5 Key Consultation QuestionsRelationships surround us everywhere we look these days: happy families, couples holding hands, best friends laughing during a lunch date, 25 eligible bachelors or bachelorettes competing for a weekly rose...

Yes, these are the relationships that are easy to identify, but what about other significant relationships that are vital to a happy and healthy life that aren’t typically on public display? 

As a stylist, the ability to develop and maintain trusting relationships with your clients is just as important to your success as your scissor craft and color expertise. Like any great first date, first impressions spark lasting impressions.

To help you have a successful first consultation with your client, here are five key consultation questions every professional stylist should ask to lay the foundation for a great hair relationship.  

**Danielle McDowell is the co-founder of MyBestFriendsHair.com, a site that connects clients with products, stylists and salons.**

What do you like/dislike about your hair now? 

Get to the Point: Get the skinny on the good and the bad.

It’s always best to identify what the client views as her strengths, and it also gives you a platform to build on. Does she love that she has very subtle hints of red in her brunette hair?  Suggest color that will define this already present trait.  Likewise, it’s also smart to know what your client views as a “weakness” to her hair, because it provides you with an opportunity to improve not only your client’s hair, but her confidence as well.  If  your client complains about how thin and lifeless her hair is, a cut that adds texture and body may make her day, and make her look forward to her next appointment with you. 

What is your least favorite style you've had and why?  

Get to the Point: Know what to avoid.

If your client says she can’t stand sweeping bangs across her forehead (and ultimately in her eyes), then definitely do not recommend any type of bang style, no matter how well they would frame your client’s face or how in style the trend is.  If she doesn’t like them, no matter how great of a job you do cutting those bangs; she will be dissatisfied with the cut, and with you. 

What products and styling tools do you have at home?

Get to the Point: This will help identify where you can have a teaching moment, not to mention a potential for a product sale.

Everyone loves leaving a salon with beautifully styled hair, but after that first at home shampoo, that style becomes nothing more than a happy memory.  Asking clients what products and tools they have at home will give you information and inspiration on how to style your client’s hair after her color and cut. Use the same tools your client has at home, and teach her how to perform the same style you did, which empowers her with her new cut.  This is also a great opportunity to suggest products; careful though, pushing product on clients can turn them off to their overall experience with you or the salon, so simply suggest great products to make every day styling easier for your client. Matching the style of your client’s hair to her everyday lifestyle and routine will make her happy with her cut and also build trust. 

What celebrity has your favorite hairstyle?

 Get to the Point: Dissect the style, and pick what elements you can achieve with that person’s hair.

Part of being a celebrity is having great hair, and part of being a great stylist is being able to translate celebrity hair to that of the everyday great woman.  As it can often be difficult for a client to accurately describe what she is looking for in a great color and cut, ask her to share who in Hollywood has the best hair, and what specifically she loves about it.  Hopefully, if your client has an adorable blonde pixie cut mirroring Michelle Williams or Carey Mulligan, she won’t start raving about how gorgeous Kim K’s dark flowing locks are.  However, if your client has flowing locks and starts talking about Carey’s pixie, you will clearly know which direction you and your adventurous client may be headed. 

Do you have any pictures that inspired you?

Get to the Point: a picture speaks a thousand words.

Just like a bob, this saying never goes out of style; it is simply modified to speak to the current generation.  In order to assist in your client and you having the same vision about her hair, using pictures is a great way to identify the exact shade of red your client is dreaming about, or exactly what kind of layering she desires as she continues to grow her hair out.  If you can create an opportunity to connect with your client on the phone prior to her first visit, ask her to bring in a couple pictures.  If not, have a couple of hair magazines ready for her when she arrives in order to not consume too much time.     

Just like first dates, first time consultations are impossible to predict, but by being prepared with these questions, in addition to other useful tips My Best Friend’s Hair provides (including an iPad app to help consultations), successful consultations can lead to long lasting, healthy, and happy hair relationships.  

Danielle McDowell is the co-founder of MyBestFriendsHair.com, a site that connects clients with products, stylists and salons.