When I was first beginning to take client calls, they completely intimidated me. I was timid and felt unsure of how to lead a conversation, how to get the information that I needed, and establish a rapport with the potential client that would result in more clients booking with me. Over the years, however, I have grown in my confidence and now they are actually one of my favorite parts of my entire process.
Little by little, and with each call that I had, I learned something new in terms of how to improve my process and the way that I lead the call. Some of these things are small and easy to implement and others may take a bit more practice, but I want to share a few things that may take some of the fear or uncertainty out of the prospect of a client consultation.
I am by no means the authority on client calls, nor will my method be the best fit for every person, but I think that it is good to learn from many different people so that you can glean the things that may be helpful to you.
If you are like I was and find yourself struggling with client calls, I hope that these tips are helpful for you.
A quick note before I get started, this is written from a stationery perspective but you could apply most points to other industries as well.
When to have them
I think that client calls are wonderful, but I do not schedule one with every single client that inquires with me.
Before asking to schedule a call, I will first find out whether or not what the client wants and their budget aligns with my pricing. If so, then I will set up a call and if not, I will direct them to on option that would be a better fit for what they are looking for.
I will not email back and forth endlessly, just enough to ascertain whether their wish list and budget and timeline will work for me. Once I think it will or is close enough to explore further, I will set a call. I find that it is more efficient for me to have a call than numerous emails before a contract is signed.
How to prepare for the call
It is important to be prepared for your call. Although this may not completely eliminate your nerves, it will help you feel more confident as you pick up the phone.
Get a note paper ready
This seems like a small thing and it is, but it is still important. Whether you keep all of your client notes in the same notebook, have a printed sheet that you fill out for each client, or just use a clean sheet of paper, it is important to have a consistent place to take and keep notes on your conversation that will be important as you move forward with the client. Also, if you have a list of questions that you ask, it is good to have that as well.
Revisit any information that was sent
Often you will have already received at least some basic information from your prospective client such as their wedding date, how many suites that they will need, etc. You may have also been sent a few inspiration images or a Pinterest board. I always like to write down on their note sheet any information that I already know and review any inspiration sent. This way I will avoid asking questions on the call that they have already answered.
This is important because if you are asking questions that they have already given an answer to, or asking about colors when they have already sent the palette to you,this may give the impression that that you are not paying attention and are not detail oriented. You want to serve them well from the very first interaction.
Get ready 10-15 minutes early
It is never good to be rushing about to make it in time for a call, but you certainly want to avoid it if you are already struggling with nerves. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to get your things ready and open any computer files or emails that you need to. I also like to take a few minutes before hand to clear my mind of anything that was going on before the call so that I am fully prepared and present.
What we talk about
The client/the couple
The call is an opportunity to get to know your prospective client a little bit better. Where do they live, what do they do, are they bubbly and talkative or more subdued and quiet? These can be good to know not only as you are gauging whether you will be a good fit, but also in how you may use that information to aid you in your design process.
You can also ask questions about how the couple met and what their relationship is like which can give you further insight into the suite that you will create for them. When you are using the couple and their relationship as a large part of your inspiration, your work will always be more unique.
You will also need to learn about their wedding and the overall feel and aesthetic that they are wanting to create. As important as I believe it is to draw inspiration from the couple, you also need to know what type of event you are setting the tone for.
Good things to know will be the ceremony and reception location, aesthetic and colors that they are drawn to, what is most important to them at their wedding, etc. This is all information that you will use as you begin to envision what you would create for them to evoke those feelings.
Although I do want to create for my clients based upon the inspiration that I gain from talking to them, I always ask if they have anything specific that they are envisioning in terms of their stationery. Some do not, but some do and when they do I want to make sure that I understand that vision.
Just as important as learning about the couple and their wedding, it is equally as important that I am able to communicate my process and how I work to the couple. I want them to feel comfortable with me and confident in my role as the expert.
I always find that this ends up happening a bit more conversationally throughout the call rather than me listing a bullet point list of the steps in my process, but towards the end I always will explain a little about how I work, how the process of designing their suite will proceed, what their part in the process will look like, and what to expect.
And the basics
Of course you will need to get some basics that you may not have previously gotten either in your prior emails or in the call. Make sure that you have enough information to put together estimate or proposal - whatever step is next in your process. These would be things such as the number of sets that they need, the number of pieces per suite, preferred printing method, budget, any extra treatments that they want to include, etc . Note that this is not an exhaustive list and there are probably more things that you will specifically need depending on your client and your business, these are just some basics.
Also, make sure that you get the information related to their timelines so that you can plan accordingly and know how and where this project will fit in your calendar and that you are able to set a realistic timeline for them and their project.
How to get over your nerves and be confident
When you go into the call knowing what information you need to get from the client and what other elements you need to get out of the conversation, it can make things easier as you will not feel quite so blind going into the call.
Also, make sure that you are prepared to answer questions that they may ask.
Have a script or bullet points
If you are unsure as to how to steer the conversation, it may be helpful to have a script and a list of questions and items that you need to get from the client. This can help you navigate the conversation and keep it moving forward.
Although there may be times where a conversation veers away, having a script should at least help you make sure that you are not missing anything even if the flow of the call does not exactly follow in order.
Have a list of questions ready
It can also be very helpful to have a list of questions typed out that you can print and fill in for each client to keep you from having to come up with questions on the spot. It can be obvious ones like where the couple met to more specific such as what are their favorite things to do together on the weekend. These answers can provide so much in terms of your creative inspiration.
Also, if you need to have a list of the basic informational items that you need to make certain to get on the call, then make sure that you have that list as well. It can be easy to overlook something in the moment and then hang up to realize you did not talk about their mail date.
Know how to handle a question that you do not know the answer to
Of course it can be unnerving to be asked something that you don't know or a product that you have not worked with before. This can make you feel out of your element but you can still handle it with confidence.
It is good to make a mental not about how you will answer a question that you do not know the answer to. It is fine to admit that you do not know, but having a good way to say that can put you at ease. For example “I love that idea! I have not worked with X before, but I know of a few vendors who do that and so let me reach out and do some research and I will get back to you with some specifics.”
I think that possibly the number one piece of advice that I would have for calming your nerves is to listen. Listen to your client and let them do most of the talking. When you have a few questions that get the client talking, I think that this really helps.
Most brides are excited to talk about their wedding and so let them! You will be amazed at how much information you can gather from being quiet and listening. Write down adjectives and descriptive phrases she says and ue those to pull your inspiration for the feelings that you will want to evoke with their suite.
Remember, you are there to serve your client - listen to them.
Lastly, I will say that with practice, these do get easier and you will continue to grow in your confidence the more times you do one.
How to end the call
You have talked over all of your questions, gotten all of your information and now you are nearing the end of the call. What do you do to wrap things up?
Basically, you want to communicate to the prospective client what the next steps will be. Whether that means that you will be sending them a rough estimate or a full proposal, let them know what they can expect to receive and when they will be receiving it.
You will always want to ask them if they have any further questions for you and let them know that they can reach out of they think of anything after the call. Then you can thank them for their time and let them know that you are excited about working on their project.
I always think that it is good to send a quick follow up email after the call restating that you enjoyed talking with them and that you will be in touch soon with the estimate or proposal.
It is true that client calls can be intimidating - especially if you are just venturing into the custom invitation world and have not had many client calls in the past.
Know that you can do this! Be confident in your work, your process, and your pricing and remember that it does get easier the more practice you get and the longer you have been doing them. Trust me, I know from experience.
If you find these posts helpful and are interested in a more personal experience, I am excited to be hosting a two day stationery workshop focused on helping attendees navigate through how to elevate their brands, refine their process, work with their ideal clients and ultimately make more money. If you are interested in being the first to learn more and getting early access to tickets, you can sign up for the waiting list. I would love to have you join us!