Last week’s journal entry was about how to use the perfect e-mail follow up in response to the popular e-mail inquiry that simply asks for your pricing and packages. This week, I am going deeper into the sales process: the consultation. The consultation, wether it’s face-to-face, e-mail, phone, or Skype is usually where most of us fall apart and lose control. We end up asking one or two general questions like, “Tell me more about your wedding.” or “How did you two meet?” And although these are great questions to ask, most wedding vendors I’ve spoke with have told me that they’d love to have a more detailed plan on how to skillfully guide their clients through the benefits of working with them, which brings me to lesson two.
A common mistake made during a meeting with prospective clients is talking too much. The more talking we do, the less we are learning. And, believe it or not, the more talking we do, the less control we have over the consultation. An effective client consult is all about them. It’s about finding out what’s important to them, their wants and needs, and even what they don’t want. It’s all about them. But that doesn’t mean that we should simply sit there with nothing to say. The most effective way to clearly communicate your value is through asking the right questions, listening to your clients, and then responding in a way that speaks directly to their concerns and desires.
When you have specific, strategic questions to ask, you’re essentially asking your clients to give you their answer for two reasons: 1) so you can get to know them better and 2) so you can use their answer as a springboard to talk about how your product or service addresses their desire, concern, or question. Let’s jump in to lesson two where I’ll share more details on the four types of questions to ask, when, and how to respond.
These types of questions are best used in the beginning of the consultation because it allows you to get to know your clients, their interests, their story, what’s important to them, and how they feel about certain things. Open-ended questions are designed to open to allow the client to communicate a meaningful answer using their own experience or feelings. Typically, these answers will be longer and filled with lots of opportunity for you to gain a deeper insight.
“Tell me more about your wedding day.”
“How did you two meet?”
“Describe how you feel when…”
We ask questions that will provide us with direct answers when we need to narrow down our focus. The open-ended questions just gave you information that is heartfelt and genuine, but also broad. Use the information you gained from those questions to narrow down your focus. I always remember this set of questions as the 5 W’s and an H or The Journalist’s Questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
“How would your perfect wedding day look to you?”
“What are some of your favorite things about each other?”
“When would you like to first see each other on your wedding day?”
This is the part of the consultation where you’re now feeling like you have a pretty good sense of who your clients are, what’s important to them, what they hope to gain from their photographer, florist, planner, etc., and you now also know a few more specific details about those things based on the information you gained from the information-seeking questions. So our funnel of questions gets even more specific with choice questions now. Choice questions give you the opportunity to use the insight you just gained about your clients and further narrow down how your specific product or service can help fulfill what they’re looking for. By asking choice-questions, you are digging deeper into what’s truly important to your client, and by asking deeper questions, it’s also showing them that what they’re sharing with you is also important to you, you’re listening, and you want to help them.
“So, you told me that it’s really important to you to be able to spend as much time as possible with your guests, so would you prefer to have your family formal portraits taken before or after your ceremony?”
“I understand the importance of having a tangible keepsake, are you more interested in wedding albums or prints?”
The last set of highly-effective questions to ask during a consult should be your closed questions because they elicit a very precise, short answer. They are effectively used as a litmus test when you want to check your understanding of what your client wants and wants to avoid. When you strategically use these questions towards the end of a consultation, you can use them to gain agreement. In addition to the two examples of closed questions I give below, develop your own closed questions that are specific to your product or service that will gain commitment from your client. Instead of asking if there’s any questions they still have, be specific. Look back at your notes, which I hope you have been taking, and ask if your solution to their pain points meets their needs. If they say yes, great! If they say no, that gives you the opportunity to address their concerns. Once your client answers yes to all of your closed questions, committing to working with you just becomes the next obvious step.
“Can you see how “Could you see yourself enjoying your wedding album on your anniversary, or showing it to your children someday?”
“Are there any other questions you have that I may not have answered?”
I have been working for over a month now on designing a very detailed, thorough, step-by-step, self-paced workshop titled Sales Strategies for the Solopreneur that will be open got enrollment in within the month. The strategies I’m sharing here on the journal are just a tiny glimpse into how using a few simple strategies, sales can go from being scary and feeling shameful to becoming empowering and educational for both you and your clients. Sales, when approached with integrity and with your client at the forefront is all about them, educating them, and giving them the knowledge to be empowered to make smart choices.
Just because you’re in business for yourself, doesn’t mean you have to be in business by yourself. So let’s be friends. Introduce yourself by leaving your name and e-mail and you’ll receive my business strategies delivered right to your inbox so you can continue to refine your craft and your business.