Discovery Meetings: How Architects Attract High-Quality Clients

October 23, 2022

Tyler Suomala

Founder of Growthitect

I have a secret.

Here it is:

High-quality clients aren’t born. They’re made.

What does that mean?

Any client can be good or bad. In most cases, you influence which way they fall.

Attracting high-quality clients is just as much about building better relationships as it is about improving your messaging and marketing.

This is huge. It’s a game-changer. This means that you can have high-quality clients NOW by improving your relationship skills.

We’ve covered several ways to build better relationships thus far. Today, we’re bringing them together to build a repeatable framework for qualifying clients and building strong relationships (and expectations) in your first meeting.

I speak to a lot of architects that don’t have a consistent framework for managing the first meeting. Each time you meet with a potential client, it’s a new and different process. You struggle to get what you want out of the conversation and feel slightly lost. But you don’t spend time evaluating your process. Once it’s over, you’re already on to the next thing.

Let’s fix that 🙂

Disco Meeting

Enter the Discovery (Disco) Meeting. AKA your first meeting with a potential client.

This is your opportunity to:

  • Make a solid first impression.

  • Qualify your client and the project.

  • Discover their pains and desires.

  • Get them excited about working together.

  • Set the next meeting up for success.

Mine typically last 30 minutes but yours may vary depending on the type of work you do. The trick is not to make it too long.

Think of it as an appetizer. It’s enough to get them interested but not too much that they don’t want more.

Let’s talk about how you can organize the meeting in 30 minutes.

01 // Build Rapport (5 mins)

As you may recall, building rapport will help you to establish and nurture strong relationships.

The steps are:

  1. Research: Find a commonality.

  2. Ask: Use an open-ended question to get the conversation started.

  3. Relate: Acknowledge their sentiment and share your own experience on the topic.

This will get everyone comfortable and catalyze your relationship moving forward.

02 // Upfront Contract (1-2 mins)

Similarly, upfront contracts ensure that your time together will be meaningful and effective. They’re essentially an agreement between you and the potential client about what you will cover in the meeting.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Appreciation: Thank them for taking the time to meet with you.

  2. Expectation: Share with them what you need to get out of the conversation in 1-2 sentences.

  3. Confirmation: Ask them they’re on board with the plan.

I share the full script of my highly effective upfront contract in this article.

03 // Deep Dive (<20 mins)

This is the main course of your meeting. It’s your opportunity to understand why your client is looking for an architect.

This is the point where I see a lot of architects make the mistake of grilling their client with a list of quantitative questions like:

  • How many bedrooms do you want?

  • How many bathrooms?

  • How many square feet?

  • What’s your budget?

For the love of all that is architecture, PLEASE DON’T DO THIS.

It puts your client on the defensive and makes them feel as though they’re in an interview. It also assumes that your client knows exactly what they want. (Spoiler: They don’t. Which you’ll end up discovering a few months into the project.)

Instead, ask questions to understand the challenges of your client’s existing condition.

Here’s some tips:

  1. Tone matters: You want to be curious, not accusatory.

  2. Let them pitch you: Want a dynamite starter question? Try: “Why us and why now?”. This will help you understand what about you interests them most and what drives their urgency.

  3. Open-ended > Close-ended: Use open-ended questions like, “What problem are you hoping this new space will resolve?” to encourage conversation and discovery.

  4. Find the impact: Understand the personal impact of present challenges upon your client AND the positive impact if those challenges didn’t exist.

I share methods and questions for diving deeper into your client’s pain in this article.

04 // Next Steps (5 mins)

Don’t sleep on the last 5 minutes of the call. You’ve built rapport, established an upfront contract, and deep-dived into your client’s challenges. Now it’s time to set your next meeting (i.e. the meeting where you present a proposal) up for success.

Let’s do it:

  1. Wrap-up question: “I know we’ve covered a lot today. Is there anything else you think we should know?” This is a great way to transition the conversation and provide them the opportunity to mention anything else of importance.

  2. Set the next meeting: “Sounds like your primary challenge is [x]. Let’s set some time aside later this week to walk you through how we’ve resolved [x] for others and how we can do the same for you. Does [day] at [time] work well for you?”

  3. Describe the path forward: “Great! At that meeting we’ll cover our process, timeline, and proposal. After that, we can get our team started on this as early as next week. Does that sound good?”

Why does this work so well?

  • This is a simple and repeatable process with enough flexibility to adapt to any type of client.

  • It’s framework that is client-focused and relationship-first, which sets you up for success moving forward.

  • It keeps your client interested and engaged.


Run a valuable disco meeting in under 30 minutes:

  1. 5 minutes: Build rapport by researching, asking, and relating.

  2. 1-2 minutes: Establish an upfront contract with appreciation, expectation, and confirmation.

  3. <20 minutes: Deep dive with the right tone by asking open-ended questions and understanding personal impact.

  4. 5 minutes: Cover next steps with a wrap-up question, a set meeting, and explanation of the path forward.

Easy squeezy lemon peezy.

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