Manning the Phone……
At this time of year there is often a flurry of private dates being booked for the holiday season, I want to write a few notes about your most important prop—your phone! Chances are that over 90% of your dates will be sold and locked in over a phone line so I want to share some basic tips that I have learned through the years.
The importance of knowing how to handle phone inquires cannot be overstated in the professional magic world. It is not to be confused with the complimentary importance of having a well designed and effective website. The website has come to replace the brochure and promotional video, in fact it is pretty much shaping up to replace the business card.
The role of the website is to show people what you do, where you have done it and what people thought about it. Very few performers are booked solely through the Internet. Generally speaking once the client is persuaded that you are the act they want to book—you then close the deal on the phone. People need to discuss their personal details and needs, they also like the non-electronic, old-fashioned human contact before signing on the dotted line.
The most important part about that phone call, to the performer, is that it allows him to get the details about the gig clear, and then use them to negotiate the fee and map out a contract. If you aren’t used to doing this on a very regular basis (and even if you are) it is a darn good idea to have a little script on hand. If you have a written list of questions, then you can jot the details down for each gig as they arrive.
Using the word script is a double-edged sword in the last paragraph. It really needs to be scripted but it should never sound like a rigid format. Gary Cooper once made the statement that acting was a great way to make a living, but never get caught doing it. This is a nice parallel—have a script but never be caught delivering it!
There are certain questions that it is vital that you ask before you start to discuss money. Generally speaking your potential client will have just two questions that they want answered.
1. Are you available?
2. How much do you charge?
The way to steer the conversation in the right direction is to begin by asking the date of the potential booking. While you ‘check you datebook,’ ask a few key questions so you can prepare for the upcoming discussion of the fee. I often say that I have a tentative booking but it might be possible to reschedule it. It never does any harm to sound ‘in demand.’
Seven key questions that I initially ask include.
1 Where is the event?
2 What kind of event is it?
3 What kind of venue is it? A theatre, hotel, club, a private home, etc.
4 How many people will be attending?
5 What is your budget? This is a disarmingly direct question that sometimes gets a direct answer.
6 How did you hear about me?
7 Have you visited my website?
By the time you have answers to these questions you are in a position to make an educated estimate of the fee you wish to charge. I always make it very plain to any potential booker that there is no such thing as ‘a one size fits all’ fee for my services. Even a dog groomer charges different fees for their various furry clients! In the next blog we will discuss negotiating and contracting.
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