Opportunity vs. Client: Managing Your Sales Process

interior designer sales process

Have you ever been told that you’re customer service is subpar? I have, more than once, unfortunately. As a business owner this can be terrifying, but it’s actually not a bad thing. It all comes down to the basis of a sales funnel and managing our own expectations.

I have a one room, small design studio with a Team. One day I was in the middle of proposal presentation for a project (we later won the job) and a call came inquiring about working with us. As best as we can, and with an ongoing a meeting in our small office, someone on my Team takes the call. For the sake of efficiency and process, we always direct telephone inquiries back over to our website to complete our Project Inquiry Form. This caller wasn’t having it and responded with “Well, that’s no way to treat a customer!” and promptly hung up.

If I were a retail store, this would have really bothered me, but let me be absolutely clear about one point: This caller was not a customer nor were they a client; they were an opportunity.


As a small business, I developed a process that helps me manage the types of Project Inquiries we receive. I worked hard at it and discovered that because we use Mydoma Studio with all our clients, being technologically savvy is actually a requirement for us. So I’ve deduced that if they cannot or are not willing to participate in the process with 10 minutes of completing an online form that this is not our client.

When I finally made this decision, it was extremely liberating! We will always complete the form over the phone, if they had hung on a second longer, but this caller assumed that they were in a position of power, which was a bold move, because they did not understand there were ten inquires before and after them. Taking the right steps for your business to qualify a prospect is critical to aligning your client with your creative value.


We have a clear line between an opportunity for work and a client. Before someone can become a client, we must understand the project and propose what we will do for them and, if they accept, they pay us what we are asking for. A car dealership has the same process, and, in fact, so does the rest of the world. Here is some terminology to use in your Sales process:

  • An Opportunity is new business, unprocessed.
  • Once determined they may be a fit, they become a Prospect.
  • After speaking to them and agreeing to assess the project needs and requirements, they become a Qualified Lead and have a Deal, worth a dollar value, attached to their profile (Proposal for services.)
  • A Client graduates from being Qualified Lead after signing and paying. 
  • A Dead Lead is when you discover that what a Qualified Lead want doesn’t work for you or your business.
  • Lost Deals happen for many reasons, price being one of them.
  • Unqualified and Leads happen as well, many people call this “mis-alignment.”

​STAND FIRM IN YOUR PROCESSIt is important to not negotiate your process and stand firm. Every person is unique, everyone has different needs and requirements, every site condition has a different set of design parameters. So being secure in a sales and design process is essential to the qualify of work and ensuring that your clients become your biggest, cheapest, and most highly-valued marketing engine.

I’m reminded about a video clip I saw recently where Joyce Didonato explains how going through the process isn’t a recreation of doing what just worked – clip below. (You don’t have to agree, but if anything, you get to listen to some great music.)

Corey Klassen, CMKBD

Vancouver-based Kitchen/Bath Designer.