This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is a member of the National Speakers Association, an author, and founder of The Wedding Industry Leaders Conference, an organization dedicated to the educating and consulting of highly motivated individuals and businesses. Learn more at http://alanberg.com/.
In my 20+ years around the wedding and event industry I’ve seen many event Pros using forms and questionnaires at different stages in the sales process. I can certainly see the need for gathering information from your customers and prospects, but how and when is it appropriate to use them? Using them at the wrong time can, at best, alienate or de-personalize the process and, at worst, chase your prospect away.
So, when is it OK to use a form?
That’s a tough question, because the concept of using a form, or questionnaire is fine, but the execution is where it can all go awry. For instance, having an inquiry form on your website is great… but, if it’s too long, many people will choose not to fill it out at all. I know that some of you have longer forms and you often get inquiries who complete them. That may be true, but what you can’t see is all of the people who take one look at your form and just go away. The abandonment rate may be a lot higher than you think. If you have website tracking and can see how many visits there are to that page, versus how many inquiries you get, you’ll get some idea of how effective it is in converting prospects to inquiries.
What about using forms, or questionnaires, after you get an email inquiry? It may seem like a good idea to ask the couple to complete an information form so you have lots of details about their event. Before you do that, put yourself in their shoes. If you send an email inquiry to a company with whom you’ve never done business, do you want to get a form back to fill out, or do you want to start a conversation with someone from that company? Which is more personal? That’s easy. Regardless of how the inquiry comes to you, the prospect wants to have a real conversation with someone from that company. These days that conversation is more likely to begin via email than via a phone call.
Are forms and questionnaires a bad idea?
I’m sure that if you’re reading this you don’t want to commoditize your products and services and only have a conversation about price. That’s where using forms can actually work against you. Let’s follow the process two different ways:
- Scenario 1: An inquiry comes in via email. You reply with a well thought out response, including a list of questions, or an attached form. The prospect replies with all of their details. You, having not had a chance to start a conversation, are compelled to reply with a price quote based upon their details. You may even pre-judge them based upon the list of “facts,” without getting a chance to even know if you’re a good fit for them.
- Scenario 2: An inquiry comes in via email. You reply with a short, well thought out response and ask the same one, or two initial questions you would ask them if you were speaking to them on the phone, or in person. They reply with their answer and you reply with another question, gently probing for the data you need, while getting a feel for their event and personality. You go back and forth, having a real conversation, via email. It’s a very similar to conversation that you would have on the phone, only in writing. Does it take longer than sending a form? Yes, but your abandonment rate will be lower if you do this well.
What’s your hurry?
If you were the customer, to which would you respond better, someone who sends you a test, or someone who is having a conversation? The key is to not try to rush the process. Too many event Pros try to get the prospect to answer lots of questions up front, so they don’t have to go back, and forth, many times. Some do it to pre-qualify them as to budget or other criteria. Going back and forth is exactly what you do when you’re on the phone or in person with them. You ask a question, they answer. You ask another question, they answer. Along the way you’re using those carefully worded, open-ended questions, to gauge their interest and learn about their event and, more importantly, their priorities. Trying to rush the sales process is a sure way to lose the sale.
So, save the forms for after you’ve made the sale, or at least after you’ve gotten far enough along in the real conversation that you are ready to give them an actual proposal. Keep the emails short. Keep the forms short. Learn to let your personality come through and your result will be more conversations, leading to more appointments and sales.