Intro by Skip Cohen Four years ago Michele Celentano published…
by Kay Eskridge CPP, M. Photog.,Cr
A potential client is on the line . . . what’s your next move?
First of all, congratulations are in order as some form of your marketing (word of mouth, print advertising, partnership marketing, social networking site, etc.) has done its job and a prospect has found you. They have a need and hope you can fulfill it. They actually ‘want’ to be sold. They want to feel they have called the right place, made the right decision and will be working with someone who understands and can meet their needs. It is now up to you to help them feel assured that calling you is the best thing they could have done.
With this in mind here are 10 tips that can help you turn an initial phone inquiry into the sale of a portrait session appointment.
- Thank callers for contacting you and show them you care about what they need by listening to them! Everyone has a story they want to tell and by actually giving them the chance to do so you are helping them become comfortable with you. They are beginning to trust you. You are becoming a friend and people like doing business with friends instead of salesmen.
- Get out your Client Inquiry Form and begin jotting notes on their file. Ask questions that show you are concerned about their needs, such as . . . why are they looking to hire a photographer? is this session a celebration of a special occasion? are they on any type of deadline? are there any special situations you need to be aware of? etc. Use open-ended questions to get people
to speak more freely. You should always talk less than the person on the line. It makes others feel more comfortable, particularly if you are asking them to make a decision. The more they talk, the easier it is for them to “buy into” the experience of the portrait session you are offering to sell them.
- Give some tips that reduce anxiety. Think about the most commonly asked questions you’ve received and be prepared to mention a few of the answers. Things like clothing recommendations, what they should expect during a session, your studio production timeline, cancellation policies, any specials you are offering, etc. You don’t want to overwhelm them, but showing you have the answers will give them piece of mind.
- Ask them if they have any questions and keep asking until they say, “No.” Then they will be ready to schedule a session.
- Scheduling the portrait session and projection appointment needs to be handled carefully. Do NOT ask, “What would be convenient for you?” This is courteous, but it forces them to make another decision. They may also choose a date or time that does not work for you, which may feel like poor service to them. Give them options that you have available until you find one that works for their schedule.
- Collect the information you’ll need to be prepared for their session using your Client Inquiry Form. This reaffirms your professionalism, care and concern for the success of their experience.
- Confirm the portrait session by taking their credit card information and reiterating your studio’s cancellation policy.
- Thank them again for calling and reinforce the fact they have made a very good decision in selecting you for their photographic needs. “We are excited to work with you Mrs. Jones, and look forward to the time we will be spending with your family on Tuesday the 6th at 2:00.”
- Send them a client Welcome Kit that includes any information they will need prior to their session (a reminder card with dates and times of their appointments, price lists, purchasing options, what to expect, information about the studio, any postcard or PR card with images representing the type of photography you would do for them, etc.)
Some additional things to remember . . . You are the “manager of first impressions” for your business. Whenever you (or an employee) pick up the telephone, put a smile on your face first. It will enhance your vocal quality and you will sound pleasant and relaxed.
Do not make the mistake of assuming everyone shops based on price. Not all phone inquiries (potential clients) just want to know ‘how much is an 8×10?’ so do not begin your side of the conversation with this in mind. Maybe they are asking for the price of an 8×10 because that’s the only thing they know to ask about? This is when you begin educating them on the value of hiring a
professional photographer. If price really is the only thing they’re concerned about then you need to decide if they are the right type of client for you. As Carol Andrews says . . . “When our clients are not properly prepared and educated regarding the benefits of professional portraiture, they will not meet our expectations, and the issue becomes money”.
The initial inquiry call is the perfect time to ‘plan the seeds’ of items you’d like to sell by asking questions. As an example, if you want them to purchase large wall portraits you can use questions like . . . do you know where you plan to display your new wall art? What are the colors, décor style or size of room you plan to display your new artwork? (these questions also aid you in helping them plan their clothing selections and appropriate portrait location to coordinate with their home décor).
A sale takes place when a prospect trusts and has confidence in the salesperson and the prospect perceives a valued difference in the company and the product. Your challenge is to create an atmosphere where a “buy” can take place. You accomplish this by asking the right questions and letting the prospect or customer answer his or her own concerns — while you uncover their present situation and real needs.
So, what’s the bottom line? The art of securing a sale during the initial phone inquiry is about establishing a relationship with a client using good communication skills so trust is established. It’s about successfully connecting with your clients from the very beginning so the experience of working with you goes beyond ‘just’ the portrait session.