The Art of the Incoming Call: (Part 3 of 3) Accessorizing and Tuning Your Phone Pitch for Success
- Click to read Part 1 of 3: Homework Makes a Difference (Facebook link) or at http://christmasperformerworkshops.com/art-of-the-incoming-call-part-1-homework/
- Click to read Part 2 of 3: Phone Scripts and Roleplaying for Fun and Profit (Facebook Link) or at http://christmasperformerworkshops.com/art-of-the-incoming-call-part-2-phone-scripts/
(This series of articles are geared towards performers who book multiple gigs during a season.)
Accessorizing and Tuning Your Phone Pitch for Success
There are many aspects to our role as Christmas Performers. We are performers, entrepreneurs, researchers, and salespeople. Using and developing phone skills is a form of performing. No matter what’s going on in your life at the time of the call, you want be excellent on the phone, in that moment.
The best salespeople are knowledgeable about helping their clients succeed and developing long-term relationships.
- They are great listeners. They work to understand the vision of their clients.
- They are diplomatic but still honest and straight up with their clients.
- From beginning to end, they work to stay ahead of issues and problems. They build trust.
In our previous discussion, we addressed doing your homework—getting all the specific information in place before taking calls—and roleplaying calls with a helper in order determine what you need on your contact sheet and in your phone script. What’s next?
Improving Challenging Calls
Some of the roleplaying scenarios focused on challenging phone clients. When you work with a caller who is grinding you about money or the dates on your calendar, you can use the following three tips to improve the call.
- Try a redirect. Try to get them in an emotive frame of mind. Example: “Sue, just putting the money aside for a second, it sounds like you’ve run this event before. I’m sure it’s a lot of work. Do you do it because you love Christmas?” Often, folks need to be re-attached to the real reasons they want something.
- Have a values story. It raises the “what if” scenario. Example: “Absolutely, Mike. I belong to several Santa organizations. And I have a yearly background check, carry performing insurance. Plus I train all year round. I’ve had some clients who will now only book me, after dealing with some scary low-end Santas they found on Craigslist. And the fact that we are talking means you are looking for a pro and that you care, and that’s a wonderful thing.”
- The De-Rail. Things are going south on the call. They don’t realize that, in fact, you are offering them a good deal and most of the good performers are already booked. Example: “I totally understand, Cynthia. It can be hard to find a good Santa at this time of year, most of the pros have clients that rebook in January. Please call around. And, if you want, you can send me your budget and specifics and I can pass it on to some other performers I know. If you don’t find what you are looking for and need to call me back, no problem. However, I’ve been getting a lot of calls, and without a retainer, I won’t be able to hold that time for you. I hope you find an amazing Santa and have a wonderful Christmas event! Oh, and if you check my website, I have a helpful list you can copy to help your event go better. Thanks!”
Handy True Tip: Build your Jolly Zone/Work area. Have some Xmas pictures up that mean something to you. Have that cup of peppermint tea, maybe some pine scent, and some Xmas music playing in the background. Your goal is to sound warm, friendly, and professional, every time you speak to a client. Getting into the right head space will help!
Accessories for Your Calls
If you are free-range Christmas Performer, there’s two things that are critical for you to receive any calls in the first place. These are more important than any Santa bling you could wear.
Thing #1: Marketing
No marketing, no calls. You have to have some public facing marketing to get gigs. Let’s go through the basics. Each of the following should have phone numbers, email, and a website where they can find you and contact your business. All of it hangs on a common element: You need great photos on all the following.
- Business Cards, Flyers, and Handouts. There are endless opportunities when you need to hand someone a physical card in order to reach you later. Your business card for adults needs a great photo. Include your full Performing Name (not just Santa), phone number, general address (such as city or region), website, and email. All information should be clear, legible, and not printed in a red cutesy font. Legibility is more important.
- Website: Your website should have great candid photos, plus specifics about your Christmas character and endorsements. Consider posting a public schedule. You can include handy tips for a successful event. A great website can be very handy for a booking call. Direct potential clients to look at specific links or sections such as your costumes or reference PDFs. What makes you unique?
- Services, Agencies, and Agents: Services like GigMasters, GigSalad, Craigslist, Thumbtack, and agents or agencies (such as Nationwide Santas, etc.) all help promote your services. It’s also not uncommon to have clients contact more than one service to make many enquiries at the same time. The same event could reach you by a variety of leads. A bit of advice: Never do an end-run around an Agent, it’s bad mojo. If they bring you the client first, then honor that. If the client comes to you directly in the future, try your best to be above board. If it comes down to money versus honor, go with honor.
- Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other sites, if well played, can send clients to you.
- Networking and Word of Mouth. All the Santa organizations have websites, lists, and places for referrals. Likewise, you should know every Christmas related performer in the area that you service, and an up-to-date way to call them. We have an unfortunate tendency in the Santa community of turning Colleagues into Competitors. It should be the other way around: We want to do what we can to help each other, cover gigs, and support our community. Your reputation as someone who does quality work, reliably, is the best marketing you can have.
Handy True Tip: Starbucks have solo bathrooms and less kids. Order a sugar-free eggnog latte, hand out a candy cane or two, and announce that you are “going to go adjust your mustache.” You finish and can do Selfies/Elfies with customers, then collect your eggnog and you’re gone.
Thing #2: Know Your Side of the Equation
Let’s face it: Booking a gig for 7 PM on a Saturday night, in the middle of December, is a no brainer. Where we separate the singing mice from the Jolly men and women is getting our schedules filled on the off-peak times—weekdays and mornings. This is not a problem for the mall workers. But for the Special Events/Free-range Performers, we want to stay booked in a sane way.
- Always ask your client if they have some flexibility for their event time. Traffic is sure to make fools of us all. You can also offer discounts for off-peak time.
- Remember to clarify that your booking is for “A Visit,” rather than a specific time duration. Example: “Mary, I want you to have the best visit, and I’ve been doing this a while. So once I feel it’s time to go, I will. Once Santa over-stays his welcome, the magic fades, and he starts turning to a boring old guy. This quote is based on a visit of approximately 30 minutes, give or take.”
- Pin in a Map: Every gig you book puts a pin in a map. That, plus travel time, will directly affect the rest of the gigs you can book that day. It’s a challenge to calculate everything. You may need to figure in time for gasoline and restroom breaks. If you are working with someone else, make certain that both of you are on the same page (and same map!).
- When you do your pre-check follow-up call, especially if you need to collect money, you can mention tips. Example: “Sharon, I am really excited to see you tomorrow. Don’t forget, we might want to have your puppies in another room at first. And you’ll want to put the balance owed in a Christmas Card that you can hand to Santa when he shows up, along with any tips. It helps to have the card ready by the front door before Santa arrives. You’ll get a text when I am near. I will load up the presents (which you’ll have ready in the bag with a ribbon on it by the back gate). Five minutes later, you will hear my bells and I will ring the doorbell.”
We hope this series of articles has been helpful, and please let us know what you think, and offer ideas and suggestions. This helpful article (and others) are on the CPW website for your perusal! http://christmasperformerworkshops.com/articles/
Performing is the Secret Sauce
Our field is always changing. Malls come and go, gigs come and go. These things you can’t control. One thing that you CAN control, however, is the skill and creativity that you bring to your performance. That’s what CPW is all about, helping you become a better performer. In our workshops, we don’t teach about contracts or bleaching. You study topics such as vocals, physicality, storytelling, improvisation, mime, character work, and creating your back story. You learn specific content to help you be the most awesome and unique character you can be.
And when you are a great performer, better pay and better gigs come your way. We also share tips on how to improve knowledge sharing in your local peer group, plus developing resources in and out of our Christmas community.
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Santa True, Cat Ellen (“Mrs. Santa True”), and all our friends at Christmas Performer Workshops (CPW)
Would you like occasional tips and resources to improve your season? We plan to share a free template for phone scripts and new-contact information to our newsletter subscribers.