the sky floor

To Discover Client Preferences, Pretend You Are an Optometrist

October 19, 2022

I have always loved going to the optometrist. It feels like the world’s most straightforward quiz to determine if your prescription has changed: “Is one better (flips the lens) or two? Two or three? Ok. Three of four?” Maybe like me, you always feel like you are getting it slightly wrong, but it still isn’t difficult, and the only correct answer is what you see. 

If you have trouble getting preferences out of a client, use this method to simplify. Clients often know what they don’t want more readily than they do want. In other words, asking an open-ended question, in this case, may not help to get them talking. Instead, try the either/or process. 

Let’s say you are trying to get website inspiration ideas to hone the design process. Instead of merely asking, “what do you like for button shape?” You can ask, “do you prefer the buttons on Apple or on Facebook?” Then you can refine it by asking about variations of their answer. For example, “since you selected Facebook, do you prefer Facebook or Option C more?” 

If you build a list of either/or options, you can discover preferences more quickly than by asking your client to pull random ideas from thin air. 

The optometrist’s method is particularly potent in live sales environments like a designer boutique. If you work on the floor of a fashion brand store, this method will help you quickly ascertain your customer’s preferences. Once you have done this, you can more easily recommend your products and close the sale. 


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Use an either/or interview to help determine preferences quickly and in more concrete terms for the client.