Booking Yourself Handbook
By Samuel Patrick Smith
The following chapter is taken from The Booking Yourself Handbook.
BOOKING YOURSELF BY PHONE
If you’re a good performer -- if you have something worthwhile to offer -- you have the right to help people make positive decisions about booking your act. You will find that prospects you speak with on the phone really do need help in making a decision. This article will show you some ways to encourage them to say, “Yes!” when it truly is in their best interest.
You should not be pushy when trying to convince a prospect to book your show. People do not like to be pressured. While you may be able to bully or trick someone into making a decision, you’ll also create resentment. The alternative is to ask questions which point the prospect in the right direction. Start the prospect thinking about the possibility of having you. Unless a person can get a mental picture of taking action, he will not be able to do it.
When someone is indecisive, I often say something like, “Mr. Brown, if you were to have the show, is there a day of the week that works best for you?” Or if we’re talking about a particular day, I ask, “If you were to go with this, would a morning performance or an afternoon show work better for you?” This technique of offering him a choice of two positive responses gets him to picture the possibility of booking you. It’s a great method, but don’t overdo it. Don’t, for example, say, “Do you want one show or two?” before he has even expressed an interest. Get him to consider his positive options before closing in on him with too much force.
Here’s an example of how this question-asking technique can work. I called a woman and offered her my show during the month of May. She said she was too busy in May, but thanks for calling. She would have hung up with that if I had not asked some leading questions. After she gave me her recital of everything they would be doing in May and concluded that there was no time for me, I replied, “Well, it certainly sounds like May is booked up. Probably what would work better for you would be my summertime program, which I do starting in June and going through the middle of August. Would you like me to contact you about that?” She said yes.
I said, “Now, if you went with that, which would be the best month for you.”
She said, “Well, maybe August.”
I heard her flipping through her calendar, and I knew I was making progress. Then she said, “Oh yes, the second week might be okay.” I then looked at my calendar and said, “Well, let’s see. I have the 12th and 13th available in your area. Do you have a preference?”
She selected one of them, and I asked the last question: “Would morning or afternoon work best for you?” She said morning would be best, so we set a time and the booking was made.
Notice there was no sales pressure -- only a series of non-threatening questions, leading her toward that wonderful conclusion: yes. But she never said yes. There was no single point of making a verbal decision. I led her slowly into forming a picture of having the show, and then we considered her options -- what would be best for her.
Years ago, I began playing engagements in Nashville. On my first trip there, I didn’t have enough bookings when I arrived, so I started making phone calls. One woman didn’t think her business could afford me and was ready to hang up. She was very pleasant but she was also convinced they couldn’t come up with the money. Psychologically, she had started backing away and was on her way out, so to speak, when I asked a question. Then following her answer, I made a statement to bring her back in.
I said, not at all aggressively, “If it were possible to have the show, how many people do you think might be there?” She told me, and then I said in an almost uncertain voice, “You know, Cindy, I don’t usually do this, but I’m almost tempted to do the show on a per-person basis.”
She said, in an interested voice, “What do you mean?”
I said, “Well, I might be able to come in and do the show and let each person pay, say, a dollar. That way, it wouldn’t have to come out of your budget, and you’d get to have the show anyway.” She was interested, and from there we went on to set the date, time, and final arrangements. Interestingly, the amount we collected was exactly what my fee would have been.
Do you see the psychology here? She took a step away from me when she said, “We can’t afford it.”
If I had said, “Sure you can,” she would have taken another step back.
Instead, I stood psychologically still, asked a question and then said, “You know, I’m almost tempted to do the show on a per-person basis.”
Then Cindy took a step forward and said, “What do you mean? At that point, she was beginning to drop some of her reluctance, but only because I didn’t pressure. I asked a question and made a non-threatening statement.
Point your prospects in the right direction, then help them along the way. This may not sound glamorous and high-powered, but it has one advantage: It works!