You've done an excellent job at marketing your floral shop and now have a few leads. You already have an idea of how you're going to price your events but how do you actually get those leads to become clients?
Before the Consultation
Getting this information in advance gives you the opportunity to think of potential talking points to help break the ice during the initial consultation. However, aside from the basic details of the client, the date, and the style of the wedding, probably the two most important pieces of information you need are: the budget and size of the wedding. In a moment we'll talk about what to do when the two don't quite line up but knowing this information in advance can help develop a game plan for helping client find a balance between their dreams and the reality of their budget.
Conducting the Initial Consultation
We started our St. Louis floral shop, Twisted Willow, from our own home so doing consultations in our "studio" wasn't an option. We chose to do consultations in a coffee shops. Don't be nervous about this. Remember, you are the professional. A potential client is going to think that whatever you're doing is a standard practice unless you act like it isn't. If you show you're uncomfortable in the location you choose, they will be too. So treat the out-of-office consultation as a feature rather than a bug. Just say, "Here are a couple of options for coffee shops we normally meet at." Then leave at that.
Always start with something to break the ice. Get to know the client but also give them the opportunity to know you. Do you have kids? A crazy story about your wedding day? A funny moment from a previous wedding you did? Take a bit of time to show your client that you are also a real person. When it comes down to it, most clients will highly value a florist because of the personal connection they made in the first few moments of that initial consultation. At the same time, you can get some very quality information about the client from these moments of chatting.
As you begin to talk about their ideas for their big day, keep in mind their realistic budget to extravagance ratio, the style they want vs the style you've developed, and the time commitment that will be required of you. Sometimes, a client may not be the right fit for you and you have to be able to turn them down. Even if you're just starting and can really use the money, it may not be worth taking on a client that you can't realistically handle. You do want to take on events that will stretch you slightly (for example, an arrangement might make you incorporate a new design technique) but you don't want to take on events that will stretch you so much that you're up in the middle of the night unnecessarily stressing out. That said, you need to have found out that they're not a fit BEFORE the consultation as best as possible. Once you're in the consult, you're wasting both of your time unless you're willing to stretch yourself to make them fit.
During the consultation, you want to find out what their overall vision is for the wedding. They may have explained this on the questionnaire, but now is the time to talk details and confirm the details. How many people are in the wedding party? How many extra corsages and boutonnieres do they need? Do they want flowers for the aisle, altar, and backdrop? A floral arch? How many centerpieces do they need? Is there a particular flower they want consistently in every arrangement? Get every as much detail from them as possible here.
Take notes on your computer. As your business develops, you may choose to use a florist software, like Curate, to create your proposal during the consultation, but starting out you want to make sure that all of your notes are very legible and easily editable. Nothing is worse than being up in the middle of the night trying to decipher chicken scratch notes.
At our shop in St. Louis, we actually give them proposals in the consultation. My wife, Rachael, does all the legwork a day or two before and in the consultation, her main focus (unbeknownst to the client) is to build out exactly how many stems that each item needs. It's a quick and painless process with Curate and actually helps us book more clients by having an exact proposal at the end of the consult.
If you aren't handing over a proposal in the consult, give the client a time frame for developing a proposal. You can use our old Excel Recipe Spreadsheet to help you know how many flowers are in each arrangement and create your proposal. The key here is to stick to whatever time frame you give them! Show them that you are going to make them a top priority by having a quick turnaround.
Also, don't forget to outline the process for them! We do this with a client welcome packet but you can do it with a simple brochure or even a one-page print out. Just be sure that they know what to expect from working with you throughout the entire process.
Painting "Reality Pictures" for Brides
Need a contract to give your new client? We're sharing ours as a template to help get you started!