Just last week I was on a coaching call with a consultant. She wanted to know about how to engage clients so they’d keep coming back for her services, season after season. It made me reflect on my own beginnings because I had that problem too.
In the early years I didn’t really know where to start or if I should even have a step-by-step system. Maybe if someone called me and wanted to buy an outfit for an upcoming wedding I should just say yes. Or if she wanted to get rid of some clothes from a past career, I could do that. I would float around. Whatever the client wanted me to do, I did it.
Then I tried something else. I took control of the plan with new clients. I insisted they start with a color appointment. And I wanted them to do a figure analysis. Then we’d go into the closet and after that we’d go shopping. No deviation from the plan.
I got so-so results. Once people got their colors done and their figure analyzed, some of them thought they knew enough to go out and do it all themselves.
What I knew is that they wouldn’t be successful. There was more to looking and feeling good in clothes than buying something in a flattering color or choosing a long, slim jacket over a cropped one. They needed to honor their innate style and then blend that with their lifestyle and the roles they had in life. I wanted clients to feel like themselves in everything from exercise wear to work clothes to date clothes. Their personal style was at the center.
I changed courses
I started with a new plan. The first appointment would be a personal style appointment. I called it a style assessment. I developed a step-by-step system and began to use it every time I met with someone new. I insisted on it.
I insist on it to this day. No one becomes a client of mine without that first style appointment. I am more flexible about the other services I provide, but not that one.
Why? It’s just too essential.
Once I’ve understood a client’s style and helped interpret those style words to her so she understands them too, she’s thrilled. She takes ownership and she lets me lead the way because she wants to know more! From that moment on, whether I’m in my client’s closet or on a shopping trip, I am always matching her look to her style words.
Everything about her next appointments is made easier. We can work more efficiently and not make mistakes when we follow her style words. All those closet appointments and shopping trips flow naturally from the style appointment. Simple.
You’d probably agree
Personal style is as unique as your thumbprint. No one has one quite like yours. When you dress using your personal style formula, it makes you feel 100% happy and satisfied inside your own skin.
Feeling comfortable in your own skin sounds impossible to someone who is having trouble with fit and thinks she just needs to lose five pounds, and everything will work. Or the woman who has decided she’ll finally be comfortable with herself after she invests in some plastic surgery. Or maybe someone says she’ll do something about her wardrobe once she wins the lottery.
She can’t imagine she can look good now, as she is, within the budget she has.
Style transcends all those issues. When we keep that first appointment focused on style, we cut through the brambles of body issues, deficiencies, and self-consciousness. We create a safe place for self discovery. A client can finally find peace with herself.
Think about it: From the outside looking in, we may never be aware of the struggle that’s going on for a woman. We see a beautiful woman across a room and can’t imagine she has any self-esteem problems. We don’t see her struggles with her thighs, hair texture or height.
During a style interview, we discover all the ways she feels bad about herself. The interview also has ways to shed light on the things she loves about herself. They are secretly disguised in a couple of exercises I ask the client to do. It all culminates with a client so radiant and moved and ready to do what’s next to achieve this wonderful vision of her through her newly minted style words. Any resistance that seemed to be holding things back, like lack of time or money or self-worth, has suddenly disappeared. She’d like you to start Tuesday.
What’s the secret to the style interview?
I created a course to teach others how to conduct this first crucial appointment with your client called Style Squared. What my students learn early on is to assume nothing: be open, neutral, and curious and let each step of the style interview build upon itself to the natural finale of self-discovery.
It might take some practice because we think what the client wants is to hear our incredible knowledge and expertise. And she will…in time. But first she has to hear herself. We have to be strategically quiet much of the time so as to hear the client speak…from her heart. The more we let her speak, the safer she feels. The safer she feels, the deeper she’ll go. She may never have had an opportunity quite like this to focus on herself and be heard.
Once we’ve listened and helped her interpret what she’s saying out loud (maybe for the first time), she’s falling in love with herself in a way no amount of therapy or mothering could achieve. In fact, she may even say, “This feels like wardrobe therapy!” or “I feel like I’m getting mothered in a way my mother never could.”
Women have issues; we can help
I have so much compassion for women. I know you do to. What woman has gone through life and not been affected by low self-esteem, felt bad about her body, wished for the luck other women seemed to have? She had a mother, brother, father or boyfriend who said nasty things to her. A woman is so trained to have negative images about herself and a long list of all the things she can’t wear. She’s been beaten down!
Seeing her pain and being able to make a difference starting with the peacemaker–the style interview–has been transformative. We’ll get to figure analysis and color analysis later, AFTER she’s softened her image of herself and is seeing herself through your eyes and her style words.
At the same time…
At the same time she’s discovering herself anew, she’s falling in love with you because you get her. You honor her. You want the best for her. The steps you’ve used to learn about your client has paved the way for a lifetime of service to her. You guys will look back five years from now and she’ll say something like, “You had me at the first style appointment! Would you consider moving in next door to me?” And you’ll laugh!
I think you’re beginning to understand why I start with the Style Appointment. It’s her happy place. It makes her feel good and it sets the two of you up to be a wonderful team.
Isn’t that what we all want?