Sell your value, not your name

In an interview on page 54 of this issue, AIA president, Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, says the greatest threat to residential architects is a lack of demand for their services. She says the lack of demand is caused by clients’ lack of understanding about the value architects bring to a project.

To counter this lack of knowledge, Schwennsen advocates proving your value by creating designs with measurable outcomes such as saving energy, improving resale value and enriching residents’ lives. I completely agree with this strategy. But it’s not just about creating value; it’s about selling it, too.

The selling of your value to potential clients should not be about your education, or how many years you’ve been in practice, or how many homes you’ve designed. Instead, sell what those achievements bring to the table — for them. Clients want to hear how you’ll make their lives better.

When buying a car, do you make a decision based on how long Toyota has been making cars, or how many cars Chevrolet has produced? Of course not. You want to hear how much money the car will save you on gasoline costs, how it will retain its value, and how it will make your driving experience better than any other you’ve ever had.

So when potential clients are considering buying your services, tell them how much better their lives will be if they hire you. Tell them how you will consider the sun’s movement and its effect on life inside their home, like Sever Design Group Architects did for the stunning custom house on page 42 of this issue. Tell them how you’ll create a focal point in every room that will gently draw people through each room and to the next, like the beautiful home designed and built by Carlson Homes on page 22.

These kinds of benefits touch homeowners personally. They affect them directly. These benefits are what should be sold in a meeting, not how many years it took you to develop the skills to create such a great home.

I know the value a professional can bring to my life. As a homeowner in the early stages of a life-long continuing education course in home repair and improvement, I’ve already had several opportunities to learn that big projects turn out better when you hire a professional.

For example, we hired a landscape contractor to fix our paver brick patio and ended up with much better results than if I tried to do it. We hired an electrician for a lighting project with the result also being better than I could have done.

This does not mean I’m incapable of performing standard fix-up and improvement jobs around the house. But when it comes to the big projects, I know my limits and the value a professional brings to the table. So should you, and so should your clients. It’s your job to educate them.