Hosting a Cake Consultation

SuccessHow many of your appointments or consultations result in a sale?  If you don’t know, then you really need to start taking action now to allow you to work out your all-important conversion rate.  Just a simple log of the consultation and any specific comments will help you hugely once the data builds.

Business is all about numbers and once you know the key numbers, and there aren’t too many of them you’ll be glad to know, then the business dashboard will give you, the owner, all the information you need to make any changes required to improve your profitability.  Knowing your conversion rate is one of those key numbers.

Preparing for a consultation is crucial to the chances of conversion. We have all been waiting on the prospective customer or even bridal party arriving for their cake consultation. You will have prepared and nicely labelled the cake samples, made sure that the room and access areas are all clean and tidy. If at home then kids and pets should be out of sight and earshot.  You then get the soft romantic background music on and lovely baking smells coming from the kitchen and those all-important display cakes out and looking their best. Then you’re all set.

The key aspects of increasing your conversion rate and increasing the value of the sale are to positively engage all the client’s senses from the minute they approach your house or premises. If you think about it as a customer yourself, you expect and be happy to pay more if treated like royalty and in plush surroundings. Ever wandered into a posh jewellers for a browse then all of a sudden you are treated like royalty? Perhaps you had little or no intention of buying anything, but by being in those surroundings and being treated in that manner you became more and more tempted. It’s this selling psychology that you can easily adopt to help your conversion rates with your own consultations.

It’s a fact. The better you make someone feel about their surroundings and themselves the better the chance of getting the booking and the more they will expect to pay.

I always advocate publishing your prices on your website. This ensures that any prospective client has been filtered to remove anyone whose budget doesn’t match your price range. The mistake so many cake designers make is in thinking that everyone is a potential customer. The problem is that they then attract everyone, only to hear that their cakes are too expensive… ‘I would never pay that for a cake!’, sound familiar?  The great tragedy is that after hearing those comments a few times, you believe them and start to question your pricing. When in fact, there is nothing wrong with your pricing you have simply attracted the wrong customer.

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Let’s look at it in another way. If you are heading out to the shops to buy a pen, then you know what purpose you have in mind for that pen. If it’s to quickly write something down, then you will have a budgetary expectation in mind. The same applies if you are buying the pen as a retirement gift for someone who has given the company 50 years' service.  Same product, same output, something that writes, but two totally different budgets, which will lead you to two totally different shops. If you are looking for something cheap and cheerful then the posh surroundings, nice music, lovely assistant and beautiful pen aren’t going to change your mind, they will merely frustrate you. It’s exactly the same with cake consultations. Don’t expect someone who’s on a box ticking exercise to pay the going rate for a hand-crafted designer cake, when they can tick their box with something off the shelf, they simply were never going to be your customer in the first place. 

Making sure that your prices are displayed loud and clear positions you in the marketplace and means that the consultations you do have are from qualified leads. They will have chosen to come to you either through word of mouth or via promotional material, but either way will be aware of your pricing. This allows for higher conversion rates and makes the effort and energy that you put into a laying on a consultation far more worthwhile.

Another thing that you should do prior to the consultation is to take down as much information as you can beforehand. Find out the date of the event, it may well be that you are too busy or away on holiday. Find out who will be attending, which helps with sample numbers. Find out the venue and any particular themes, colours or designs that they have in mind. If you don’t already know the venue, do your research. There’s nothing more reassuring for a bride to hear than… ‘oh what a lovely venue, they really look after you there, I know that a…….. design would work well there’.  It reassures them that they have made the right choice of venue so therefore it runs true that they are likely to be making the right choice of cake designer and someone who knows the venue.  If you haven’t made a cake for that venue before, make a point of going and familiarising yourself and introduce yourself to the staff so you can at least mention one of them by name during the consultation.

During the consultation itself, after setting the scene as explained earlier, welcome your clients and sit them down and ask if they would like a drink. Tea, coffee and something a little stronger should all be available. Buy some little bottles of Prosecco, which seems to be very much trending drink amongst brides to be. Make sure your best display cakes are there to show off your craftsmanship then give them an album to go through while you prepare the drinks. After you have served the drinks start to discuss their event. This is your key time to listen, searching out clues as to what they are looking for and maybe throwing in a few compliments and possible design ideas yourself at this stage. It then leads onto you asking if they have thought about the type of cake you would like, which is your key to bring through and talk 

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through the samples. Give them five minutes or so while you go to another room and think of suitable designs. As mentioned in previous articles Paul always gave three options based on the level of decoration and price. On returning to the consultation ask if they have any questions or are ready to look at designs and let the consultation flow from there. 

One of the biggest challenges you will have during the consultation is closing the deal. Consultations should last for around 45 minutes and best to set your client’s expectation on that from the outset, so at around 35 minutes in you should start to bring things to a close. It’s easy to get wrapped up in discussions, but you are in control and your key objective is to close the deal. Paul really struggled with this initially, but with experience came confidence and he would close things by often saying ‘I think this is where we are …….. would you like to book now to confirm the booking?’  DO NOT ask if they would like to go away and think about it.  Make it so easy for them to say ‘yes’, don’t offer ‘no’ as an option. Invite them to pay a deposit now and get all their details in writing and a signed order form.

If they don’t want to book there and then, ask when you should expect to hear from them and put a note in your diary to call. You could say that you will provisionally hold the booking space for them until a defined date at which time you can call them and ask if they would like to book then.  Sadly, as I’m sure you are aware, just like the trip to the jewellery store mentioned earlier, the best chance you have of securing the booking is when the client is there and in the moment with you.

During that final follow-up phone call, if they don’t book then ask for their honest feedback. After all you have given up a lot of time and effort to put the consultation on, so the very least they can do is let you know why they have decided to go elsewhere. Take the feedback on-board, write it down and build up a history. Do not act on one person’s feedback alone unless you agree, hard as it may be, but take it on board and if it repeats then it’s time to act.

Consultations can be great fun, it’s your time to show off and bring the appointment to life. Get to know your client, bring in humour where appropriate, but most of all make them feel good about themselves and you will be a long way to clinching that all important booking. It’s always worth remembering that it’s 10 times harder to recruit a new customer than it is to keep an existing one so look on this initial consultation as potentially a customer for life. More on that in the articles to come.

Do you want to see Paul taking a real-life live wedding consultation? Check out Pro Members Business Course on Hosting a Wedding Consultation.

Post written by David Brice, CakeFlix Business Lead Tutor.  Join David and Digital Marketing professionals, an Accountant, Lawyer and professional Photographers who all contribute to CakeFlix Pro Members - Business Tutorial.

Between them they have years of professional experience in their specialisms, all brought together with a cake business in mind.

Pro Members also get direct access to David and Paul, plus an informative live Monthly Q&A.