As small business owners, our business and our personal identity are endlessly linked. There’s no big corporate logo to hide behind and no sales or public relations team to handle all your interactions with clients. It’s just you out there, trying to make a good impression.
Being that consultations are the most common path to booking weddings, it’s crucial that you handle each one with confidence, ease, and a whole lot of charm. From start to finish, here are some tips for surviving your first wedding consultation.
Where to Meet
You don’t need a studio or dedicated office space to have successful consultations. I usually give my clients the option to meet at my place, their place, or a coffee shop.
Pros: I’m in control of every aspect from the décor to the music that’s playing. I can offer the clients drinks and snacks and make them feel at home.
Cons: I have two (pretty loud) dogs, that can’t be around during the consultation. That, and I have to clean my house (or at least the first floor) pretty heavily before guests can come over.
Pros: They have the opportunity to show me aspects of their wedding such as their dress or color scheme. Being at their place also makes them feel 100% comfortable, which puts them in a good mindset to make decisions.
Cons: I have no control over any of the settings. Maybe I prefer sitting at a table, but they lead me to a couch instead. Being flexible is key here.
Pros: I can arrive early and choose the best table. I can offer to buy them drinks, all while supporting a good local business.
Cons: Sometimes my clients feel awkward letting me buy their drinks, so they decline, and I’m left sipping my drink alone (because I’m not about to meet at a coffee shop, use their space, and not buy something).
The most common meeting location for me is a coffee shop. I have one shop in each part of town that I like to visit, depending on where the clients live. I always make sure I leave a good tip, especially if we don’t purchase much otherwise.
What to Bring
What to bring to a consultation will vary from person to person, but here’s what I bring, which can be a good starting point if you’re stumped (or are just positive you’re forgetting something):
Sample Albums: I bring one wedding album, one parent album, and one mini album. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t book a wedding with only one sample album. Lies... all of it. I’ve been using one album for the past 2+ years, and have never had an issue, nor had anyone ask to see another one. Why? Because they aren’t really looking at the photos… they’re checking out the album and seeing if they like it. I also bring along album color samples, but that’s totally optional.
Paperwork: Even if it’s a digital copy, don’t forget a contract and a price list. I also bring a large and small self-addressed stamped envelope. The large one is in case they’d like to take the contract home to think it over. The small one is in case they sign the contract but forget their payment. I don’t want my clients to have to pay for postage. It’s simple, but says a lot about how I run my business and the kind of customer service they’ll get when they hire me.
Portfolio: If you’re only going to use one album, you should probably bring another form of portfolio like a computer or iPad to show off images. Never assume the client has seen your website or blog.
Gift: I like to bring along a little gift for clients who book on the spot. But it stays hidden until they sign on the dotted line, to prevent awkwardness.
Other: Pens (more than one!), post-it notes, business cards, and cash.
What to Talk About
I can’t recommend highly enough having a plan to guide you through consultations. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Mine goes something like: greetings, ask how they met and how he proposed, talk about the wedding, show them the portfolio (while they look through it, ask more about them as a couple and their interests), show them the price list, show them sample albums, walk through the contract, close.
Whatever you do, remember to keep the meeting all about them. Studies have shown that we as humans feel more positively about people we meet when the conversation is focused on us.
I remember when I first started doing consultations, my biggest fear was those “gotcha” moments, when the client asks something that I’m unable to answer. To be honest? That’s never happened. Most of the time, they’ll just ask about your pricing, what’s included, and they may ask about your responsibilities during the wedding day. So practice your answers and stay confident. They’re there to learn about you, not to search for flaws.
How to Close
You need to find the sweet spot between being too pushy, and not asking for what you want. Let’s face it… it’s not a surprise that you want them to book with you, so don’t be afraid to bring it up. I usually end with something like “are you ready to book today?”, and if they say no, I try to answer any additional questions they may have, then I drop it. Most of the time, couples are heading into a consultation already knowing whether or not they’re going to book on the spot, so I don’t let it fluster me if they don’t.
Make sure you follow up when you get home (or the next day), and answer any questions you didn’t get around to. Then, follow up again a week or so later if you haven’t heard from them. I find that most clients who end up booking with me do so on the spot, or within a day or two, but there is always the exception, and you don’t want to leave a good lead hanging.
I know a lot more goes into booking a client than what I could fit in here, so leave a comment below with your burning consultation questions, and I’ll try to get them answered!
Good luck, and remember… the clients are really there to meet you and get a sense of who you are and how you’ll interact with them on their big day. So stay positive, upbeat, and let your personality shine!
*All Photos by Kelly Benton Photography.
Kelly Benton lives with her husband and two adorable dachshunds in Northeast Indiana, where she works from home as a Wedding Photographer. When she’s not photographing over people’s love, she’s a wannabe-rockstar triathlete with a penchant for funny movies and craft beer. Check out her blog or connect with her on Facebook.