trade tales | Nov 4, 2022 |
8 strategies to manage an indecisive client

Somewhere along the line, you’re going to run into a client who struggles to make a decision and stick to it. We asked eight designers—Alvin Wayne, Katie Labourdette-Martinez, Olivia Wahler, Jae Omar, Megan Evans, Sherrell Neal, Jen Samson and Kara Smith—how they handle a client who can’t make up their mind.

8 strategies to manage an indecisive client
Alvin WayneHoshi Joell

Take the Reigns

“When a client can’t make a decision, I think it’s helpful to show them examples of what you’re trying to execute, [whether] it’s a rendering or just images. But I often make the decision for them after I ask them if they trust me—they always say yes, and I say, ‘Well, trust me on this.’ It always works out.” —Alvin Wayne, Alvin Wayne, New York

8 strategies to manage an indecisive client
Olivia Wahler (Left) and Karite Labourdette-Martinez (Right)Courtesy of Hearth Homes Interiors

Stand Your Ground

“More often than not, clients have a hard time coming to a decision, especially when it comes to big-ticket pieces of furniture or the important materials in their project. The renovation process is a daunting one, so it’s best not to overwhelm people who are new to it. This requires us to get to know our clients and their style really well before we even begin sourcing anything for them. Another thing that we as the designers do is pick our own favorite and stick to it. Our clients hire us for our opinions and expertise—nobody trusts a wishy-washy interior designer. Knowing that, we like to be prepared to answer them honestly when they ask us what we would choose, and sell them on it.” —Katie Labourdette-Martinez and Olivia Wahler, Hearth Homes Interiors, Santa Barbara, California

8 strategies to manage an indecisive client
Jae OmarCourtesy of Jae Omar Design

Tough Love

“We only take clients that have complete confidence in our ability to present them with the right choices. If the relationship is initiated properly [indecision] shouldn’t happen often. That said, it still does happen. I am clear about my choice on any given decision. I lovingly reiterate the impact a delay in decision-making has on the outcome. If after that they still can’t decide, we usually move on [from the project] if need be. Other times, we’ll pause their project and focus on another one or focus on other aspects of the project where decisions have been made. If that sounds extreme, one must understand that chronic indecision is a trust issue. Without these things a positive outcome is nearly impossible.” —Jae Omar, Jae Omar Design, Topanga, California

8 strategies to manage an indecisive client
Megan EvansLaura Steffan

Light A Fire

“I can usually tell in our initial discovery period if a client struggles with decision making. We present new clients with a very detailed questionnaire, which has helped determine who has the potential to be indecisive. Oftentimes the indecision comes because they like everything—which is a great problem to have, because [that means] the client is engaged and excited about the project—but paralysis by analysis is a very real thing. To avoid this, we try to limit the options we share with them to help the selection process go more smoothly. Being confident and firm in our opinions when presenting [the designs] is important and helps guide the process. When we are honest about possible delays and lead times if a choice is not made, it can often ignite a fire for them to make a selection.” —Megan Evans, Megan Evans Interiors, Covington, Louisiana

8 strategies to manage an indecisive client
Sherrell NealCourtesy of Sherrell Design Studio

Time is Money

“You have to ask yourself, why hasn’t this client made a decision? Do they need more visual aids or are they not fully committed to the design? We can’t learn everything about a person or a couple during a single consultation, but you can sense an indecisive person or one who wants too many options—which doesn’t align with my design process. Setting expectations of your process from A to Z during a design consultation can be beneficial for you and your potential client. With practice, I’ve become more structured as to how many estimated hours should be allotted toward design before a selection is ever made, which helps inform the client of their project timeline. That way, a client will know when they’re lagging behind the project timeline or why the hours that month are a little heavier.” —Sherrell Neal, Sherrell Design Studio, Houston

8 strategies to manage an indecisive client
Jen SamsonChad Mellon

Eyes on the Prize

“When a client cannot make a decision, we remind them that they hired us to create something magical and to trust us and the process. We also work to understand what is at the root of it—is it budget? Are they focusing on something small and losing sight of the overall picture? Are the decision-makers not on the same page? Asking direct questions is key. In addition to that, we only present ideas that we are genuinely excited about so that whatever direction they go, we know it will produce beautiful results.” —Jen Samson, Jen Samson Design, Laguna Beach, California

8 strategies to manage an indecisive client
Kara SmithCourtesy of KES Studio

Share Your Vision

“I’d like to think clients hire me because they trust my taste and experience to help steer them in the right direction when they are struggling. Many of my clients I’ve been working with for years so there is a level of familiarity, where many times I know what they want before they even say it. With new clients, I try to make sure they know that I’ve been listening to them throughout the entire process, not just in terms of their aesthetic but also in terms of what their ultimate living goals are. I always present the best options and encourage them to think about important decisions from the perspective that this is something they are going to live with and should love.” —Kara Smith, KES Studio, Los Angeles

Homepage image: A bright kitchen by Megan Evans glows with brushed-gold finishes | Laura Steffan

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