In our lines of work we have to be psychologists to some degree. Although I don't believe there is much preparation in that regard... by the licensing boards or schools!
We can mechanically DO what we need to do but if your intuition isn't turned on, if you are not LISTENING to what is happening, if you don't notice the BODY LANGUAGE... you may be wasting a lot of YOUR time! And possibly prolonging the battle that is being waged by your clients.
For over 30 years I normally have an initial meeting by husband and wife to design a house. During that first meeting you will know who is going to make that final decision. You can sense who is the A personality. Or the AAA personality. One is weaker, one is stronger. Sometimes the strong accedes to the weaker. Usually it is the other way around. But I have been wrong many a time!
If only one spouse turns out, then I think you have a problem. There may be a scheduling issue but if the second or third meetup results in the same person showing then you have to think really hard about what is going on. Is the other decision maker too busy or actually has no interest whatsoever in buying or building a home? Maybe not now. Maybe not in the style the other prefers. Sound familiar?
I have seen this latter case result in a no-go too often. And it means a huge waste of time for me but for the client it turns into an interesting past-time it seems where one's dreams are stirred but even THEY know that nothing will come of it. But they like to play the game and have something to talk about with their friends. Just Great~
You can see the AAA spouse run the show from beginning to end but...oh-oh.... something is just not right for the other one and things fall apart again. There is showing off to indicate who is wearing the pants in the family. But bluster is often dissolved.
I think that starting the first meeting with a clear understanding by asking both parties what specifically is being sought should be the foundation upon all else that develops. But you have to ask many questions. Like one of those corporate written exams for employment. Someone may be hiding certain feelings and expectations and it may take days, weeks or months for that to be addressed.
Your mission, if you so decide, is to UNCOVER the underlying gambits, schedules -- real or imagined, real interests of each, etc. A typical issue is the bottom line price or cost of either purchase or construction. Somebody knows what that is but no one is telling you! Or they have to see 50 houses before it sinks in that 3,200 SF won't work!!
Sound off if you have a similar story or method to discover what the REAL interests of your potential buyers are. (I offer a questionnaire but that is just a formality). This goes beyond wants vs. needs. And I think the dynamic changes per the cost of the house and location even.