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Old 02-17-2012   #1
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Default Questions to ask potential clients

So guys (and girls), when you speak to your potential clients, are there any questions in particular you ask? Am trying to build up a checksheet for when im on the phone etc with clients (albeit talking face to face is a better option).


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Old 02-17-2012   #2
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Default Re: Questions to ask potential clients

will you be paying by cash or cheque

Ok, on the serious side:

Wedding Photography: Top 10 Things to Ask the Client Before You Agree to Shoot ‹ PhotoShelter Blog
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Old 02-17-2012   #3
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Default Re: Questions to ask potential clients

Scott, that link was one of the first things I found when looking into this. Has given me quite an insight.
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Old 02-17-2012   #4
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Default Re: Questions to ask potential clients

Other things I ask:
How many guests
How big is the bridal party?
Indoors/outdoors/church?
What venue?
Do they know the officiants rules?
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Old 02-19-2012   #5
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Default Re: Questions to ask potential clients

Hi Gang!

I need to comment on some of those “questions” on the list without insulting anyone or starting an adversarial relationship with anyone but I don’t know quite know how to do this. I gotta tell y’all because honesty is the best policy and I want the new folks in the wedding photography business to avoid things that can be detrimental to their careers. I was fortunate to have mentors who taught me certain principles and sales techniques that work well and all I want to do here is pass these elements on so other may benefit.

Some of the items on that list are the worst things I have ever read when it comes to sales and public relations. Allow me to explain- please!

It is certainly a good practice to qualify your potential clients to determine if you are compatible with the client’s needs and wants and if they can afford your work. But some of the questions in question sound more like an inquisition or an interrogation rather than a positive, upbeat, friendly sales meeting. So much negativism- my goodness! So much talk about disqualifying potential clients rather than ideas about closing the deal with and contract and retainer check in hand and a happy bride and groom along with their chosen photographer looking forward to a great event and equally great photographs in the offing.

Anyone who is a professional wedding photographer or aspire to such a career should ERASE the word “Bridezilla” from their vocabulary even if a little electro convulsive shock therapy is required- I can show you how to do that with your strobe. Listen- some brides can look and act like movie stars and cooperate fully with their “director”- that would be you! Some of the girls have issues like self-consciousness about their appearance, stress form all the wedding planning, financial aggravation and family issues. Oftentimes they act out and seem to have bad personalities but with a bit of compassion and understanding they may go to your way of doing things. Oftentimes they may have had or heard of couples who have had a bad time with their obnoxious photographer- I call them “photo jerks” and wonder why the want to be a wedding photographer altogether with their bad attitudes and a propensity for moaning and complaining- “poor me” they say- I say “poor bride” who hires some of them. Some of theses “photographers” gotta be masochists, misogynists, or misogamists, otherwise, why are the still doing wedding photography.

Sure! As professionals we do require cooperation from our clients in order to deliver top quality work and create a pleasant and unobtrusive working relationship throughout the wedding day and if can’t see eye to eye as to the photographer/client relationship there is no sin in gracefully declining the assignment simply because an adversarial relationship from the get-go, never ends well. Personally speaking, I throw in the towel when there is a high degree of intransigence but not before I attempt to educate folks, compromise and have a meeting of the minds. Incidentally, a meeting of the minds is the stuff of sincere negations and the foundation of any solid contract- ask your lawyer! Misapprehensions lead to sticker shock, bad relationships and nasty stuff like lawsuits and bad press.

Another observation I made about many of the “questions” is that they seem more like an attempt to gather statistics or financial and lifestyles intelligence about the “potential” of the potential client- the photographers want to see the potential profit before the find out the client’s real needs and wants, let alone their priorities.

You can usually bet that a wedding family from a high end neighborhood that takes place in a cathedral and when the reception is held in a 5 star hotel or an exclusive golf club is going to indicate that there are people of means involved it putting on such an affair. I many cases, however, I have received better orders from couples that were married in a modest church and had their reception in a Legion hall or in the recreation-room over the local fire hall.
It has to do with priorities. Don’t pre-judge- it will cost you sales.

To have a successful “interview” you must keep control over things from the very beginning but I need to do it in a very gentle and warm manner.. I want a telephone call! I will never make a sales appointment by Email because I don’t want to be treated like a storekeeper by a couple who is shopping for a lamp or a fridge. When I receive an Email I respond with a request for their telephone number and I will call them back as soon as I receive their number. I tell them that I have a lot of products, options, and approaches to discuss with them and I need at least a couple of hours to customize something for them. Surprisingly enough, I tell them my price range, especially if they ask. There are folks out there that can well afford it but they would not pay my price for their photographs if the images were etched in gold. I can usually tell if they are interested in good work or not by their reaction to my asking them for their time in coming in for a meeting. If the can’t’ take the time out to discuss their own requirements, I know I am kicking a dead horse- I call this pre-qualification. Once the agree to come in my first goal is to gently turn the interview around so in effect, I am asking more questions than answering them but believe me, that can be an art form in itself and this avoids all the times waters like their wanting my opinion about other photographers.

Some folks will not want to come to see you because they have excessive degrees of sales resistance and simply don’t want to be “sold” anything. Problem is that in reality, professional photographers SELL their goods and services in order to earn their livings and so do all the other vendors in the wedding trade and in all other businesses. What can I do? Booking a wedding over the telephone or by Email is tantamount to inviting an unmitigated business disaster.

“THE OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS” are a forbidden topic in my studio- my staff and I never attempt to knock our colleagues and competitors in any way nor do we start things off by telling our potential clients that the other guys don’t do this or that and simply explain the benefits and features of OUR WORK.

The first thing we do is congratulate the couple on their upcoming wedding. They are in the throws of planning their wedding and in many instances they are very enthusiastic and want to talk about what they are planning. I have to assume that they are there to engage my services and I am not necessarily “selling” something the really don’t want- I am only assisting them in buying the right services for their wedding day. When I ask about their venues and their plans it is because I want to tell them what I can do about utilizing their locations to their fullest potential. I will never knock a location even of the place looks like a boiler factory- that is what shallow depth of field and portable backgrounds are for. Of course I will suggest an interlude in their schedule where we could come in to my studio, plan a visit to a botanical garden or park, use a relative’s or their own home or secure permission to use the lobby of a grand hotel of interesting public building for the formal portraits and groups.

I am a big ugly old geezer but I clean up rather well. The brides are haply surprised about the fact that I can discuss gown styles, veils, floral design and decoration and all things hair and makeup. I can also discuss tuxedoes and neckties with the groom but oftentimes the conversation moves to moose hunting or something like that. Make no mistake- the bride still rules in most cases and if you don’t believe that- when is the last time you saw something like “Modern Groom Magazine”?

Some photographers get all bent out of shape if a potential client haggles about their prices. All the want is YOUR work at THEIR price. If they did not want your work they would not hang in there and bargain with you- they would just take off. Some folks are inveterate bargain hunters and just want a few more ounces of your flesh before they sign up. Since my minimum wedding order is $5,500 as of January 1, 2012, I am not gonna loose an order over an additional 11X14 portrait or something along those lines as a pre-payment bonus or a preferred customer discount. It’s only fair- if they want something extra- I need some benefit in return such as sign up now and pay up for the additional consideration. I never work for less than my minimum but a little flexibility in adding an item or two, within reason, is not a terrible thing. If the word gets out that you allow discounts; that is no problem for me. If a customer comes in and wants a similar deal, all they have to do is plunk down their money and sign a contract and they will receive the same consideration.

There is nothing wrong with good deal closers. Besides, after all theses years in the business I can tell the difference between an insincere person who just wants something for nothing and a person who asks for a better deal in a good natured way. Sometimes I will throw something in AFTER the contract where there was no request for a discount. I like to give people the impression that I really want to do business with them and I really want to cover their wedding no matter where it is. There are two rules of business that I continue to observe year after year. One is that everyone can not be my customer because of my fees or a million other reasons. The other is that most people will not spend their hard earned money with someone who the dislike. Theses principles help keep me balanced and realistic. I need to realize that my entire business is based on my clients and without happy clients there is no business. I have to be a good listener and discover their needs and accommodate them as much as I can. I never look into a customer’s purse of wallet before I get started. Good honest talk about everything works best because everything will come out in the wash.

When y’all relate well to people, they will relate well to you. Sometimes it is hard to maintain a “professional distance” with clients and still be friendly and accommodating. At the same time this skill set is one of the most important elements and prerequisites of wedding photography.

Believe it or not, I am pleased that this page in question came up on the thread- it is something I have been concerned about for many years. My special thanks to Scott for finding it and bring it up!


Ed
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Old 02-19-2012   #6
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Default Re: Questions to ask potential clients

Hi Ed! You've thought me so much just by reading at your replies on this forum. You've thought me more on ethics than on any other workshops (photography or not) combined that I've ever been to.
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Old 02-22-2012   #7
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Default Re: Questions to ask potential clients

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed Shapiro View Post

Anyone who is a professional wedding photographer or aspire to such a career should ERASE the word “Bridezilla” from their vocabulary

To have a successful “interview” you must keep control over things from the very beginning but I need to do it in a very gentle and warm manner..

I tell them my price range, especially if they ask. There are folks out there that can well afford it but they would not pay my price for their photographs if the images were etched in gold. I call this pre-qualification.

“THE OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS” my staff and I never attempt to knock our colleagues and competitors in any way we simply explain the benefits and features of OUR WORK.

The first thing we do is congratulate the couple on their upcoming wedding. They are in the throws of planning their wedding and in many instances they are very enthusiastic and want to talk about what they are planning.

Of course I will suggest an interlude in their schedule where we could come in to my studio, plan a visit to a botanical garden or park, use a relative’s or their own home or secure permission to use the lobby of a grand hotel of interesting public building for the formal portraits and groups.

I am a big ugly old geezer but I clean up rather well. The brides are haply surprised about the fact that I can discuss gown styles, veils, floral design and decoration and all things hair and makeup. I can also discuss tuxedoes and neckties with the groom but oftentimes the conversation moves to moose hunting or something like that. Make no mistake- the bride still rules in most cases and if you don’t believe that- when is the last time you saw something like “Modern Groom Magazine”?

Some photographers get all bent out of shape if a potential client haggles about their prices. All the want is YOUR work at THEIR price. If they did not want your work they would not hang in there and bargain with you

Good honest talk about everything works best because everything will come out in the wash.

When y’all relate well to people, they will relate well to you. Sometimes it is hard to maintain a “professional distance” with clients and still be friendly and accommodating. At the same time this skill set is one of the most important elements and prerequisites of wedding photography.

Believe it or not, I am pleased that this page in question came up on the thread- it is something I have been concerned about for many years. My special thanks to Scott for finding it and bring it up!


Ed
Great advice. I do all the same things. I haven't got your experience Ed but I hope I have common sense and empathy! Treat people how you'd like to be treated.

I was very lucky that the first album manufacturer rep to come to me when I was starting out told me - "Most professional photographers' work is good. But some couples cannot / will not be able to tell the difference, or know why or if one is better than another. When it comes down to it, people book people."
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Old 02-26-2012   #8
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Default Re: Questions to ask potential clients

Good advise its always better with honey than vinegar
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Old 02-27-2012   #9
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Default Re: Questions to ask potential clients

Ed's publication ... I mean .... reply...is great! Right on.

I like to let the people talk more than me drilling them with questions. People love to talk about themselves...let them. (I learned this from Dale Carnegie.)
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Old 02-29-2012   #10
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Default Re: Questions to ask potential clients

Great write up Ed and thanks for taking time to share your experience


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