Periodically, I like to take questions that image consultants have asked me during trainings or conferences and share them along with my answers on the blog.
There’s always an interest in how to get more business or get business in the first place so I’m tackling five of those types of questions today. I hope my experience can help you over a bump or two so you’ll feel more ease in this aspect of running your business.
Q: Can you possibly manipulate clients to get them to move forward?
A: No, you can’t. You can make suggestions about what you see that would be their next step in solving the problems they’re having. The best I’ve done in situations where the client is indecisive is to name the step and then say, “I’d be happy to help you.”
Q: As I ask this question I think I already know the answer. I send out a long questionnaire to new clients but it’s too long. I wouldn’t even want to fill it out! What do you do?
A: I like to keep it simple. I send out what I call “homework” which I tell my client will help get us on track from the start. It’s something she could complete in thirty minutes or less. I save the most important questions for the in-person first appointment interview with her. A lot about sizing or figure analysis can happen in the dressing room or her closet while we’re working together. I want it to be easy from the start for my client to work with me.
Q: Things get so rushed at the end of the appointment. When I go back to connect with my client a week or two later to make another appointment, it’s impossible to reach her. What do I do?
A: If you’ve scheduled four hours to work with this client, when you’re 3-1/2 hours into the appointment start charting in your mind what you can get completed easily in the next fifteen minutes. Save your last 15 minutes for reviewing with her verbally about what was accomplished. This can just be two or three sentences. Then address what you see needs to come next and then make that appointment before you leave. She’ll appreciate that wind down time. And she’ll love making your followup appointment in that relaxed space. It’s no fun ending an appointment with two people, you and her, completely overwhelmed and both of you racing out the door. My best advice ever: Never leave one appointment without having made the next one.
Q: I get nervous that I’m not giving my clients enough value. I pack everything I can into the appointment so they’ll think it was worth it but then I may never see them again. What’s wrong with this picture?
A: A scientist can’t explain nuclear physics in an afternoon workshop. We are fashion scientists and we’ll never be able to impart all our knowledge into a person in one appointment. That’s not even a sound goal. She needs the value from our knowledge; she doesn’t need to learn what we know. She just needs us and we’re there to help. When you pack too much into an appointment, the client may not comprehend it all but be nervous about letting you know. She may think that she’s supposed to “get it all” in one appointment. It’s up to us to set the tone and the expectations. When you pace yourself and meet your clients needs one at a time, you will gain her respect and she’ll be happy to have you back.
Q: When do you state your fees to a prospective client? They send an email and want to know my rates or they call on the phone and the first thing they ask is for my rates. How do you handle that?
A: I’m always happy to tell people my rates but it comes later in the conversation. I never share rates on email. If I get an email asking about my rates I’ll respond via email asking them when a good time to reach them is so I can tell them about my rates. If I never get a response to that email, I know it was never viable from the start.
In that phone conversation when they ask my rates right away I say, “I’d be happy to tell you how I work. But first, would it be okay if I asked you some questions?” They always say yes. So I start by asking them what made them think to call me. Straightaway, she’s telling me everything that’s not working. I listen. When she slows down I mention how I could help her with these problems. When she’s enthused about the possibilities I say, “Now, do you want to know how I charge?” And we have that conversation. I’ll say, “How does that sound?” She’ll say, “Great, when can we start?” If a potential client feels heard by you, money won’t stand in the way of working together.