In this part of our 2-part series on managing successful new UX client meetings, we review the 3 stages of the meeting:

  • Listen
  • Learn
  • Lead

In Part 1, we reviewed strategies to prepare for the meeting and get it started.

Listen, Learn, Lead


Ask questions to solicit your prospective client’s view of their situation.  Then let the prospective client talk without interruption.  You can show that you are listening by using the same techniques you would apply in the moderator’s role in usability testing.  Comments like “I see,” “um hum”, etc., show that you are listening without interrupting the thought process of your prospective client.


Take notes while you are listening, so that you can restate during the meeting what you heard your prospective client say.  Taking notes also shows that you are paying attention. As well, your notes will provide key words and phrases that you want to use in your proposal, which will follow the meeting.


When the timing feels right, in that you see the prospective client reaching a stopping point in presenting their needs and goals for user experience research, you are now ready to lead.  This part of the meeting is the most important, because it allows you to take what you have heard and learned and then shape the rest of the meeting to focus on strategies and solutions that demonstrate your knowledge and experience, as well as targeting the needs and goals of your prospective client.

Why take the lead, rather than follow the lead of your prospective client? Because, in my experience over countless prospective client meetings, the person seeking your UX services often does not know what they want.  But they think they know.  And, sadly, much of the time they think they want something that is not right for them.

Commonly, they come to this first meeting thinking they want focus group research.  Why?  Because that’s all they know about research with users.

So, you have to explain the difference between focus group studies and usability studies.  Quite often, that means also explaining what usability testing is, beginning with the fact that it is one-on-one sessions, rather than group sessions. That may come as a surprise to your prospective client.  But it provides you with the way into explaining what each research technique is good for.

If, however, they come to the meeting with some understanding of usability testing, they often don’t understand the opportunities they have to get user feedback at the early stages of product development, including starting with a baseline study of the current product, if one exists, and using that to set requirements.  Here, again, you have the responsibility to show them how early studies at the prototype or wireframe stage can be useful and cost effective.

Or, they might have a fairly good understanding of usability testing but you may need to lead them to some other tools in your UX toolkit, given that you are in a position to match their needs to your array of solutions.

This leadership role is yours to assume and, if you take on this role in the capacity of opening up a number of options for your prospective client to consider, you are giving them much more to think about than when they first contacted you.

What will very likely result from this approach is the prospective client’s interest in seeing a number of research options with pricing.  But before you leave the meeting, you should try to get some information about their budget or expectations for costs and fees. Any information they can provide will save both the prospective client and you wasted effort when it comes time to write the proposal.

However, it is often the case that they do not know their budget yet, in which case I have found that giving them an “average” or “minimum” project fee let’s them know at the very least what to expect.  You don’t want to write a full blown proposal, only to find out that the prospective client is in no way able to do even the minimum fee for the work.  Clearing the air on that during the meeting will go a long way toward correctly targeing the needs and expectations for both parties.

Follow-up after the meeting

After the meeting, you need to take action right away. First, thanks are in order.  You should send a thank you email as soon as possible after the meeting.  The same day or the next day is appropriate.  In the process of thanking your prospective client for their time, you can summarize the next steps, such as a proposal to follow, or some preliminary pricing. Personalize the thank you note by including specific things that were covered in the meeting, so that you are building on the relationship begun in the meeting.

Then, prepare whatever documents were requested in the meeting.  This could be an informal list of options with some ballpark pricing to give your prospective client the opportunity to respond before you write a full-blown proposal.  Or, they may ask you to produce the proposal, which is often the case if they have a clear idea of what they want and the budget for the work.

So, there’s your plan.  It’s quite simple, but, as you can see in this 2-part series, it takes effort to plan, engage, and follow up with prospective clients.  You won’t win them all, so be prepared for that reality, but you will increase the chances of a win with this simple strategy.

Photo credit:

Carol Barnum

Carol brings her academic background and years of teaching and research to her work with clients to deliver the best research approaches that have proven to produce practical solutions. Carol’s many publications (6 books and more than 50 articles) have made a substantial contribution to the body of knowledge in the UX field. The 2nd edition of her award-winning handbook Usability Testing Essentials is now available.