I’m willing to wager that when most of you started your businesses, you didn’t claim, at the top of your list of dreams, “becoming a salesman.” In fact, sales may not be your “thing” at all (just like accounting isn’t mine), but, when you’re a small but mighty organization, you must be intimately involved in all aspects of your business – even the ones you don’t like.
This is particularly true of sales, which directly impacts the financial health of your enterprise, ultimately putting money in your pocket and food on your table. You can’t opt-out, and in a personality-driven industry like weddings you can’t reasonably outsource the role. It’s a much harder sell when someone else is pitching a couple on the idea of you being their dream planner.
Love the idea or not, you’re going to have to hone your own highly effective sales practices. If that’s the bad news, however, the good news is that I can help by sharing strategies that will help you improve your sales game even if it’s the last thing in the world you want to do.
Take the Storytelling Approach
Storytelling is the wedding industry’s answer to sales – instead of “selling” couples your services, offer them their wedding day dreams and explain how you can make it happen. Walk them through the day, for example. What will their guests experience when they arrive? Invoke their senses. Tell them what they will smell, see, taste, hear and feel. Capture their attention and use your experience and expertise to demonstrate to them what is possible.
Storytelling helps couples better retain important information and engage in the sales process. It humanizes your interaction, elevating you above a car salesman to the person who can make dreams come true. Be genuine and relevant – listen to their ideas and create a thoughtful wedding day scenario customized just for your prospective clients.
Introduce Temporary Holds
It’s one of the oldest and most reliable sales strategies – temporary holds. When you first consult with a couple, offer to hold their desired date tentatively for a finite period (one to two weeks). Offer “first right of refusal” before a specific date, after which, the couple needs to go to contract or release the date.
Couples don’t like to be pushed with high-pressure sales tactics, but they do often need encouragement to actively engage in the decision-making process. A temporary hold appears to prospective clients that you are helping them out by taking the immediate, in-person pressure off while holding their preferred date during the courtesy period, but also demonstrates that you are busy enough that you are simply unable to leave their date in limbo indefinitely.
Concerned that you might miss out on a prospect during the hold? Explain when you confirm the hold via email (after your initial consultation) that should another couple request the date in question, you will contact couple #1 and offer them first right of refusal for 24 hours, after which time you will release the date to the other party. Again, you’ve added a touch of pressure, but also offered extra courtesy and consideration.
Be a Great Listener
The best approach you can take to sales is to get to know your prospective client and their story, instead of inundating them with all the reasons you are amazing. Couples love talking about their Big Day, so it needs to be your goal to take in as much information as possible and during the rest of the meeting, find authentic ways to showcase how you can turn their dreams into reality.
My favorite question back in my sales days was, “What are your top three must-haves for your wedding.” I’d ask at the beginning of my prospect meetings and, if organic, would find ways to share throughout the tour how we could help with those things – even if they sounded kind of out of the box. If the couple said they had to have an armadillo groom’s cake, I would explain how I planned to find them the best darn armadillo groom’s cake maker in town.
Make all of your prospective client meetings more about the couple than they are about you and you will soon see how effective the approach can be.
Leverage Your Expertise
Over the years, you have amassed an incredible amount of wedding know how so use it to your advantage (especially in a crowded market filled with newbies at discounted rates). Anticipate questions before they are even asked. Be prepared to answer the tough questions. I always (and still do!) have a list of FAQ’s to cover with prospects. My goal is that they will have zero (or close to it) outstanding questions at the end of their initial appointment.
One of the biggest wedding planner selling points is the ability to stay on top of things that couples fear will end up wildly out of control. There are plenty of great online resources to help you do exactly that for your clients, even if you aren’t naturally the most organized of people. Your sales strategies should include branded proposals, contracts, professional looking invoices and calendar prompts to keep you on track with follow up. Not only does it allow you to stay on top of your sales, it puts time back in your pocket allowing you to focus on building your business in other ways.
Very few people exhibit extra enthusiasm when it comes to playing the salesman role in their small businesses, but honing your sales approach is vital to your success. You can apply every strategy I’ve listed, but my best sales advice is this: above all, be yourself. There is no substitute for it.