Welcome to the first exclusive content offered here on The Modern Tog!
Today I’m going to be telling you exactly what I say in consultations with clients so you can implement these strategies yourself. I’ve already told you my goals during a photography consultation, so if you haven’t read that already definitely go and check it out.
The questions are from my wedding photography consultations, but they could easily be adapted for various types of portrait photography consultations as well.
While most of what I say varies based on the conversation we’re having, there’s a few key questions that I ask verbatim every single time I meet with a client, and I’ll share them with you below.
How to get a client to schedule a consultation with you
My very first goal when I get a client inquiry, which almost always comes via email or a Facebook message, is to get them to schedule a consultation with me.
Because we live in a small town and predominantly shoot in larger metro areas over an hour away from us, we only hold our consultations in our town and ask couples to come to us or to schedule a phone/skype consultation instead. It saves us immense amounts of time and money, and the couples who make the drive tend to be more serious about working with us.
Here’s the exact email I send my clients. It’s a fairly customized version of one of the templates you can find in the Go-To Guide for Client E-mails that we’ll be launching soon. I’ve customized it to fit our business, but it follows the same general guidelines as the template.
First off, congratulations on your upcoming marriage! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!
Thank you for your kind words about our images. We are currently available on your wedding date and would love to work with you!
I’ll drop a copy of the magazine in the mail for you tomorrow. In the meantime, you can download a digital copy for free by clicking here: [Link]
We are a husband and wife photography team, so all of our packages include two professional photographers. We also include both a disk of high-resolution digital images and a Fine Art album with each of our packages. You can see all the details of our packages and pricing here: [Link]
If you’re interested in working with us, I’d love to chat over coffee (or over the phone if you can’t make it to Fond du Lac) and discuss more of the details of your wedding, show you the beautiful albums we offer, and figure out what package would be best for you. Would you be available ___________ or ___________? If so, just hit reply to this email and let me know and we’ll put it on the calendar.
To book your date, we require a signed contract and retainer fee. That’s it.
Congrats again on your upcoming marriage! I hope that planning is going well for you, and I look forward to chatting with you soon!
Things to note:
1. Give them the information they are looking for (pricing, style, plus answer any additional questions they may send you in the inquiry).
2. Send a link to all the specifics. This keeps your initial response short for people reading on a mobile device, and it allows you to change pricing without having to worry about people who inquired long ago wanting you to honor your old prices.
3. Give them specific dates when you can meet. If these don’t work, they’ll tell you, but if they do you’ve just made it easier to set up a consultation (my main goal) and not have to go back and forth more times.
4. Note how I word the fact that I do my consultations in Fond du Lac (the place where I’m located). Very non-threatening, and if they can’t or won’t come to my location, I’ve offered up easy alternatives for them as well.
Because we mostly do weddings, we do not have a studio or meeting space to hold consultations and we do them at local coffee shops. While this isn’t ideal at times, I don’t think we book fewer clients because of it. We get a high percentage of couples contacting us from out of state who are doing local weddings, so many of our meetings are done via skype or phone anyways and a meeting space simply isn’t economical (as nice as it would be to have).
My first item of business is to buy them coffee. Once I’ve introduced myself and said hello, I ask them:
“What can I get for you?”
Don’t ask them if you can buy them coffee. It’ll be awkward, and they will likely say no.
Waiting for your coffee gives you a few minutes to chit chat and break the ice with small talk before jumping in. Ask them about their drive or other small things, but wait to start asking them the questions you really want to know the answers to until you’ve got coffee and won’t as easily be interrupted.
Connecting with purpose
Once you’re settled, I do my best to connect with them AND learn what they are passionate about. Here’s what I ask:
1. Tell me your story.
This allows them to tell me how they met, got engaged, things the love doing, etc.
2. Tell me about your wedding.
If they ask what I want to know, I tell them to share whatever it is that they want to share about it. My main goal here it to learn which parts of the wedding day are most exciting to them. If they love the details, they’ll talk about the details. If they are most looking forward to it being a big party, they’ll tell you that. Make note of the things they talk about so that you can bring them up again later when it is relevant to the services that you offer.
Show your stuff
Next I transition from their story to how we tell stories by showing them our albums. This is central to our packages, so you may want to do something different at this point.
I first walk through the wedding day in the album, telling them about the couple, talking about how we handle the wedding day as the various points come up, and making sure to point out the same sorts of things that they were interested in that we see in the albums.
After the first album, I show them the differences between my albums (I offer a fine art album through Vision Art and a flushmount album through Red Tree) and talk about the album ordering process so that they know what to expect.
For albums, I do all my own pre-designing. I tell them that I do this because in the past my couples tended to select almost the same photos that I would, so this saves them the step of having to go through and do the work. I then explain what kinds of changes they can make for free (image swaps only) and that I’m open to additional changes but they incur a fee if there’s design changes.
I do this to set expectations, from the start, so that the album process goes as smoothly as possible. I have pretty tight policies because I’ve had albums drag ON AND ON in the past, and so this is all to avoid that and make it as pleasant (and not painful!) as possible!
Walk through their wedding day
Next, I ask them to walk through their wedding day timeline as best as they can at this point. Generally they only know what time the ceremony is going to be at, so we start there. I talk about our style and what we do throughout the day, how much time each part takes, and we create a tentative timeline for how much coverage they would need based on their preferences.
I do this because my packages are based on hours of coverage (6,8,10 and 12) so I want them to recognize that 6 is hardly ever enough unless it’s a tiny non-traditional wedding, and usually end up suggesting they go with the 8 or 10 hour package. I truly try to figure out which package would suit their needs, and I don’t try and upsell them. I only do them a disservice by selling them more coverage than they need or want here, so I don’t push it at all. I’ve had a number of clients thank me for educating them and taking the time to walk through their day so they have a better idea of what to look for.
Look at the packages and pricing
While they’ve already seen my pricing (I send it before our meeting as I want no surprises), I pull out the pricing again, show them which package I’d suggest based upon their wedding day timeline and what they are looking for, and I talk about the various options they can add on to that package.
I go through pretty much everything, but try to keep it as simple as possible so that they don’t get overwhelmed. I answer any questions they have.
If I’m meeting with a couple or a bride and her mom or really anyone other than a bride alone, this is where I make a strategic move.
After we go through the pricing, I excuse myself to go to the bathroom.
I do this intentionally in order to give them some time to look over the pricing and talk amongst themselves for a few moments.
This gives them some freedom to talk about things without me there, so it’s just another way I serve my potential clients.
Address their hesitations
When I return, I ask them the following question.
“Does this sound like what you’re looking for, or do you have any hesitations?”
I’m not asking them to book me right then and there, but I want to gauge where they are at and make sure everything is clear.
The hesitations thing is key. If it comes down to me and another photographer and they have some hesitation about me that they could have cleared up in the consultation but didn’t, then they’re more likely to not bother asking and to just go with the other photographer. It’s just easier that way.
Not only that, but many times hesitations can be easily cleared up and are simply a matter of them not understanding something and wanting to make sure it is reasonable.
As you do this more and more, you’ll also learn what hesitations are most common, so you can start to address those in your consultation before they even think to ask, and that’s a very, very good thing.
Tell them what to do next (the call to action)
Finally, I tell them what comes next if they decide to work with me. I tell them that they need to let me know what package they want so I can get them the details for their contract, that they’ll then have to sign it and send it in with a retainer fee before their date will be booked, and that I’ll sign it and send them a copy after I get both the contract and payment back.
I also walk through the main points in the contract that they need to know (such as the non-refundable retainer fee, that we need to eat, a reminder about the album policies, the model release, etc). I don’t read this to them or go into it too deeply, but I mention it and answer any questions they may have regarding it. I don’t want them to be surprised as they read through the contract at all.
Find out if they are ready to book now or need some time to meet with others
Because I think it’s important for my couples to research photographers and choose the best one for them, I don’t try to push people to book on the spot. At the same time, I want to be open to doing so if they are ready. So I ask them the following:
“Do you know when you’ll be ready to make a decision?”
This way, if they’re ready to book now, they will say so and we can book the wedding. Otherwise, if they are looking to check out other photographers as well, you’ll have an idea of when they will be getting back to you (or when you should follow up with them).
After that, I thank them for coming, make sure there’s nothing else they have questions about, and wish them a safe drive home.
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