What does it mean to “qualify” a client?
Most people focus on the budget. And, yes, that’s certainly a criterion to include when qualifying a potential client.
But it’s more than making sure they can afford you.
Ever worked with a couple but didn’t gel? Or found out after they signed their vision for your work was different than what you do? Or make progress in the purchase decision only to have them ghost you after you shared pricing?
That’s because “qualifying” a client is also about making sure they:
Know what they need from you
Fit your preferred communication style
Share a similar style or vision
Have a strong desire to purchase
Now, I want to be clear here. A qualified client is not always an ideal client. Those are two different things. Of course, we want every person who inquires with us to be a dream couple, but that’s just not going to be the case.
Imagine a spectrum with flawed clients on the left side and perfect clients on the right side. You want to spend as much time working with those on the right side of the line.
No time to do discovery calls?
The best way to learn where a couple lands on your flawed-perfect scale is to do a discovery call. Period. End of story. You all know how much value I put on these quick 20- to 30-minute conversations. The discovery call is where you make your money.
However, it takes time. And time is one thing you probably don’t have a lot of right now because you’re so busy taking care of current clients.
Now, you still need to get on calls with clients if you want to
Charge higher prices
Convert more inquiries
Prevent booking flawed buyers
But you don’t have to do all the qualifying work on the phone. You can bake into your sales workflow a five-step prequalifying process that couples have to climb before they get any of your precious time.
Create a little friction
For the most part, you should do everything you can to reduce obstacles in the way of buying your services. However, when you begin to fill up your calendar or you don’t have much time for sales work or you only want to work with select clients, you have to do the opposite.
You can’t make it easy for anyone and everyone. Three general ways to make it harder to move through the buyer’s journey include:
Making more work for the potential client
Asking difficult questions
Talking about pricing and budget early
By doing these things, you’re creating a bit of pain for the buyer. Most people will avoid anything that harms them, so you’re going to lose a lot of potential clients – even perfect clients – by doing these things.
But if you have lots of inquiries (high demand) compared to the number of available dates (limited supply), you can afford to lose most of the people who enter your sales workflow.
If you want to make it harder to buy your services, read on:
#1 – Create a website around your ideal client
Every wedding pro should know their perfect buyer. Not just their demographics, but their psychographics (eg. personality, values, behaviors, beliefs, etc.). You want to know their biggest desires and deepest concerns because that’s why they’re coming to you.
And your website should connect with them on all these levels. How? By creating a site with layout, style kit, messaging, and copy that’s designed around their buyer type.
We use 4 buyer types (Relater, Analyzer, Boss, and Dreamer), and if you want to know more about them, listen to this podcast I did a couple of years ago on Weddings for Real.
Remember, your website is not for you. Or your colleagues. Or other vendors. It’s for your One Reader. One. Not two. Not three. One. And that’s your ideal client. Start there and design everything around them.
(As an aside, when we write website copy for wedding pros, we spend 20-30 hours doing the research before we ever write a word. This is serious, important work. Don’t skip the step. Fast is slow. Slow is smooth.)
#2 – Create friction in your contact form
The general rule for contact forms is: Fewer fields, more inquiries. More fields, fewer inquiries. If you want more inquiries, keep the fields to a minimum. If you want fewer but better inquiries, add fields.
We recommend five to start, and then add more if you want to increase obstacles to get to your inbox:
What’s on your mind?
Earlier in the post, I mentioned making it harder and asking difficult questions if you want to prequalify couples. This is where you want to do it. Notice I’m not suggesting you talk about budget or price on the contact form. It’s still too early and you’re likely to push away clients who have the money to pay for your services.
The right questions are different for everyone, so I’m not getting into specifics here. But in general, you want to make sure they have a date and venue (unless you’re a venue or full-service planner), and also that they know what they want from you.
The key is to ask more questions (more of their time) and make it harder to fill out (more mental energy).
#3 – Automated inquiry response page
Typically, I suggest responding to inquiries without a template. It’s best to treat each inquiry as a new opportunity to connect and respond personally. However, if you’re in the weeds or fielding too many inquiries for very few dates, it’s a good idea to streamline your inquiry response.
For high-volume and luxury vendors, I recommend a hidden webpage that you can link to when you respond to a new inquiry.
The page is an extension of your Services page. It should provide more insight into your process and your competitive advantages. Ultimately, it should create transparency, build value, and provide reassurance.
#4 – Share a little more about pricing
At the bottom of this hidden page that you send out after someone inquiries, you should make it very clear what your starting price is.
We recommend most wedding pros put their starting at price on their website, specifically the Services page. But not everyone’s going to see that. And if your inbox is filling with buyers who can’t afford you, it’s probably because they’re not seeing the starting price on the website.
So, make it clear as day for them on the inquiry response. You know they’re looking for it already. All you have to do is give it to them at the bottom of the page.
If you’re not going to a full page, you can put it in the body of your email. But remember, if you’re sending a copy-only email template or adding a PDF, why not make it look more appealing by turning it into a beautiful webpage that’s filled with images and is phone-friendly?
One last thing: DO NOT SHARE PRODUCT PRICING. You can tell from the caps lock I used how bad it is to give potential clients information about specific packages and pricing before you’ve had a chance to discover more about them and their event. Doing so isn’t prequalifying them, it’s scaring them away. Very different!
#5 – Make them get on the phone
I hear it all the time. “My clients are too busy to get on the phone for a discovery call.”
First of all, I don’t believe that (even you New Yorkers who work with high-powered millionaires).
Second of all, if you’re trying to spend time only with those who really want to work with you, filtering out people who won’t give 20 to 30 minutes for a call before they spend thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars is a good thing.
Make them get on a call if they want to book your services.
More importantly, you should want to talk with them before booking, because you’re not taking just any client. Oh no, you’re searching for the perfect ones. In a sense, you’re interviewing them to see if it’s a good fit for you as much as it is for them.
The easiest way to do this is to include a link to schedule an appointment on the bottom of the hidden webpage you send out in the autoresponse to the inquiry.
In case you missed it, all five qualifying steps I just laid out involve no work on your part (after you set it up). It’s fully automated. And it’s a very simple, very effective approach to prequalifying clients.
If you’re tired of price-shoppers or wasting time with flawed buyers, put these ideas into action and you’ll see immediate results.