Why I Stopped Booking In-Person Consults (+ How It Increased Sales)
When I first started my photography business. Every photographer I followed was doing these epic in-person consultations in their gorgeous, well-lit studios with a ton of sample albums. I was convinced that I had to do this as well, but since I didn't have a studio, I had to do all my meetings in busy coffee shops. It was so NOT my brand and I had trouble booking the kind of clients that I really wanted.
Then, I booked my first destination wedding after a phone consult (we couldn't meet as they lived in a different city) and it was the easiest booking I've ever done. I haven't looked back since.
If you told me 5 years ago that I'd be doing all of my client consultations over the phone, I'd say you're full of it. I used to hate - and I mean HATE - talking on the phone and had anxiety over having to make appointments over the phone. But once I switched to phone consultations, my booking rate increased dramatically. Here's why and how this transition helped me get booked out:
SAVE GAS + TRAVEL TIME
Travel expenses are a tax write-off, but if you're driving all over the place for your consults then you are spending a ton of time doing so. From getting ready to the actual driving there and back, it's ultimately an inefficient use of your already precious time. Don't get me wrong, I love developing meaningful relationships with my clients. I want them to feel like they're working with someone they enjoy communicating with and would be happy to grab drinks with after their wedding is over! But, ultimately, my time is money and doing all that driving for a potential client that isn't already booked doesn't work for me.
One of my goals for my business is to be able to incorporate travel into my business model. With the exception of shooting weddings at a specific location, I'd love to have the freedom to work from anywhere. Taking phone or Skype consultations allows me to do that.
If you're still super keen on seeing your clients face-to-face before they hire you (or vice versa), then Skype is just as good as in-person meetings. The days of phone consults being impersonal are out; today, phone and Skype consultations can be just as effective and personal as meeting in person.
If you're booking in-person consults, there's likely a delay between the time they inquire with you and the date both parties are available for a consultation. This limbo leaves you vulnerable as a vendor to lose the hype. When a potential client first inquires with you, there's a certain level of fresh excitement surrounding the possibility of them working with you. If you get back to them asap and are able to fit them into a phone consultation immediately, then it's likely that this hype will carry that lead into a booking. Leave them hanging and it'll give them more time to develop hesitations or be distracted by other potential vendors. Remember, the easier it is for a client to book you, the more likely it is that they will.
NO SHOWS ARE NO PROBLEM
I never personally had any issue with a potential client being a no-show for an in-person consultation, but I've heard stories from other creatives about this issue. Phone and Skype consults are much less likely to result in no-shows. Plus, in the unfortunate event that they are bailing on your consultation, it's not a problem because you didn't drive an hour to see them.
BETTER ONBOARDING = BETTER SCREENING
If your main reason for booking in-person consultations is to properly screen your clients before deciding to take them on, then you need to reevaluate your onboarding system. I'd say inadequate onboarding is the cause of over 50% of client management issues. There are tons of ways to ask purposeful questions before you even get to the consult. For example, your contact form should include intentional questions that will make it easy to identify those red-flag leads. You should also be infusing your website and blog with various snippets of information about how you work and what your policies are.
BUSY IS GOOD
Clients like to sit in this delicate psychological balance of (1) being valued and treated like their your only client and (2) knowing that you can handle the work they need because you're a busy, trusted professional. Giving them the impression that you have endless time for them can foster a subconscious suspicion about the legitimacy of your business. Again, it's honestly a fine balance here. Give people the time they need (and deserve), but don't be available 24/7 if your line of work doesn't need it. Ain't nobody wants to be answering frantic client emails at 2am down the line, am I right?
LOW-MAINTENANCE CLIENTS CAUSE LESS PROBLEMS
The clients that don't demand to meet you in person and go through all of your work etc. are likely much less high-maintenance than those that do. If you've properly given people all of your information, samples of work, testimonials, and press links online then there is no viable reason for them to need to see these in person.
I love keeping a checklist of everything I need to ask or information I should provide so I can reference it if needed. This gives me so much reassurance and makes consults a lot more relaxed and natural. This works great as a backup if you're more experienced. Alternatively, go one step further and make a script if you're just starting out.
Honestly, you have to do what works for you and your business when it comes to how you like to do consultations, screen clients, and accept bookings. Please just take this article as just another option if in-person consults aren't totally working for you!
What kinds of tricks and tips do you have for phone consultations? Share them in the comments below!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Thanks for dropping by! I'm Caileigh and I create killer brand identities and offer coaching for creative entrepreneurs with gumption. When I'm not helping people build profitable businesses, I document love stories as a fine art film photographer.