I am having a really trying time lately about consultations and budgets.
In an effort to have only brides who can afford our cakes book consultations, we send a "wedding cake packet" via e-mail before we will book a consultation. The information is helpful, it includes our terms and conditions, price brochure and our consultation guide. We ask them to read everything and if it seems agreeable, give us a call and we will be happy to set an appointment for you.
After the consultation, we send a proposal as a PDF attachment. In the body of the e-mail, we ask them to review all the details. If they find the proposal more than their budget, we ask them to let us know. We would rather work with them than lose their business. At this time, we also let them know there is a non-refundable deposit due.
So here is where I get really annoyed: bride chooses a cake that is $$ at the consultation and we send the proposal for it. She says it is a little out of our price range, what can we do to get the price down? We give suggestions and submit another proposal. We don't hear back from them and when we follow up, they say they have chosen another vendor-if we hear back from them at all. I have tried asking a budget before hand, most people hem and haw, say they don't have one, or just ignore the question. I know that having a budget from them would eliminate most of this problem.
Do you have a technique or suggestion for getting a budget from bride? I am really tired of being accommodating and ultimately having it be a waste of my time!
I not in the business, but I would say don't let them go without giving them a price. As a bride, I wouldn't want the emailing back and forth and getting new proposals if the price is too high, especially after the second proposal. I'd much rather wait a little longer at the consultation and get the price mostly squared away. Much less hassle for everyone and it seems like you might get more bookings that way.
I just ask people in a pretty straight forward way. This is what we've talked about, this is how much it will cost, do you want to put down a deposit and guarantee your date?
If they say, well that's more than we wanted to spend I say, well you chose a premium flavor, or we can eliminate this or that... Everyone I meet with my minimum price is in there budget, so that is not an issue.
Sounds like maybe too much messing around?
I throw out pricing in the initial email...that usually scares off the people who don't have the budget.
When we are at the consult, I can usually give a price quote for what they want, unless I have to go home and do sketches...but usually during the consult the bride has a pretty good idea of what she wants, and I can usually quote a pretty accurate price. I have never really had to go home and send pricing later, unless they have to do more research on what they want.
Even then, at the consult...I get an idea of what they want and I give them a ballpark figure to make sure its going to work. I also get deposits before I do sketches or extensive work on helping them design a cake...so as long as my general pricing is good enough for them to feel comfy giving me a deposit, then that's good for both of us.
Sounds like maybe you are losing brides because they are coming away from the consult still unsure how much they will be spending???
You're bombarding them with too much info. Brides are confused enough already and stressed to the max. They're told they have to create this wonderful, personalized event at X budget and most have never planned anything more elaborate than a pizza night out with the girls.
You job is to simplify their task, and you're over complicating it.
Put all that "packet" info on your website. Put your contact info on a link that first takes them to a Have you read this? page then goes to your contact info. (An idea I stole from CCCakes website.) Some still won't read your info. Ever.
At the consultation, make your sketches, price it out right there. Have you ever watched "Say 'yes' to the dress? What's the question they ask every bride when she's on the pedestal?
"Is this your dress?"
After you've presented the quote, point to the cake sketch the bride chose and ask, "Is this your cake?"
When she says "yes!", start completing the contract. Get a deposit. Done. Simple.
My brides usually say, "Wow, that was easy."
I agree with Leah...after a consult I'm usually done with everything but having to type up their contract...and sometimes wait for them to choose a flavor....but usually by the end, I know if they are going to be my customer or not. Not always...but usually.
Agree with keep it simple.
I did send pricing via my introductory packet (sorry,leah!) but I kept it simple. "Price is $3.50/serving ($350 for cake for 100)". Never assume they can do the math .... so I did it for them.
I also had the pricing on the website AND including a Budget Wizard (all they do is plug in their headcount and it calculates the whole cost to them, within a dime!), I also asked them at the consult "Have you had a chance to look over the pricing info and all of that fits in your budget ok?" (yes). "Great. now ... what kind of dollar figure do we need to keep this under?"
Never ask them "How much do you want to spend?" This triggers the "fear of used car salesman" nerve and they don't want to talk money. But when I make it appear that I want to keep the cost UNDER their dollar figure, they relax.
At the end of the consult, I turn my laptop around to show them the form I've been filling in during our conversation. I review the cake we're going to make for them "....and here is your final dollar figure. Does that work ok for you?" I get a commitment then and there that the cost is fine with them. If not, we work on it right then.
I could print the whole thing off and hand it to them then and there except that I like to email it so there is a written record.
I dont' think a baker's pricing should be so complicated that it takes days to figure out how much a cake for 100 should cost. If a person is doing this as a business, they should have a good idea of their own pricing so they can figure it up right there. It makes the baker look professional and knowledgeable.
I don't beleive a client should walk out with a "will let you know how much you owe me" thing. Some schedule 3 or 4 tastings a day. They will book with the one that makes it easier on them.
When I finished a consult, all I had to do was email the forms (multiple forms since I had catering order forms also), and wait for them to send me the signed contract with their check. I never had any back-n-forth conversations afterward. It was all done inside of one hour. Everything they needed to know ....,. everything I needed to know .... was done during our meeting.
yeah, i agree that there seems to be too much back and forth. once a bride has emailed me initially to ask about me doing their wedding cake, i email her right back and let her know my STARTING price per serving for a tiered cake. i ask her if she has a picture or a design in mind, and if so to send it to me and i'll give her a rough price. if she doesn't have a design in mind, i give her a wide range. by the end of our emails, i know if she's comfortable with the price or not. if she is, then we schedule the tasting/consultation. when they arrive, i start filling out the contract, they sample, i sketch a design, and then i ask them "are you ready to reserve your date right now with a 50% deposit?" and i've only had 1 bride say, "i've scheduled another consult for next weekend with another baker...can i get back to you?" (this was just this past sunday, so i'm sure i'll here back from her with a yes!). every othe bride has booked on the spot. they pay, i make a copy of the contract and they're on their way. we've spent a total of a few emails, and an hour to an hour and 15 minutes on the consult and they can cross another thing off their "to do" list!!!
Thank you everyone!
We already do a lot of the suggestions, just not in these particular ways. This has put suggestions together for me so I can look at it with our office manager who does most of the consultations.
I think the issue has been overcomplicated in an effort to simplify things! I love the idea of asking "is this your cake?" much like they ask about the dress in "Say Yes to the Dress". We need to revisit "sealing the deal".
Oh Indy, you know I'm a big advocate of pricing on the website. Brides know my pricing before they ever contact me. Saves us all some time and effort.