Going Nuts!!! How Do You Keep Potential Orders Straight????

Business By howsweet Updated 3 Nov 2009 , 5:49pm by IsaSW

howsweet Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 12:30am
post #1 of 22

We can only do a certain number of cakes per week. Lately business has been increasing and I have more people discussing orders with me for a specific date than I have spots for all of them. Most of this is by email. I find it really confusing to keep track of all this. I don't want to be working out the final details with someone and then not have a spot for them. But I don't want to hold a spot and then have them decide they don't want the cake.

Any suggestions?

21 replies
Kiddiekakes Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 1:02am
post #2 of 22

Most of my orders come in by email....I save each email in a customer file.I usually allow for 7-8 cakes a week and then it becomes too much and depending what they may want..I pick and choose to say yes or no.I ask that they decide what they would like and need to get back to me no later than monday of that week as I do my baking tuesdays.If I don't hear back early in the week and they email wednesday or thursday...I tell them Sorry..You did not get back to me when I asked so I am no longer available to make you a cake!! That simple!!

Kitagrl Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 1:16am
post #3 of 22

If I see I'm filling up I let the person know I need a deposit asap and then after that we can finish discussing the details.

Sometimes people will discuss a cake with me and then drop off the face of the earth (sometimes something comes up, or they forget). If they had for sure told me they wanted the cake, I will email for a deposit. If I don't hear back, I just don't worry about it. If they write back later, and I don't have a spot left open, I just have to apologize that I'm now booked up.

Anyway yeah for the most part a deposit is the only thing that gets a customer on my calendar. The only exception is for regular customers, I will put their name in a slot but I still ask for deposits several weeks ahead.

creatingcakes Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 1:18am
post #4 of 22

I was having trouble with that also, but decided that to always inform potential customers that until I receive a down payment, their order is not finalized= So my suggestion- no down payment, no cake. After I receive it, I write it up. Works well so far! HTH

sugarandslice Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 1:18am
post #5 of 22

I would make sure prospective customers know that you are busy and that your schedule gets booked up early. Perhaps you can 'pencil in' enquiries in your diary/calendar until you get a deposit. Then whoever gets the deposit to you first gets the slot. I have on my quote form that their booking will not be confirmed until I receive a 50% deposit.
It would be hard to say "sorry I'm no longer available on that date" but I guess it has to be done if you're getting that busy (a nice problem to have!!) icon_smile.gif

CakeDiva73 Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 1:32am
post #6 of 22

I have the sample problem - seems like I get tons of email inquiries and then because I take a 50% non-refundable at time of order to hold the date, I think people think they will just wait as long as possible to officially "place" the order. I get so confused.

I finally started penciling in possible cake orders (the ones where they say are going to send the deposit0 just in case. Several times they have lost out since they never sent a deposit - just called a week or two before wanting to 'make sure', only to find out I am no longer available.

Shoot, sometimes it comes in handy to know how many potential orders I am dealing with and other times, if it's a small cake or something, I just say I am no longer available. Kinda frosts me that they have no problem keeping me waiting and then have a hot fit when I give the date away.

Right now I have about 5 floating orders, emails back and forth, totally serious - no money yet. Get this, today I recieved the ribbon to go on the cake.......have yet to recieve the deposit tho. I had to laugh!

froglover Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 1:46am
post #7 of 22

we tell them that that day is still open but we are booking up quickly and they must pay (usually in full unless its a big order then at least half depending on how far out) once they pay they will be put on our calendar. We used to get payment on pickup but was burned once for a no show and left with decorated cake. Burn me once shame on you burn me twice shame on me.
We also have a calender on our website that says stuff like, available, limited and full accordingly.

One idea on how to keep orders straight is in our shop we have a pending folder with potential orders and any info in there. That way they aren't on books or in the needs to bake file until paid in full but when someone comes in and says "I came in and started an order I need to pay for" then you can just go to the pending folder and get their already started order form which can save time. once week is booked then no cake for anyone without deposits or full pmt. If your weekend is pretty empty you can start calling some of the potential orders to confirm and maybe fill in your weekend.

When we take orders via e-mail we always hit the reply button each time and then when they are done giving us the details we always attach a printed out copy of all corrispondence and staple to the order form so that if there is any confusion you can go back to e-mail and also you have proof if they say I wanted a 12 inch cake and you can get email and prove that they said 10 inch. Believe me it has saved us more than once.
hth

costumeczar Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 11:39am
post #8 of 22

I use the calendar on yahoo to show the dates that I'm booked up, and dates that still have spaces open. I also list on my website which dates I'm not available, and I think that cuts down on people waiting until the last minute. (I still get people calling who don't check availability forst, but I've had people tell met hat it's helpful to see waht the availability is before they do call.)

I also agree with no deposit received=no order placed. I tell people that I can't "pencil them in" without a deposit because it gets too complicated to keep track of who I talked to first, etc. If they want to book, they need to put down a deposit. You shouldn't worry about keeping track of potential clients if you have enough business coming in to fill your schedule. Just keep track of booked clients once they get their deposits in!

cfao Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 12:32pm
post #9 of 22

I print out any emails and place them in a Proposal file. It's easy to grab what you need if they show up to place the order or payment arrives.

howsweet Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 1:26pm
post #10 of 22

Thanks for all the replies -- it helps to know I'm not the only one who finds this frustrating. Do any of you have someone in the shop who handles this for you? That's my dream... icon_biggrin.gif

I don't put it on the books without a credit card hold and it's too confusing (for me) to pencil in the "possibles'. I will however hold a date for a previous customer.

I guess I need to get tougher with the customers. I find myself in the position of warning them they need to finalize the order and then they'll be worried and want me to hold their spot and occasionally I'll say, don't worry I won't let anyone get ahead of you - which I always regret having said. I was agreeing with them that it's understandable not to give card info before negotiating out the price and order, but maybe I should just be like "ok, but it's the only way I can guaranteedyour spot".

I'd like to print out the emails - it's sure a pita going back through them - maybe I'll go ahead and do that - but some of the communications are 30-40 emails long.

Thanks for the calendar idea - that will help them see the situation and maybe get people calling more in advance in general.

cakesdivine Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 1:44pm
post #11 of 22

Cake Boss Software and a big Calendar!!!! icon_smile.gif

Edited to add:

for potential clients there is a classification on Cake Boss that allows you to enter a customers information and create a pending order (flagged as such) That way you know what they generally want, make notes all you want on that order screen, and potential date of event. Once they pay deposit you change the designation to Deposit Paid and update any order information you may need to change and then it will show you that it is a valid order.

Appointment books are good for setting consults, As far as email requests print each one off, then enter the info into Cake Boss as a potential customer. If you don't have Cake Boss then create a folder labeled "Potential orders" and put the printed out email in there. On your calendar use pencil only for potentials and ink for set dates. On your big wall calendar section off each day (weekend) for the amount of orders you can handle, if a particular cake takes more time then give it two or three of those slots, once the slots are filled you are booked for that week, no more orders!

cakesdivine Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 1:56pm
post #12 of 22

Howsweet, if you have 30-40 emails then they more than likely are not a potential they are serious about using your services! Create a folder in your email inbox specifically for that client if they send more than 3 emails then everytime they send another you move it to that folder with their name and they are all there together for you to refer to as needed.

Also, I let my brides or big event clients know that to reserve their date there is a $300 booking fee (non-refundable) regardless of all the details being mapped out. If they want me & they want that date they pay it, never had a problem with it. If their cake is less than $300 then they must commit and pay in full to save their wanted date, no if ands or buts about it! All orders $100 or less must pay in full at time of order, do not get a consult, and will only be accepted if date is available when they order. These are generally my stock any occasion sheets, rounds, and dessert items.

HarleyDee Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 6:02pm
post #13 of 22

I let all potential customers know that their date doesn't get held until I receive a deposit. First pay, first serve. This is not to be mean, but I run my business by myself, and I can only do so many cakes per week. I can't afford to hold dates for people without a deposit, only to pass up two or three other cakes, then have the original customer not come through.

indydebi Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 7:00pm
post #14 of 22

I put every single inquiry on a big spreadsheet. It's in order by date. When the order is booked, the date and client name is bolded and those cells are also color coded in red. At a glance, I can see how many red lines I have to know how many bookings I have.

Each client then has an individual eletronic file with all the details, order forms, emails, etc.

I'm not shuffling threw paper, I'm not trying to remember, I dont' hold dates for anyone. If it's not hi-lighted in red, it's open season for whoever wants it.

There's more than just name and date on the spreadsheet, though. This is the document that tracks all of my data that I've shared on here periodically.

IsaSW Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 7:35pm
post #15 of 22
Quote:
Quote:

This is the document that tracks all of my data that I've shared on here periodically.




Deb,
Do you mind sharing it again?

Thanks!

indydebi Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 8:22pm
post #16 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by IsaSW

Quote:
Quote:

This is the document that tracks all of my data that I've shared on here periodically.



Deb,
Do you mind sharing it again?

Thanks!



The data? It's things like:

2008: rec'd 294 inquiries and booked 41% of them.
2009: rec'd 308 inquiries and booked 28% of them.

But .... even tho' 2009 percentage booked is lower, sales are 18% above 2008's sales, so far this year.

2008: avg invoice for cake and buffet was $1800+
2009: avg invoice for cake and buffet was $3700+
This means .... less work; more money!

2008: avg invoice for wedding cakes: $322
2009: avg invoice for wedding cakes: $452

2008: avg servings for wedding cakes: 118
2009: avg servings for wedding cakes: 127 (slightly under a 10% increase)

2009: avg headcount for a wedding buffet: 116
2009: avg headcount for a non-wedding buffet: 95
(this helps me determine if a booking is "big" or not. A wedding for 100 is not a big one. 150 is high avg; 200 is big. )

ttehan4 Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 8:46pm
post #17 of 22

I save all my emails in a file for cakes. When a client books a tasting I fill out her general info on my order form and print off her emails with our discussions and pictures of her cake. I have a file organizer on my kitchen counter. I have a folder for tastings. So that brides info goes into that folder when her day arrives I know right where all her info is.

If she books the cake I charge a 50.00 non refundable deposit and she then gets written in my schedule book. She gets a file folder labeled with her name and date and I have a folder for every month. Her folder goes into her month.

If she doesnt book that day with her deposit, her info goes into a folder labeled "pending orders" . When she decides to order I know where her info is.

Any non wedding orders get written up on an order form and are put on my schedule. They are then added to the monthly folder.

If someone inquires on a date all I have to do is look at the schedule and see what is on for that week. This way all order and payment information is keep separate from the schedule and less chance of a mix up.

cakesbycathy Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 9:11pm
post #18 of 22

I'm sorry - you exchange 30-40 emails and that's before they book the cake? icon_confused.gificon_confused.gificon_confused.gif

I hope I read that wrong. If not, I'd say that's a big part of your problem. You need to cut down on the communication until someone puts down a deposit. Otherwise you could be wasting your time on someone who isn't even going to order a cake.

I mean for heaven's sake this shouldn't be let's make a deal.

Customer calls: How much is a cake for 25?
You: I charge xx per serving, so that would be $ plus our delivery fee. What date do you need the cake for?

At this point if you are available get some general information (flavor, theme, etc) and then you can tell them that they can send their non-refundable deposit and once you recieve it you will finalize the details.

As far as keeping track of orders, I tell all my clients that their date is NOT booked until I receive their non-refundable deposit. I write everything that I receive a deposit for on a giant calendar. That way I can see at a glance if I have availability.

indydebi Posted 29 Oct 2009 , 10:01pm
post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by cakesbycathy

I'm sorry - you exchange 30-40 emails and that's before they book the cake? icon_confused.gificon_confused.gificon_confused.gif



Whoa, I missed that part. I don't have 30-40 emails on a booked wedding that includes cake AND catering! icon_eek.gif

After 3 emails (one of "how much is your cake"; one of "ok, then how much would THIS cake be?" then MAYBE allow one of "well, what if we did this instead?") ..... you tell them "Sounds like we need to get together to discuss this. I have Tuesday afternoon or Saturday morning open. Which works best for you?"

If there is this much communication, then I'd also question the clarity of the information you are sending back to her. Are you informing her or confusing her? Are your questions logical and in some kind of order or all they all over the board with information overload? In the long run, this doesn't matter, because you're not going to send more than 3 emails before you make an appointment, right? thumbs_up.gif

IsaSW Posted 30 Oct 2009 , 8:12pm
post #20 of 22
Quote:
Quote:


2008: rec'd 294 inquiries and booked 41% of them.
2009: rec'd 308 inquiries and booked 28% of them.





Debi,
Do you use "cake boss" is this how you keep track of this info and the numbers?

This is phone call from a client saying I want to schedule a tasting, left a message, then I called her back, she can't take my call at that moment.
Lets say she never calls back... Is this considered a inquiry?

I would love to start keeping track of my clients like that, any advise?

TIA

indydebi Posted 30 Oct 2009 , 8:47pm
post #21 of 22

No, I'm an Excel Nerd. You know that commercial where the girl holds up a mile of paper and says, "I make my own spreadsheets!"? That's me! icon_lol.gif

I log it as an inquiry when I am able to email them some info. So I need name, date, # of people, type of service needed (cake, food, both) and an email address. I need number of people and type of service so I can compute an estimated value of the inquiry. (If they tell me they need cake only for 200 people, it has a potential value of $700. They need food for 200, it's a potential $4000 sale.)

When I get a "I'm just price shopping" calls, I ask them, "Let me email you my info packet. Once you've had a chance to look that over and if you like what you see, then I invite you to give me a call and we'll schedule an appt for you."

This approach is non-threatening to them. I'm making it clear that AFTER they've had a chance to look it over and IF they like what they see, then THEY can call me to schedule. Non-pushy, but it gets my info in their hands.

IsaSW Posted 3 Nov 2009 , 5:49pm
post #22 of 22
Quote:
Quote:

"Let me email you my info packet. Once you've had a chance to look that over and if you like what you see, then I invite you to give me a call and we'll schedule an appt for you."




Thank you so much, I can use this line from now on.
I just bought cake boss, because I've tried excell from scratch, but it just seems to complicated for me.

Thanks again!

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