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Pick up the Phone: How to Do Phone Consultations

I’m not a phone person and to be honest, I don’t think that I ever will be. I’m a quiet and shy individual, and making conversation with new acquaintances isn’t my strongest quality, so talking to a complete stranger over a phone connection scares the bijeezes out of me. I’m talking cold sweats, anxious jitters, and serious bouts of nervous laughter whenever I have to pick up the phone and start sounding official and/or competent to a new person – you know, like I actually know what I’m talking about…

So in our first few years of business, I would hide behind email as much as I possibly could (of course, I wouldn’t have admitted that I was “hiding.” I was simply “playing on my strengths of writing”). Because Jeff and I had impeccable booking rates when we met with couples face to face, our goal was to schedule in-person meetings with every potential client. Meetings worked for us, so we didn’t want to mess with a good thing. But we soon began working with clients from across the US, so we quickly realized that in person meetings were no longer a realistic option.

And suddenly, my worst fears were realized – I would not only have to speak to brand new couples over the phone, but I would have to charm them as well. Eek. I’m talking major cold sweats at this point.

Can I get an amen from all of my fellow phone phobics from across the internet? I know you’re out there, because if you’re not, I’m just a ridiculous introvert speaking to myself about a seriously neurotic weakness. But if you are, I’ve got some news for you – you’re not alone, we’re all in this together, and I’ve got some coping strategies coming your way.

When we stopped meeting with couples face to face and moved to phone calls a few years ago, you know what happened? We booked more weddings than ever before and at better average rates. Why? Because phone calls are easy and fast. Just think about it – if you’re able to call a bride, get to know her, talk through everything you do, and have your pricing and/or a booking proposal in her hands less than 24 hours after she inquires, you’ve got a huge advantage over other photographers that she may have scheduled a meeting with in the next week or so.

It’s simple – the easier you make the booking process for your couples, the more likely they are to actually book you.

So how did a self-proclaimed phone phobic like myself cure her fears? Well, I didn’t, but I did develop some strategies to help me out. Here’s the most effective ones:

  1. Write a Script The biggest fear I had to overcome was not knowing what to say over the phone, so I wrote an outline for myself to follow when I’m speaking to a bride or groom. This outline follows the major points that every call should include and in what order, and I have the freedom to follow it as loosely or closely as I need to for any particular call. In some parts I’ve written out what I should say word for word, especially when speaking about budget or pricing where phrasing is important, and in other parts I’ve just written loose talking points, like when I want to get to know them as people and as a couple. I don’t always follow the outline exactly – every conversation is different – but there are certain phrases that I always use because I know that they will garner the most positive and comfortable response from a potential client.
  2. Be Prepared In our online contact forms on our website and blog, we ask our couples to list how they heard about us and where they are getting married. This is pretty basic and necessary information for any inquiry, but it helps me start every conversation with a connecting point. Google the venue and do some research on it so you can get excited about the couple’s wedding – ask what they love about the location, why they chose it, if they have any fun ideas, when and where they got engaged, etc – use those connections as ice breakers for the conversation and you’ll always be able to start the phone call on a fun and personal note.
  3. Practice Talk through your outline or client meeting notes in front the mirror and in front of someone else. Yes, this is awkward, but do it anyway. Ask for feedback – are there phrases that need to be worded differently? Is the conversation simple and not overwhelming? Remember, most phone calls are not scheduled, so you need to make sure that the bride or groom has time to speak and that your information is simple and to the point. Don’t overwhelm anyone over the phone – send additional information via email later – and practice your phrases and content so you’re comfortable and confident.
  4. Do Your Thing If you’re a phone phobic like me, do whatever you need to do to psych yourself up for a great phone call. Close the door on your office, go somewhere comfy, get excited about meeting a new bride or groom, and put a smile on your face before picking up the phone. Then be yourself. Talk to them as if they were sitting right in front of you. Make connections, ask questions, and smile. I always like to think that everyone can hear a smile over the phone.

What kinds of tips and suggestions do you guys have for your phone conversations? What has worked well for you? Leave some feedback in the comments section – I would love to hear feedback on this or any of our posts here on the Pictage Blog.

More posts on the Pictage Blog by The Youngrens:

Written by Erin Youngren

Jeff and Erin Youngren are international wedding and lifestyle photographers running one of the fastest growing boutique studios in the competitive Southern California market. Although based in San Diego, their deeply emotional style and passionate partnership has taken them from the streets of San Francisco to the canals of Venice to the family suburbs of Chicago to photograph extraordinary weddings and incredible couples. As leaders in the photographic community, they are passionate about helping other photographers build viable, authentic businesses, while building a photography community built on integrity and honest leadership.

On another note, Jeff & Erin will be leading a shoot at PartnerCon 2010 all about connecting with your clients. To learn more about their shoot and add them to your personalized PartnerCon schedule click here.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!