear them. “I cannot SEE why we should pay all that money for a design when our builder says he will do the design for nothing.”

Translation: “When I see your design and the builder’s design, I see a comparable outcome.”

They are looking at the wrong pictures in their head.

This needs fixing.

And the good news is, we can fix it.

What they should be seeing is your elegant design, which people love to live in, a space that works for everyone, makes people happy and one they can eventually sell for a premium.

Then beside that picture, they should see 12 months of fighting with a builder who designs a cookie-cutter, box-like dog of a space, with some rooms that are too small and others that are too large. 

They should also see a lifetime of regret, knowing that they had one chance to get it done properly and they blew it. They discover they can’t sell for the price they wanted because no one else wants a builder’s box.

When they see those two pictures, side by side, then they can make the right decision.

As you can see, unlike a chocolate cake, any images I come up with will NOT be from a pre-baked photo, but from pure fantasy. Everything I see in my little head will be false. The client will have to make her own photos up in her head. The client can try to guess what your design might look like compared to another designer’s, but it’s only a guess. She can try to guess how you two might get along (or not), but that is also a guess. She can imagine going through 12 months of the build process, but again, even if she has built before, it will never be the same.

How many times has a client said, “If I’d known how difficult the process was going to be, I’d never have even started.”

There are no virtual reality goggles for me to see before I hire you, so I have to make it all up.

This is good and bad for you.

Good if you pay close attention to what I am about to share with you, and very bad, if you are not a subscriber and never connect the dots like you are about to.

The Mind Thinks In Pictures

Let’s just go back a step to the psychology of your subconscious mind.

People think in pictures at the subconscious level. We dream in pictures, our best goals are visions (pictures), our most inspiring leaders were visionaries (they spoke in pictures). “I have a dream,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. 

When I ask you the color of your front door, what process do you use to find the answer? You picture the door, look at the door, retrieve the color.

Can we use this knowledge to your advantage?

Well, you know me better than that.

I don’t start a conversation to lead you down a long, winding path without a reason. So of course, and at the end of this path is a way to transform your ability to sell something very difficult, your intangible, invisible service into something VERY tangible. More specifically something people can see.

They will see your process, they will see your relationship with them and they will see the end product. Of course it won’t be the real process, relationship or end product. They will still be seeing an imaginary one, but at least now, it will be YOUR imaginary set of pictures that positions you as the #1 option.


Okay, so to summarize:

People think in pictures and what they see influences how they feel.

If we leave the picture forming up to them, then you might be disappointed. BUT, if we help the client by PLANTING the right images in their head about you, your process, your relationship and their end product, then you win.

One of my favorite persuasion tools is the good, old visual BEFORE and AFTER comparison.

Arguably, THE most powerful persuasion tool of all because people can SEE the difference.

The faster you can present before and after, the quicker your audience gets the value of what you are offering.

This method works because our subconscious doesn’t understand the difference between what is real or what is vividly imagined. 

For example, do you ever get scared at a horror movie, even though you know the actors are just pretending? Do you ever cry in movies? Same deal? No one died. Do you ever wake up at night having a nightmare? 

Nothing is happening. Do you ever get stressed playing out bad scenarios in your head about what MIGHT happen, only to find out nothing happened?

Our imaginations are so powerful when engaged by images that they shape almost all big decisions.

Think about the poor client who has no idea what good design is. They have either never done a project or have not done one for years. They go into the process, virtually blind. Your job is to give them 3D goggles so they can see the future. Maybe even two different futures.

Remember the #1 question all clients are asking is: Why should they choose you?

How can THEY answer this question?

The process is the same as answering the color of the door question.

STEP 1: They will imagine what it is like working with you.

STEP 2: They look at what they see and generate a feeling.

STEP 3: Based on what they see and how they feel, they make a decision.

They are trying to form a picture of your chocolate cake because you haven’t given them one.

Do you give the client a vision of what success looks like? Do you paint a picture of a happy process? Do you plant an image of you and them working together like a champion team?

No. You don’t. You leave huge, gaping holes which means they have to fill the gaps with their own random guesses of what it will all look like.

How do I know?

Because I KNOW this stuff and just realized that I wasn’t doing it either. I have not used the BEFORE and AFTER in enough of my promotional SIX webinars recently. I just forgot. Sales had dropped and I couldn’t work out why.

I wasn’t giving potential members a set of images they should be seeing so they could make a wise decision.

How the hell can I expect an architect to know the value of our program if I do not translate all the tools and tricks into a real life before/after scenario they can see and feel.

Maybe we adapt the BEFORE vs. AFTER by instead using the HIRING YOU vs. HIRING A TYPICAL ARCHITECT side-by-side comparison. The process is the same, you simply paint two very contrasting experiences that leave the client without doubt, why you are not only the #1 option, but if your story is good enough, the ONLY option.

[Gee, I am using a lot of full caps today, but I really want to make my point for you. This is THAT important to your success.]

3D Goggles

An emotional before and after or side-by-side comparison of YOU vs THEM is like putting on mental, 3D goggles looking at two possible outcomes. Just like virtual reality, you are allowing a potential client to EXPERIENCE the potential pain of making the wrong decisions or relief and joy of doing it right. This is the virtual tour you are taking them on.  

I am going to cleanse my sins of not doing this side-by-side comparison enough by giving you a virtual experience of being a SIX+MAPS member vs. not being one as a real life example. I want you to EXPERIENCE the difference at a visceral level rather than in your head.

How can we plant the right images and feelings?

One way is asking loaded questions.

“Let’s say it’s 12 months from now and your project is complete. Everything is even better than you expected. What would you need to be seeing, feeling and hearing from people to know you’d made a great decision?”

That is one loaded question. Here is another.

“Let’s say it’s 12 months from now and your project is complete. Everything is even better than you expected. The process went better than you expected, too. Looking back, how did you see us working together that allowed you to enjoy the journey as well as the destination?”

Both questions ask them to step into the future where the outcome is already a success and report back. Their answer is what they need to see and feel to experience success. But, you have planted yourself in each of these successful pictures.

… this is beyond powerful

Another question is, “How do you want to feel as you move through this space?” and “What does this space mean to you?” In these questions, you are bypassing the images and going straight to how the client wants these spaces to make her feel. THAT is a HUGE piece of information to collect.

That feeling can be weaved into your design and every picture you paint for the client moving forward.

These feelings and pictures you have just extracted from the client are addictive to them. They are precise and exact coordinates in their head for what they need to experience a mental orgasm.

If you ever get to go through my Persuasion Equation training, you will experience exactly what I mean.

So if the first way to plant images is through carefully-constructed, loaded questions, the other way is just painting a picture. I’d say not as good as asking questions, but close. Not as good because you are guessing what they want to see. It may be an educated guess based on answers they have given you, but still, their perfect picture may not be identical to yours, but it might be close enough.

Let me give you an example of painting a side-by-side picture. This is the type of picture I SHOULD have been using to sell SIX, but forgot to do. In this case I will use a story format.

A Tale of Two Architects

Architect A wakes up at 5 a.m. on Monday morning after a bad night's sleep with a sick feeling in his stomach.  He knows his current project is weeks away from ending and he doesn’t have any new projects lined up yet. This is a feeling all architects have at some point because. unless you win another project soon, the money will stop, and when the money stops the partner starts to stress. When the partner is stressed, life is so painful. The last time Architect A was in this situation, the partner poured on huge pressure to quit the business and get a job.

To Architect A this was like admitting they had failed. So it is not just his business on the line, but his self image.

“How do I explain this to my friends and family; will they see me as a failure?” he asks. This is where the sick feeling comes from.

Architect A slowly gets into the office and looks at the quiet phone. Somehow, that thing has got to ring with a client. Even though he is not normally religious, he does a little prayer “Please, phone, please ring, give me anything.”


What does he do? Advertise when it’s never worked before? Cold call, when he hates selling? Beg a family member to do the project they talked about 12 months ago? The tension builds a knot in his stomach. He makes himself busy by cleaning up his desk,  a job that doesn’t need doing, but it keeps his mind busy for now.

Then, suddenly, at 10:21 a.m. the phone rings.

A potential client is calling.

He was referred by a past client, not a particularly good client, a low-fee paying client, but nonetheless beggars can’t be choosers.

The client asks Architect A to attend a site visit (no fee). Architect A drives 40 minutes to the site and waits for the client who is 30 minutes late.

The client does not apologize or even give a reason.

They walk the site as Architect A tries to impress the potential client with ideas.

The client likes one of the ideas, he asks a lot of questions.

Architect A makes a sketch.

The client loves the concept and asks if he can keep the sketch.

You agree, hand him the sketch reluctantly and also agree to meet again (no fee discussed).

Architect A drives 40 minutes back to his office.

The client delays the second meeting by a week, your current project is almost complete.

Architect A needs this project bad, his partner is starting to hint about applying for a job.

The client suggests you come to his office.

Architect A drives 45 minutes to his office and the client probes for even more ideas and advice.

Finally he asks, “How much for what we discussed?”

Architect A reluctantly throws in a rough range. The client comes back with, “That’s too much.”

Architect A agrees to come back with a proposal which takes 10 hours.

A week later, Architect A comes in for meeting #3 (unpaid) where the client tells him he has another quote from a cheaper architect, so can you reduce your fees?

The other architect did not attend the meetings, was given the sketches and is 10 years less experienced. Architect A has two choices, reduce fees and make little or no money or walk away.

Architect A decides to discount fees and wins the project. He makes no money, his fees are questioned at every step and finishes the project feeling bitter about the client and the profession.

The client sells the building a year later and makes millions.

Architect A loses 6 times:

  1. Free site visit.
  2. Free second meeting.
  3. Free proposal.
  4. Having his ideas stolen and passed on.
  5. Discounting the proposal.
  6. Having the joy of design slowly being sucked out of his heart.

That's what happens when you are great at design, but do not have a system for attracting enough of the RIGHT clients.

Architect B, who only lives a mile down the road, experiences a very different reality.

Architect B was fed up with constantly having her fees questioned and being asked to do design work that did not take her where she wanted to go. Her last five projects were like a frustrating handbrake on her skills.

“Enough,” she says.

Architect B figures there must be an easier way. She is a great designer, but not a great marketer of design services. She figures that the same way a client needs a great architect to produce a great space, she needs a great marketing system and coach to stack the odds in her favor.  

She had resisted the idea of getting help for years thinking she could work it out herself. But 10 years have rolled by and nothing has changed. “I was like the clients who think they can design their project themselves. I don’t have the time or inclination, so I will buy myself a short cut.”

Time Is Precious

Architect B joins the SIX+Maps program and deploys the following assets.

  • Two automated, client attractions systems―systems that offer educational tools to high-end clients wanting to know more about their project ideas.
  • One automated, client appointment booking system―that allows those clients who are ready now to book a meeting with Architect B.
  • One client-control education system―this teaches clients how good projects are run, the steps they’ll need to go through with her and the rules they’ll have to follow if they want her to work on their project. This system sets the standards and allows clients to learn how to become a well-behaved client. Architect B likes this tool, very much.
  • Architect B also deploys a questionnaire designed to find out what the client really wants, even if they cannot articulate their needs and wants themselves.

Within 30 days everything is in place. 30 days later the following scene happens.

Architect B comes into work on Monday morning and notices three new appointments booked for the week.

Architect B reads the answers supplied with each meeting request.

Architect B calls each person to qualify them as suitable.

Client A is informed of the process and is reluctant to agree to paying for pre-design research.

Clients B and C are fine with the process, understand that there will be no advice given or sketches drawn and keen to proceed with the initial meeting.

Client B and C drive to the Architect B’s office.

The client wants ideas, but is politely reminded that this is a meet and greet session, not an ideas meeting.

Architect B asks all the questions, like a master surgeon doing a diagnosis.

Architect B uncovers a lot of gaps that makes the client feel a little uncomfortable.

Once the questioning process is over, Architect B offers to research the gaps so she can reduce the risk before the design process starts.

The client is grateful and agrees.

Architect B does the research, gets paid $2500 and now the design project is hers to lose.

After the research is delivered, Architect B informs the client that this is a project she would consider. Until the research had been completed Architect B made no commitment to the client for the design phase as she is very busy and only works with clients and projects who are a good fit.

The client completes an application form and gives it to Architect B. Good news – Architect B informs the client that she will accept the project on her terms and can make time in her schedule.

The client is delighted, she pays a premium, as one would expect for working for such an in-demand architect, but she is worth it.

The client enjoys the process and the journey and refers three clients, as per the expectation Architect B set before the first meeting.

Architect B earns 300% more than Architect A and works less.

Architect B enjoys the projects she accepts because she can pick and choose. Architect B is in a position to say “no.”

Architect B lives as the in-demand architect, picking and choosing the clients and projects that fit her direction and her lifestyle.

Architect A lives life as the humble servant, feeding off any project crumbs that come along. Some of them might even be the projects Architect B has turned down.


When Architect A and B meet for lunch, Architect A realizes, for the first time, that it is not the design profession that is broken, but his model for attracting clients.

Architect B won 4 times:

  1. By NOT meeting clients who are never going to hire her.
  2. By getting paid for pre-design research rather than working for free.
  3. By only working on projects that pay properly and make her feel good.
  4. By getting paid for the design services, which was hers to lose after she’s been paid for the pre-design research.

People do not see vague ideas. They see pictures. They see stories unfolding. Whoever tells the best story, wins.

The client will form a picture in their head regardless―your job is to plant the image by asking questions that draw the perfect picture out of them or by telling stories that stick in their head like glue.

Choosing the right chocolate cake is simple.

Step 1: You go through a recipe book looking at photos.

Step 2: You pick the cake that looks right because it makes you feel right.

Step 3: You follow the recipe.

“Seeing is believing.”

If you have trouble winning projects, I will ask you to … Show me your chocolate cake.

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