Conducting the Client Consultation: Part One
It’s the question on every new wedding and event planner’s mind: how do I conduct my client consultations? After all, as QC Event School tutor Athena DeVonne tells us, the consultation is where every journey with a client begins. From preparation to content to follow-up, the consultation process is essential to starting you and your future clients on the path to planning.
We all know you have to be prepared in order to be successful, so Athena uses a pre-consultation form to get herself ready for every consultation.
Whenever she gets an inquiry, she lets the potential client know that she needs a consultation in order to give them a quote. Along with scheduling the consultation, she’ll send her client an online form. She likes to tie everything back into her business branding, so she calls her form “Let’s Get Coalesced.”
Why the form? You need to know who you’re going to meet with so that you know:
- How to speak with them
- How to present yourself
- How to approach their questions
Some important questions to include are:
- What is the budget?
- When the event/wedding date?
- Have they chosen a color scheme chosen already?
- Have they already selected any vendors?
All these questions help prepare you for a consultation where you only gives the client the content they actually need. Consultations are all about customization. The client should feel that they’re a priority: you’re actually listening to them and their needs, not just going through a rehearsed pitch.
There’s another reason Athena asks these questions through her pre-consultation form instead of during the consultation. Asking all these questions in your first face-to-face meeting can feel kind of like an interview, and you don’t want your prospective clients to feel like you’re interviewing them! Instead, you want them to feel like they’re in a conversation.
Plus, whenever you take your eyes away from the client to write something down, there’s an automatic disconnect. A pre-consultation form lets you avoid this, since you’ll already have your basic information down. It also lets the client fill the form out on their own time. There’s no pressure, and they can get anyone involved with the event to help them fill it out.
Why those questions?
Athena asks for a prospective client’s color scheme because she likes to wear something in the wedding’s colors. For instance, if she’s meeting with a bride whose colors are coral, teal, and ivory, she’ll wear an ivory shirt with coral jewelry, and bring a teal handbag. When you’re connecting with a bride by wearing her colors, you automatically make her feel welcomed.
Asking about the venue is also important. If they have a venue, Athena likes to ask if they can schedule the consultation at the venue. That way the bride and groom can envision their wedding as they’re talking about it.
As for asking whether they’ve chosen any vendors already, this lets you know how much work you’ll actually need to do with this couple. Not every bride needs all of your services! This way you’ll know who to refer to them to and where they are in the planning process.
There’s a few ways you can do your questionnaire. Athena used a company called transpose.com, or you can create a Word doc, Google doc, or any other type of questionnaire.
So you’ve set up a consultation and gotten back your pre-consultation form—now you need to prep content based on the information you received.
This isn’t really the time to discuss everything you can do and show off your portfolio. Athena prefers to hold that information until they’re actually her client, because getting all that information during the consultation can be very overwhelming!
What you want to focus on is client. What do they need? What do they want? The best way to do that is by asking open-ended questions.
Athena starts off her consultations by telling her prospective clients that she wants to get to know them. First of all, she wants to know their love story. How did they meet? What was the proposal like? What are their hobbies and interests? What are things they share when they find themselves the happiest together?
While they’re talking, you can watch and pick up on their mannerisms, behavior, and personalities. That’s another reason Athena doesn’t want a questionnaire in front of her during the consultation—she doesn’t want to miss all the body language signals her clients can give off.
You’ll also want to bring up questions related to information from the questionnaire, like what vendors they’ve booked already and how many guests they’re planning on inviting. But be careful, because you should never ask the same question twice. If you’ve already asked about something in your pre-consultation form, mention it as a statement during the consultation. For instance, you can say, “I see you have 175 guests and you’re looking for a ballroom” to make them feel like you’re paying attention to them.
Once you’ve got them talking about themselves they start to get a little more comfortable. When Athena feels they’re almost at the point where they’re done talking, she says, “If you guys don’t have any more questions, I’d love to tell you a bit about how I started my company.” This stuff is important to brides—they want to get to know you just as much as you got to know them!
Here’s what Athena likes to talk about, all within a brief 5-7 minutes:
- What got her interested in becoming a wedding planner
- How long she’s had her business
- Some of her career highlights
- Some of the experiences she feels have helped her grow better for each of her clients
Finally, don’t forget to follow up! Get back in touch with the client within three days of the consultation to ask if they have any other questions.
Look out for Athena’s next video in March, where she’ll walk us through a mock consultation!