I always appreciate the conversation on his blog. Through a recent and very insightful blog post of his on sales, and because of the constant negativity and sorrow on the forums out there about the state of the economy and 2011 budget numbers for weddings, I was inspired to write this article. I want to start by sharing a story about how a big mistake changed my business and shaped what it is today.
Be a Rainmaker
Those of you who have participated in my webinar Keys to a Business Not Just a Job or attended my seminar at IN[FOCUS] 2010 know that
my business model for an event video company is different from many others'. I have trained a team of people, with three full-time employees and two part-time, to create films for families that I could never produce on my own as a "jack of all trades" business owner. I don't want to shoot weddings every weekend, nor do I want to be solely responsible for someone's memories if I break a leg, get sick, or have a death in the family and can't attend a wedding. I've tried and, I hope, succeeded at creating a business and not just an expensive hobby that would die if I died.
But that's not to say I've built my business perfectly at every step. In 2009, I made the mistake of hiring a full-time outside salesperson. I thought that it would be wise to bring on board someone who was energetic, and a bride herself, to illustrate our services to potential couples. That's a big responsibility for a small business like ours, to be the only one bringing in the money.
Why was it a mistake? It wasn't her business. She didn't care about bringing in the money like I did as an owner and as someone who not only has to pay the bills but knows the vision of our business like the back of my hand. We lost a ton of work, mainly because we lost a personal connection with why we do what we do. I needed to get back in the saddle and be the one bringing home the turkey. Native Americans used to have a "medicine man" or "rainmaker" who would perform various rituals to bring rainfall. You all, of course, know the slang use of "rainmaker" as someone with an exceptional ability to rain down new clients and higher profits. I learned very fast that if I wanted to survive a down economy and attract clients who would pay my rates so that I wouldn't have to eat ramen noodles every day, I needed to be the rainmaker for my business.
You need to have the mentality of a rainmaker too. When I reclaimed that responsibility for myself, my job description shifted fast, and it has paid off. Here are some quick tips on how to get on the right path with interacting with clients and creating a monsoon of weddings booked for 2012.
Set Up Appointments. It sounds obvious, but the first step toward better-quality sales, and thus better-quality clients, is actually valuing their time and encouraging them, in turn, to value yours. I have an entire sales process through our favorite online database system, ShootQ. One of the best parts of this service-but one of the least used by us filmmakers-is the ability to have your clients automatically set up an appointment to meet through your website, not only based on your availability through an iCal or Google Calendar feed, but on hours that you specify in your system.
"Why set up appointments?" you ask. "I'm too busy to speak to everyone on the phone or meet with them. I have a business to run." If that's how you think when someone shows interest in your work, you are leaving way too much potential income on the table. You're not only shortchanging your clients; you're shortchanging your family. Setting an appointment is making a mutual agreement that each person's time is important. It gets things started on the right foot. It's the same reason you schedule a doctor's appointment. It also gives you time to prepare and not be sideswiped when you get asked the inevitable first question: "What are your prices?"
The alternative scenario, even if you do your due diligence of actually calling a bride when she inquires, is an endless game of phone tag. And now you have the "salesperson" tag whenever you try to call back. To learn more about how ShootQ can save your life and run your business for you, watch my ShootQ video tutorial.
Pre-plan Every Call or Meeting. We videographers are a different breed. Most of us feel that emailing a bride our prices and showing her our samples page on our site will be enough to get the best bookings. Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the best salespeople spend up to 2 weeks preparing for a 15-minute sales call or meeting. As Jeffrey Fox says in his book How To Become a Rainmaker: The Rules for Getting and Keeping Customers and Clients, 90 percent of sales are lost before a salesperson sees a potential client.
In our industry, we don't get to go searching for work—clients have to find us! How silly is it, then, that we don't spend time analyzing a bride's prequalifying info that she sent us on her wedding and knowing every wrong-turn and dead-end conversation we could end up in? Think of the trust you could engender in this bride with heartfelt stories of other weddings you have filmed at her venue, or stories of past clients who made the right decision even when they, like her, said you cost too much. Always prepare, and you'll see you'll be able to help these families understand the importance of a wedding film.
Need a place to start? Download my successful wedding videographer's sales script with an MP3 of an actual sales meeting in action (www.videobusinesscoaching.com).
Don't Fear the Objection. Those of you who know me know that I actually love hearing "No." This isn't a rejection; it's just a window into what really matters to a potential couple or family. I spin any objection I hear into an objective. If potential clients say that my prices are more than they had planned on spending, I ask if getting the lowest price is the most important thing to them. If they say yes, then I know it's not a good fit. I don't feel rejected because I know it wouldn't ever work out anyway. Our niche isn't for those looking for the lowest price.
By simply asking that question, I can open up a door to speak about their preconceived notions about what a video should cost, and why. It's amazing what can happen when you play dumb and keep asking questions to probe how they determined how much they think a video is supposed to cost. They will soon see the light and find you the most helpful, non-sales-driven salesperson in their entire planning process.
Be a Doctor of Video. Continuing on the subject of "playing dumb," as creative people and event filmmakers, our best ally in a sales process that most of us never thought we had signed up for when we started our businesses is asking questions! Probe! Peel back those layers of onions during meetings with your potential clients so that you can truly understand not only why it is they want video, in your style or another, but if you're even the right person for the job for them. Because you might not be. And they might not be the best fit for you. Instead of immediately diagnosing their problem of lack of video by stating why you are different or what each "package" includes, just ask and listen. It calms you down, keeps you from being nervous, and, most importantly, turns you into someone who genuinely cares and wants to help them.
These are four quick steps that can immediately transform the way you bring in money for your precious business and begin to film events you love for clients you love! It's the best medicine for burnout and hopelessness in a tough economy.
In my next column, I'll give you five tips on being a rainmaker after the sale. I can't wait to show you things we do at Life Stage Films that encourage our "fans" and create more revenue, even in an industry where we usually just get one sale per referral or lead. Now enjoy this fall booking season and make 2012 amazing.
Matt Davis (coaching at lifestagefilms.com) of Life Stage Films has been described as the “Head Coach of Wedding Videography,” providing one-on-one business coaching as well as group coaching webinars. A featured speaker at both WEVA 2009 and IN[FOCUS] 2010, as well as a multiple CEA award winner and 2009 EventDV 25 All-Star, he is based in Wilmington, N.C.