So You Want An Affluent Client?

According to Census Bureau data, only 20 percent of American households ever break the six-figure mark. When you do, you join the ranks of a segment dubbed the mass affluent, new rich or HENRYs (high earners, not rich yet). This group is the professional and entrepreneurial class that drives the economy. They’re relentless strivers who work incredibly hard to build their careers and incredibly hard to move ahead. They don’t need to worry about making a mortgage payment or credit card payment but they probably don’t indulge in the toys that would brand some families as rich. That’s because they don’t think of themselves as rich and if they live in D.C., Boston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco or Seattle, where the cost of living is higher than most other American cities, they’re probably not.

At least they feel like they’re not.

This group of affluents that everybody wants to work with shoulders a bigger tax burden than some other segments of the population. After they pay that tax, they probably don’t have a lot left for housing, private schools for their kids, saving for retirement and paying down the student loans that earned their professional status in the first place.

Are you feeling sorry for them yet?

Probably not right this second, but I’m guessing when you show up for a consultation to design their house—because this group very much values home and they want a beautiful one—and fall in love with their family, you’re suddenly worried about them.

But they don’t have a lot of money, is something I heard from a client of mine who had a consult with a doctor couple, with a pair of kids in private school and a house on the water.

I don’t want to charge them too much.

She’d already fallen in love with them and with the transformation she knew she could achieve for them in their home. She was also excited about the potential photos she was going to get from the waterfront fix-up, and the slew of referrals the wife promised from among her friends. Referrals, I pointed out, that might be a hassle because she had priced herself low in the market.

Look, I totally get it, wealth, abundance and your perception of it is deeply personal and often irrational. The feeling of money flowing out is rarely comfortable at first but here’s the thing, service and servitude are two entirely different states of being. How does it serve you when you buy into somebody else’s money story?

What about your family? Why is your financial security less valuable than the security of your client’s? What about your kid’s tuition? The renovation you want for your home, what about that? Aren’t those things important too? Those are experiences you make difficult to receive when you don’t charge your clients the full value of your services.

Because here’s the thing about this group that represents the top 20 percent of U.S. households. They took home a record 51 percent of the nation's income and they account for nearly 40 percent of total U.S. consumer spending and about the same when it comes to the design industry.

Remember this group is relentless in their desire to achieve and even though they save, when it comes to buying, they want what they want. They’ve earned it. You just have to know what that want is. Is it the work of artisans? Is it reclaimed furniture or LED lighting? Is it a home theatre? Everyone is willing to pay more for something, as long as it speaks to a longing in the soul. Do you know what your ideal client longs for when it comes to their homes? Why not make your sales conversation about that?

If you really knew these people you already care about, you would get that they figured out how to pay to go to a good school, to live in a good neighborhood and to drive a good car. Trust in their ability to figure out how to pay for your services. Expect as much from them as they do from themselves.

Professionals respect other professionals. Offer your services at the level of their expectation.