Pain Points: How Architects Identify Exactly What Clients Need

October 9, 2022

Tyler Suomala

Founder of Growthitect

Imagine being your ideal client.

You schedule an introductory meeting with your firm.

You show up, spend 30 minutes answering questions, and then head home.

On your way home, you have the realization that there were a lot of things you didn’t mention about your project. After all, the architects never asked you. Opinions, preferences, past experiences, etc. are left hanging in your mind.

“Oh well - I can bring it up later when it matters!” you think to yourself.

And that, my dear friend, is the seed of endless problems.

  • Scope creep

  • Misunderstandings

  • Poor communication

  • Broken relationships

The list goes on.

And it’s all the result of failing to get a full understanding of your client’s wants, needs, and desires.

The problem is that your conversations are too superficial.

Maybe you have a list of questions - mostly quantitative - that you always ask during that first meeting:

  • What’s your budget?

  • How many square feet?

  • What’s your timeline?

But this list of questions leaves a lot on the table.

The conversation lacks depth, remains surface level, limits discovery, and barely forms any connection. And these results are felt by both parties.

That’s not a taste you want to leave in the mouth of your potential client.

Deep Diving

Instead, you want them to feel heard and understood. You want them to have discovered something about themselves in your conversation.

And that’s not just to help them feel better. It’s to help you understand the true desires of your client.

99% of clients are making emotional, not logical, decisions when choosing an architect. (No, that’s not a real stat 😂)

And the biggest emotional driver is pain.

So you want to make sure that you dive deep enough into their current pains to understand how you can (1) best relieve that pain and (2) position your firm as the BEST solution.

Let’s uncover how you can implement the 3 Layers of Pain.

01 // Superficial Pain

First, you want to know the primary challenge that caused them to begin looking for an architect.

You might be saying, “But, Tyler, they don’t have a challenge. They just want a new house and they need an architect to design it for them.”

To that client, I would say:

  • What’s wrong with your current home?

  • What’s the biggest issue with your current living situation?

  • What problem are you hoping this new home will solve for you?

Sometimes the primary challenge comes up naturally in the conversation. Other times you’ll need to ask an open-ended question to catalyze the search.

A few common primary challenges are:

  • The current space is too small and/or can’t accommodate expected growth.

  • The current space is outdated and/or visually unappealing to the client.

  • There is no current space for the new business, family, venture, etc.

When you discover that primary challenge, write it down. Let the client finish their thoughts and then dive into the next layer.

02 // Impact Pain

Next, you want to understand the personal impact of that pain upon your client.

Here’s a few open-ended frameworks you can use:

  • How does {primary challenge} impact your day-to-day activities?

  • What is it about {primary challenge} that is most difficult for you?

  • How does {primary challenge} present itself to you on a daily basis?

You want them to talk about themselves and really understand how the primary challenge affects their day-to-day operations. Essentially, why does it bother them so much that they want to spend $$$ to fix it?

You still with me? 🙂

03 // Pain Relief

This is my favorite part of the discovery process. You have your client in a therapeutic position. You’ve spent the last several minutes learning about the personal impact of their primary challenge.

Now it’s time to understand what a world without that primary challenge looks like for your client. What would happen if that pain didn’t exist?

Here’s some more open-ended frameworks you can use:

  • What would it mean to you if {primary challenge} didn’t exist?

  • If {primary challenge} didn’t exist, how would that improve your day-to-day?

  • How would your day look different if {primary challenge} didn’t exist?

Awesome! Now you’ve lead them to telling you about their ideal outcome to this project.

Why does this work so well?

After diving into these layers, you have a full understanding of how the primary challenge personally impacts the decision-maker AND how their life would be if that primary challenge didn’t exist.

The last thing you want to do is reiterate your understanding to the client and get their confirmation.

Here’s some final frameworks you can use:

  • As I understand it, you’re looking to resolve {primary challenge} because {personal impact} so that you can {pain relief}. Is that correct?

  • So {primary challenge} is causing {personal impact}? And if this was resolved then {pain relief}. Am I understanding you correctly?

  • So you would be able to {pain relief} without the {personal impact} of {primary challenge}. Is that correct?

If they confirm, then you’ve struck gold.

You have an in-depth understanding of their most powerful emotional driver - pain. You can now use that:

  • In the proposal writing process.

  • To position your firm as the best solution.

  • To prevent any future misunderstandings.

  • To remind your client of their goals when they try to introduce scope creep.

  • During each check-in throughout the process to show the progress toward their desired outcome.

  • To deliver an incredible result that gets the client exactly what they want.

That’s a lot of potential. And it only takes a few open-ended questions for you to get there!

Growthitect is a newsletter that shares one quick and powerful growth tactic for architects each week:

Join 4,500+ architecture leaders already reading each week.

Share this article on: