Mike Monteiro: Don't make your clients happy – make them successful

Johan Berndtsson

Sit down, buckle up and hold on tight. This video with the 7 most common mistakes designers make during client presentations by Mike Monteiro will possibly blow you mind – or at least change your next client presentation.

When we booked Mike Monteiro to From Business to Buttons we knew that we were in for a treat. He is truly one of the most outspoken men in design today. His presentation 13 mistakes designers make during client presentation was reduced to 7 mistakes, but nevertheless, they were all great examples.

Designers are gatekeepers

Mike Monteiro loves good design, and he loves the craft. His talk revolved around the myth that good design sells itself and he stated that a good designer who can sell work is more valuable than a great designer who can’t.

Even though Mike's talk could come across as cocky (especially before you see it) there is no doubt that he is truly on the designer’s side – and he just want's all of us, including himself, to do better:

­– I love this thing we do, we are gatekeepers to a better world, and that's worth fighting for. Let me also start off by saying that I have made every single one of these mistakes, and I still make some of them today.

The list

We summarized the list of mistakes but we really recommend you to see the whole video above, it’s just amazing. Here it goes:

1. You are not there to be the client’s friend and you are not there to hold their hand. You are there to accomplish a business goal. Happiness and a cosy relationship is not a goal – that comes later when the client is satisfied. You have to be ready for some really uncomfortable conversation, that is a part of the job.

2. Not getting of your ass. It’s your job to lead the presentation with the same confidence as a pilot taking charge of the cockpit while performing an emergency landing. This is your stage and your time to show the client that they hired the right person to do the job. That’s why you should stand up while holding the presentation and own the stage. Dress to kill and keep those hands out of your pockets.

3. Not setting the stage properly. Prepare the meeting and make the client feel important. Thank everybody for their time, and start of every meeting by answering the question: Why are we here today? Let them know what participation you need from them and what stage of the project you’re in. Do not waste your clients time. 

4. Giving the real-estate tour. You don't sell a house by talking about the sheetrock. Let go of buttons and boring details. Get the buyer to see the vision and benefits of the design, sell the idea that they will be filthy rich and walking on the bones of their competition with your design. In short; Work like a scientist – present like a snake charmer. You accomplish that goal by introducing stories to the design; get the clients to picture themselves as a successful business.

5. Getting defensive. Use this mantra everyday: I am not my work – my work is not me. The design you present has to meet the client’s goal. While presenting, you have to be ready for critique. Listen to them, shut up, and then you can present the evidence to prove the contrary. Defend your work but don't get defensive.

6. Reacting to questions as change requests. Your first response to the question “Why is this blue?” should not be “I can change it”. Sometimes clients just have a question and they want to know the reasons to your choices. Be confident and do not change things that are right just because clients are curious. 

7. The last and also the worst mistake is asking: Do you like it? Now you just gave away every research hour and every hard won victory. The client wants you to be the expert – that’s why they write you big fat checks. You are supposed to know why it’s a good design and not be steered by subjective notes from the client. So take charge – and stay in charge.

Wan't to know more? Mike has written two excellent books, Design is a Job, and You're my favourite client. You should buy them.

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