When you show up for your appearances, do you have to ad lib? Do you wonder which trick to show, which balloon character to twist, which juggling trick to show next? Probably not. Hopefully your appearance is carefully planned to carry the audience along with you, giving you the confidence of a controlled situation.
So why should your first impression be any different? When a potential client calls they expect you to know what you do and how much you charge. That’s not asking too much. So when the questions start, do you fumble around for answers, trying to explain your act and your terms? Let me tell you the messages you might be sending: I am disorganized, I am new at this, I don’t get much business, I’m not very confident. Underlying theme: I’m not very good. Okay, thanks, I’ll think about it. You hope they’ll call back. But you know that you don’t get many second calls.
The sales process begins with qualifying. Qualifying is making sure you match a product or service and a client correctly. So the caller shouldn’t be the only one asking questions. You should have a brief description of your work ready, as well as the rates that apply. But, before you start quoting these, as early as you can in the call, move into your questions. These should be as scripted as your descriptions. What factors affect your type of work and rates? Age and size of the audience, length of performance, type of event, venue, and location may all play a role. Whatever factors you need to account for, ask about them.
Here’s a typical call for me. I use a cell phone number as my business phone number. Whenever a call comes in from someone I don’t know, I simply answer “This is Dean.” This sounds businesslike without confusing anyone making a personal call. I advertise as Dean Gilbert, so clients know they have the right number. The rest of the example speaks for itself.
Caller: Hi, I’m calling to find out about your magic shows.
Me: Okay, what type of event are you planning?
Caller: It’s my daughter’s eighth birthday party, and she says she too old for a clown.
Me: I understand that. What is the date?
Caller: It’s Saturday, June 7.
Me: That date is open for me. How many will be attending?
Caller: Probably around ten and a few adults.
Me: All the children around eight years old?
Me: And will this be in your home?
Caller: Yes, in our basement.
Me: Well, for small parties I have a special rate, since I don’t have to carry sound equipment. I charge xx dollars. How did you hear about me?
Caller: From your ad in the magazine.
Me: That qualifies you for a discount of x percent. That would bring your total down to xx dollars. To book me, just request a contract. I’ll fill in as much information about the event as I have, and send it to you. You fill in any missing information and send it back to me with a deposit.
Caller: Alright, why don’t we do that.
Me: Let me get your contact information, then.
This is the ideal, of course. There will be additional questions. Be ready to vary from your script as needed, then steer the conversation right back. A side benefit of a script is screening. When you know what questions a caller is likely to ask, you can script those answers into your talk. When you know what information you need to plan successfully you script those questions into your talk.
Variations from the call script can set off red flags, warning you about potential problems. Right now I am dealing with a possible client whose claims her business wants her to pay me by credit card, not company check. She will not communicate with me unless I threaten to cancel. I will sometimes waive a deposit, but not for this client. Earlier in my career I took a call that had some pretty odd elements. I had asked for contact information. Sure enough, I couldn’t get an answer at the phone number, and the whole thing turned out to be a hoax. So the properly handled call can save you from losses.
Remember that your script doesn’t have to be fancy. Just the questions you need to ask to offer the right service and price, plus the description of the service you will offer. And maybe a little closer like a discount you offer toward the end of the call to sell before they hang up.
I want to impress you with one other technique for the call. Have a set of blank questionnaires ready near your phone. As soon as you know you have a prospect on the phone pick up a pencil and start filling in blanks. The questionnaire will prompt you, and as your memory fades you will have all the details of the call at your fingertips.
Let your clients know exactly what they can expect. Make sure you know exactly what you need to know. Show your confidence and professionalism When that phone rings, follow your call script and lead your client right into a successful event.
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