» Do You Want the Sale, or Not?

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

While speaking at a conference in Mexico, I overheard some wedding professionals talking, and one said:“If you don’t want to do the wedding, just give them a really high price.” I jumped into the conversation, and I said “If you don’t want to do the wedding, don’t do the wedding!” Giving them a high price doesn’t change the reasons you didn’t want to do it. Maybe it was really far away. Maybe it would be so time-consuming, that it would take away from your other clients. Or, maybe they’re just not nice people and you didn’t connect with them. If you give them a high price, and they accept it, those reasons didn’t go away. You’ll just likely end up regretting taking it, while you toil away on a wedding you didn’t want to do. The money is not going to make up for that.

I was doing an event in Ireland recently, and I asked the attendees to let me know if any of them got a new lead, during the event. A DJ, who had come over from the UK for the event, told me that he just got a new inquiry through his website. I asked him to read it to us. He didn’t sound very excited while reading it, and I asked him why. She was 2½ – hours away from him, in an area where he doesn’t usually get inquiries. He had just won a prestigious award in the UK, and figured that she had seen that, and that’s why she reached out (just conjecture on his part, of course).

Your attitude will come through

I asked how he was going to reply, and he said “I don’t really care if I get it, or not, being 2½ – hours away.” I asked him “Do you want the sale, or not?” He said he could go either way. I asked him again “Do you want the sale, or not?” He said “I’d only do it for my full fee.” I told him that he hadn’t even gotten to that point, yet. However, if he wasn’t interested, then tell her he’s not available. If he is interested, then let’s answer this together. His attitude when writing the reply is very important. If you’ve seen me present on this topic, read my books, or heard a webinar or read my articles here, you know that tone and energy comes through in written conversations.

So, he replied to her, and she replied back. He gave her a price range. She indicated that the top of the range was too high for her, and asked if he had something for less. He asked for a 5- minute phone call the following morning, which they had, and he booked her for his full fee (the bottom of the range he had given her). He was happy, and so was she. Had he written his original response, it’s possible she would have seen that he was blasé about getting the sale, and she’d find someone who was as excited as she.

Don’t rush the process, just because you’re busy

When I do sales training, I like to look at the actual digital conversations of my clients, businesses just like yours. Very often I see conversations that try to rush the process, either by asking too many questions at once, sending lots of attachments, answering questions they haven’t asked yet, and more. When I ask why they’re including so much information, the reason is often because they’re so busy with other tasks, they don’t feel they have the time to have a few, or a lot of back and forth, short conversations. Sound familiar? I’ll bet it does. What do you want, when you’re the customer?

I get it, I really do. However, when you’re the customer, and you email a business about something you need, what do you want? Don’t you want to have a conversation with a real person? A real conversation, not a data dump of information. Not lots of PDFs, or even one PDF, especially if you can’t easily read it on your phone. Don’t you want to know that someone is taking an interest in solving your problem, or getting you to the end result that you want? Of course, you do, and so do I. It’s not their problem that you’re busy. Yes, we like to do business with the popular companies, there’s a certain reassurance. However, I’d rather do business with someone who takes the time to have a conversation with me, than someone who copies and pastes the same information to me, that they do for everyone else. We all like to think that we’re unique.

Can you afford to lose one sale?

How full is your calendar? Can you afford to lose one sale? What would that cost you? It’s probably already happened. It happens to all of us, sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes it’s not. Some of the reasons are beyond our control. If they book someone who’s half your price, they didn’t see the value in hiring you. It’s going to happen. If they book someone who was referred by a friend or relative, oh well. But if they book someone else, for the same, or higher price than you, because you didn’t show them the personal attention that they wanted (and deserved), from their very first contact with you, that’s on you. If you don’t need another sale, more power to you. But that attitude can come back to bite you in the long run. So, do you want the sale, or don’t you? If you do, then treat them the way you’d want to be treated!

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» To Discount or Not to Discount?

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

An often contentious topic among wedding professionals is discounting. Both sides of the debate dig in, deeply, when this question is posed on social media or in forums. Now, as engagement season begins, is the time to dive into this subject, starting with the difference between discounting and negotiating.

Discounting versus negotiating

For me, discounting is fine when it has structure and rules. Meaning everyone who buys the same products or services for equivalent dates will pay the same price and the rules are applied equally to everyone. For instance, if you have three packages and your higher packages, which contain more services, also have the highest discounts, that’s great. If everyone who buys that package pays the same price, then the rules are being applied equally.

On the other hand, negotiating means that two couples who buy the same products or services may pay different prices. Each customer’s ability to negotiate will determine their final price. The challenge with negotiating in today’s digitally connected world is that people can, and will, talk about their discount. If you can’t easily explain to one customer why they paid more than another customer for the same products and services – for instance, an in-season date versus an off-season date – then you’re negotiating, not discounting.

Discounting and negotiating can be part of a pricing strategy, negotiating is just less structured. There are times when I’ll negotiate to get the sale, but it’s the exception, not the rule. I recommend to my consulting clients to offer added value over a discount in price, as it helps to keep integrity in their basic pricing structure. If you’ve ever thrown in an extra product or service to get the sale, you’ve negotiated. Some companies do it on every sale. If you give the same or similar added value services every time, you’re really discounting, not negotiating. If the proportionate value of the added products or services changes with every customer, you’re negotiating.

Which is right for you?

There’s no one answer that’s right for every business. Personally, I prefer discounting over negotiating, as it’s easier to explain to your employees and your customers. I understand that it may not work for all businesses. In my business, as a speaker, sales trainer and consultant, there is no standard price list. Each event and client involves a different set of circumstances (travel, preparation, residual business, etc.). However, when it comes to my physical products (books, CDs, etc.), discounts make sense. For example, when I have a booth at a trade show or event, I’ll have my books and CDs, and usually offer an event discount. Many times I’ll be asked for an even lower price, and I’ll thank them and say that the listed prices are already discounted. Then I’ll ask if they want to pay with cash or credit. Asking for a discount is a buying signal, so always ask them for the sale when they ask for a discount.

Don’t fight the power

One of the keys to having pricing power is when the customer wants you, specifically you, to do their wedding or event. You’re not available anywhere else, at any price. If they don’t perceive any difference between you and another company with a lower price, the lower price will win. If they can tell the difference and want you to be their planner, or caterer, or officiant, they have to pay your price.

Get something of value in return

If you’re going to discount or negotiate, try to get something of value in return. If you only lower your price, you’re giving away profit. The products and services will cost you the same, but you’re getting paid less for them. Whether it’s getting a bigger deposit, being paid in full now, taking away services, or a higher guaranteed minimum guest count, make them a partner. If you’re the only one giving, they’ll keep taking. When they want to stop giving, they’ll stop asking.

They’ll be back

Many customers will shop around and find a lower price, which isn’t hard to do these days. If they do find a lower price and they still come back to you, they’re signaling that they can tell a difference, whether in your products or services or in the way you’ve provided a better customer experience – or both. That’s an indication that you have pricing power.

They may ask you to match the lower price, but you shouldn’t have to in order to get the sale. If they felt the other company would provide just as good products or services and customer experience, they wouldn’t have come back to you. The fact that they’re coming back shows that they like you better. Always thank them for coming back. After all, if price was the most important factor, you’d be out of the running.

Price doesn’t determine outcome

Sure, sometimes the lower price will win. A line I often use is “If price is the most important factor when choosing your (photographer, band, dress, speaker, etc.) then I’m probably not the best choice for your event.” Change the discussion from pricing to outcomes. There are many wedding and event professionals who don’t charge enough, whether by choice or out of fear.

Do I have to offer a discount to get the sale?

Whether you decide to offer a discount or not is a personal decision and part of your personal brand. There are many very successful businesses that offer discounts. Sometimes it’s due to competitive pressures, and sometimes it’s to encourage a higher sale. Packages are a great way to display discounts and encourage a higher average sale.

What’s the right answer for your business?

I’d have to know a lot more details to answer that. But when discounting becomes the reason that couples book you instead of them wanting only you to do their wedding or event, you risk diluting your brand. When they’re choosing you mostly on price, it’s easy for someone else to come along and undercut your price. So, discount or negotiate, it’s up to you – but be careful not to get caught up selling the discount, instead of selling your brand.

alan bergWeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» Ask for the Sale and Book More Weddings

ask for the sale

Photo by BHP Imaging

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

I’m just getting back from another great Wedding MBA, and my last presentation there was a WedTalk called “The Closer.” The underlying theme of this 15-minute presentation was these four words: Ask for the sale. While it seems obvious, this is the place where many, if not most, wedding and event professionals drop the ball. Even if you’re listening well, presenting the outcomes and results of choosing you, and showing the value of paying your price, you still have to finish the job. As we are approaching engagement season, there’s no better time to brush up on your sales approach.

You’re already on their short-list
By the time you get to have a conversation with them, whether digital, on the phone or in person, they already think you’re a good fit. They’ve seen your storefront, seen your photos and videos and read your reviews. These steps were all buying signals. Then they sent you a message through WeddingWire messaging, or went to your website, liked what they saw, and messaged you from there. This, too is a buying signal, and the first one you saw.

After continuing that conversation with you, at some point you need to ask for the sale. If they weren’t interested, the conversation would be over. As long as they’re still sitting in the chair, or talking on the phone, or replying to your emails and texts, they’re still interested. They need ‘what’ you do. That’s why they started their search for someone in your market and category. They did their filtering and you made the cut to get an inquiry (that’s the short-list). You should be assuming that they will buy from you.

When and how to ask for the sale
You should be asking for the sale at the points where you see, and hear, the buying signals. If they were referred to you, by another couple, or another wedding professional, that’s a great indicator of interest. However, just because their friends loved you, doesn’t mean you’ll make the same connection with them.

Ask them: “When we do the flowers (or music, ceremony, food, photos, video, etc.) for your wedding, what would you like to be the same as your friends, and what would you like us to do differently?” Notice that you should ask ‘when’, not ‘if.’ If they start to passionately describe what they want, you can continue with: “That sounds great, I can’t wait to start working on those details. Should we get your date reserved, so we can move on to choosing your (colors, menu, package, etc.)?”

Answer their objection, then ask for the sale
If they pose an objection, address it, then ask for the sale. Objections are buying signals, because if they weren’t interested, they wouldn’t present an objection, they’d just leave, or go radio-silent on you. For example, what if they say: “You’re the first one we’ve seen.” To me, that’s a statement, not an objection. Here’s what you might say:

“I totally understand. A lot of our couples make us the first stop, because of our reviews, reputation, and recommendations from friends and other wedding professionals. They, like you, already think that we’re the right fit, before even coming in. Once they see, like you have, how great we can make your wedding, many of them decide to make sure we’ll be available to do their weddings by reserving us. And, there are so many other vendors to choose, that all need to have your actual date. Should we get your date reserved so you can move on to the other decisions?”

Here’s another example: “That’s more than we wanted to spend.” You might reply with:

“I know how things can add up quickly for a wedding. We see it all the time. For the particular services/products that you want, to make your wedding everything you’ve imagined, and more, this is the best price. Should we get that reserved for you now?

Help them buy
Customers want, and need you to help them buy. As I said earlier, they need ‘what’ you do, or you would never have gotten the inquiry. You need to show them that they were right to put you on their short-list. You need to help them see the value in choosing specifically you, and your team. And then, you need to help them get the results that only you can provide, by asking for the sale.

alan berg

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» Pricing Do’s and Don’ts

pricing

Photo by Keren Sarai Photography

Receiving a question about pricing can be daunting and tricky to navigate. On the bright side, receiving a price inquiry is a definite sign of interest and should be exciting! When a couple makes an inquiry regarding price, you should see it as a buying signal rather than a red flag. If they are reaching out, it means that they’ve vetted you and you’ve made it to the final round, so making an inquiry is simply the next step for them.

Education Expert Alan Berg shared some of his do’s and don’ts of pricing in our July Premium Webinar last week (Premium Members can watch the full recording in their account Education Center). We’ve pulled together a list of his best tips to help equip you for those often-dreaded pricing questions when they hit your inbox.

DO’S

  • Do reply as quickly as possible to an inquiry. If you respond to a potential client within 5 minutes, rather than 30, you are 100x more likely to connect with that lead. Why 5 minutes? That’s fast! By responding in 5 minutes, you can almost ensure that the person is still mentally and physically in the same place rather than having moved on to other things.
  • Do reply on the same platform that they used for their inquiry. The best practice here is to give couples all the possible ways to contact you, let them choose what works best for them, and then promptly reply on that channel.
  • Do acknowledge a question about price, don’t dodge it. If you need more information to give an accurate price, that’s completely fine! Just be upfront and transparent about it. Let them know that you are going to get them an answer, you just need to gather a bit more information about their big day first! Then, make sure to ask questions to start gathering that information to show that you are taking the necessary steps towards getting them that answer.
  • Do provide some pricing information on your website or WeddingWire Storefront. Couples are likely to distort their budget or may have a skewed sense of it (couples tend to underestimate their wedding costs by 40%!). Ideally, your pricing information would be available to them on your website or WeddingWire Storefront before they even reach out. 88% of couples want to see pricing of some sort before getting in contact with a vendor. That means you could be cut from the short list before you even have the chance to talk to them, so don’t hold out.

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» Millennials: They’re Not All the Same

millennials

 

 

 

I was recently preparing for a new presentation, and among the other interesting information I found, there were several references to articles about millennials. One of them struck a familiar chord, which was that there’s a tendency to generalize about millennials. Whether it’s their communication skills, their shopping style or their work ethic, millennials are the focus of a lot of bashing, for lack of a better word.

There are two, really good reasons why we shouldn’t be bashing millennials: 1) stereotyping an entire generation is short-sighted and prejudicial, and 2) they’re our customers and employees. Saying that all millennials are one thing, or another, is like saying that Gen-X are all the same, or all Baby Boomers are the same. It just isn’t true. Are millennials different than Gen-X or Baby Boomers? Yes, of course, in the same way that Gen-Xers are different than their parents and grandparents. Each generation grows up a product of its environment, media, technology and more.

Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives

I’ve said this before, but I’m a digital immigrant. I started selling wedding advertising “B.I.” – before the internet. No, I’m not a dinosaur, or tech averse. Just the opposite. I love technology, and use it throughout my business (says the guy wearing an Apple Watch, listening to music on my iPhone 7 Plus, and writing this on a new MacBook Pro). Technology doesn’t make me sell better, but it does allow me to connect with my audience in a way that wasn’t available when I started. That doesn’t make it better or worse. It just is, what it is. Things are always evolving, are you?

I know lots of millennials who are ambitious, entrepreneurial and have great attitudes. I also know lots of Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers, who constantly complain about how lazy millennials are and how much easier it was, back in the good old days (whenever that was). The disconnect comes when we pre-judge a prospect (hence the word prejudice). Each customer is entitled to fair treatment. If we assume they’re going to judge us, only on price, we’ll likely do and say things that will attract that kind of behavior. For instance, not putting price on your website, at all, will encourage them to either ask about price, or leave without giving you a chance.

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» How to Have Better Client Conversations

In the life of a busy wedding professional, sometimes the majority of your day will be spent communicating with clients. Whether you’re responding to an initial inquiry or going back and forth on the little details of an event with an existing client, take note of your tone and approach to communication at every turn. Even though you may have a million other things to do, it’s important to make every client feel like a star through the entire process!

To help you have better client conversations from start to finish, we put together a few tips:

Connect from the get-go

While you might have many appointments during the course of a regular day, each client needs to feel a personal connection with you and your business. Before you start going over the details of the couples’ wedding or event, you’ll need to establish a connection with the couple. Getting to know them a little more can inform your decisions throughout the rest of the conversation (pro tip: find out early on what communication methods they prefer, and follow suit!). You should also take the time to talk a little about yourself so they understand more about you and why your business best fits their needs.

Take it slow

This tip goes hand in hand with the point above; don’t rush into your sales pitch or make an client feel like they’re interrupting your day. Give yourself enough buffer of time for every conversation, and allow them ample time to talk about themselves and the event. Listen carefully to what the couple says so you can remember the little details, and repeat some of those details to them in the course of conversation so they know you are paying attention.

Anticipate Indecisiveness 

We all know that couples are often indecisive when it comes to making choices about their wedding, and they have every right to be – they’re dealing with a lot of stress and pressure. Don’t take it personally if they want time after a conversation to think about it, or if they send you more questions or request a change in product or service. Take it one step at a time and remind them that you are always here to help.

Clarify next steps

At the end of any conversation, be ready to articulate your plan of action and/or clearly outline next steps to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Repeat the items you are responsible for, and remind them of anything they need to provide you to keep the process moving forward. Send a follow-up email to recap your conversation and show them that they will always be able to depend on you to follow-through and keep things organized.

The “Golden Rule”

The “Golden Rule” for successful client communications is the old adage, treat others as you would like to be treated. Most people don’t like to be hounded by a salesperson or relentlessly emailed or called. People want to do business with other real people that they can connect with. By following the tips above, you’ll be more personable in your client conversations and you’ll maintain that connection throughout the whole wedding process. Every happy client is another chance for a 5-star review, so start making your clients happy by putting your best foot forward!

 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2014 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy.

» How Should You Politely Tell A Client ‘I Don’t Do That’?

It’s a near universal fact of life as a creative professional that sometimes your taste and unique skills just don’t line up with the trend of the moment. So, first off, you’re not alone. Trends can be set pretty arbitrarily sometimes—a celebrity is seen in some wildly off-kilter style and suddenly everyone in their sphere of influence wants that look. Other times, pure necessity or genuine concern or simply aesthetics dictate a trend. Whatever the reason, there might be times when the wedding trend of the moment isn’t something you feel comfortable doing. Maybe you’re a baker who doesn’t believe that naked cakes are a good representation of your skills. Or, perhaps, you’re a florist who just hasn’t mastered floral crowns, and therefore doesn’t feel comfortable offering them as a product just yet.

All of this brings us to the potential client request. How should you politely tell a potential client, “Thanks, but that trend really isn’t up my alley”? Here are some suggestions.

Be Very Gracious. We’re sure you are always thankful for inquiries, but it never hurts to have a reminder that every inquiry from a potential client means you’re one of a few in the running for that couple’s business. For that reason, start any response with appreciation for their time and a sincere thank you. Regardless of whether you end up becoming a part of their wedding team, you’re learning something about new people and expanding your network, so yay!

Don’t Insult Their Taste. Aesthetics and personal taste are in the eyes of the beholder, so just because you personally don’t stock lucite chairs, that doesn’t mean that the correct way to address a potential client is a diatribe about how tacky you think they are. Same goes for skimpy wedding gowns, multi-colored wedding hair or any other client request that might run afoul of your personal taste.

Be Transparent. Of course, you want to salvage the sale, even if the client is gung-ho about 12 flower crowns for the wedding party, or if the couple insists on a naked cake that you don’t like doing. But, it’s a great business practice to be honest and transparent with your potential clients. For that reason, in the most polite way possible, just tell the truth. However, don’t stop at, “I apologize, but naked cakes aren’t a part of my offerings.” Don’t be afraid to have a quick explanation for the why. This way, potential clients see this is a thoughtful decision on your part, and not just an excuse for not doing something you don’t like to do.

Offer an Alternative. Now comes the time when you want to rescue the sale. It’s important to stay abreast of wedding trends so if this moment comes, you have enough knowledge of other, similar trends to offer up as an alternative. For example, while naked cakes enjoyed a moment in the sun, “nearly naked” cakes are a happy medium for some that are created in the spirit of the trend while not being such an exact interpretation. As huge trends take off in your service category, if you feel that they’re not something you’re comfortable creating, try to think of your version or an alternative that might satisfy some clients.

» How to Set Your Prices Based on Your Value

I was just at the Photo Booth Expo, and as you can imagine, there were many, many different types of equipment there. Features varied, as did prices. I was speaking with a couple that owns seven photo booths, and they were considering a new mirror booth. There were a couple of different ones they were considering, but one was a lot more expensive than the other. While the quality of the more expensive one was evident, they were torn on which one to buy.

 

Customers buy value, not price. 

My advice? No matter which one they decide to buy, they should charge the same price to rent it out. My statement confused them, as the more expensive booth was more than double the price to buy. Customers aren’t going to have them side-by-side. They’re not going to know what you didn’t buy. They’re only going to know what you bring to their wedding or event. And, most importantly, they’re not paying you for the equipment. They’re paying you for the outcome, which is the fun their guests are going to have at their wedding or event.

This is true for every product and service. While you need to know your costs, you charge for the outcome. Photographers and videographers have many choices of equipment. Most couples wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between photos shot with a Canon camera versus a Nikon. DJs and bands have many choices of equipment. Most customers couldn’t tell the difference between JBL speakers and Bose. Caterers have infinite choices of kitchen equipment, yet the customer gives no thought to how the food is cooked, just that it wows their guests.

 

How do you set your prices?

When you’re deciding how much to charge for your products and services, how do you go about it? Do you take your costs and charge a multiple (3X cost, 5X cost)? Do you even know your costs? Have you taken into consideration your overhead (rent, utilities, insurance, etc.)? Whether it’s envelopes, toilet paper or paper clips, the money to pay for that has to come from your gross sales.

 

If you don’t value your time, no one will.

Too many wedding pros undervalue their time—do you? Do you know how much time it takes to perform your services? Have you included the time it takes to answer emails, take phone calls, and meet in-person (or virtually)? I was sitting with a DJ who was lamenting to me about another inquiry that asked for his “5-hour package.” We started talking about how much time he actually spends on each wedding, from the initial inquiry through any appointments, planning meetings/calls, editing music for each introduction and their first dance, planning their playlist (and do-not-play list) – then the packing up and travel time to their wedding, the wedding itself and then packing up, the time getting home and unpacking. He figured that it was between 35 and 40 hours.

How much is your 5-hour package?

So, I suggested that the next time someone asks about his 5-hour package, he reply, something like this: “Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to show you how much fun I can make your wedding. I’d love to pack your dance floor, and have your guests saying it was the best wedding they’ve ever attended. I don’t have a 5-hour package, but I’d love to tell you about my 35-hour package – the 5 hours you and your guests will see – and the other 30 hours that I’ll be investing, before your wedding, to ensure its success, which you can see from our dozens of fantastic reviews.” 

Are you charging only for the time you spend at their wedding? Or, are you taking into account all of the other time you’re going to invest in them? Too many wedding and event pros set their prices based upon what someone else is charging. How do you know their prices are correct? You don’t. Do you know their costs? No. Do you have the same overhead? No. What if their prices are too low (as they often are)? Don’t chase them to the bottom.

Over the years, I’ve challenged many of you to justify your current prices. Can you raise you prices now? Not sure? Ask yourself this: If your prices were 5% higher, last year, how many of your customers would have said “No”? If the answer is none, or very few, your prices are too low. You’re undervaluing yourself. When you get to the point where some are saying “No,” but there would be others who would say, “Yes,” to the higher price, then you can still raise your prices. When you get to the point where too many would be saying “No,” and others would also say, “No,” then you’ve gone too far.

 

Raising your rates isn’t as difficult as it seems.

Early this year I got an email from a wedding pro: “I put one of your suggestions into action right after the seminar, and increased my servicing fees by $15 per hour, and NOT ONE PERSON objected. Many thanks from my family, because it really was that easy to put an extra $1500 in our family pocket, which means winter holiday in Mexico, NOT Vancouver Island LOL.” Another wedding pro, a DJ, doubled his prices during one of my presentations, and the next day he sold two weddings at the higher prices! He hadn’t raised his prices in years, and had gotten comfortable selling at the lower price, because it was easy. Now, he finds it just as easy to sell at the higher price.

 

How much money are you leaving on the table?

Every dollar you raise your prices is extra profit. Conversely, every dollar you discount your prices is profit you’re giving away. Take a good, hard look at your pricing structure, then ask yourself those questions about how many would say. “No” to higher prices. Next, see how much more profit you can gain. I look forward to hearing your stories of success!

 

alan bergThis article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20
years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com

» 5 Ways You’re Losing The Sale

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

Getting a sales inquiry is a huge buying signal. By the time you get an email—or contact form, LiveChat, text or phone call—your potential couples have already done most of their filtering. They’ve put you on their short list. They’ve started with all of the possible choices and narrowed it down to a small group of potential companies in your service category—including you. 

At any point, we can either make it to the next round or be dropped. The thing is, we rarely know that we’ve been dropped from their list, because we didn’t know we were on it, yet. It isn’t until couples reach out to us that we know we’re even in the running. Therefore, once we get that inquiry, most of our competitors have fallen off the list. When you get that inquiry, even if it says nothing more than “Are you available and how much do you charge?,”that’s a strong buying signal. As far as I’m concerned, at that point it’s your sale to lose. And, it’s a sale most others in your market and category will never get.

So, here are five ways you’re losing that sale:

Trying to force a phone call.

If they wanted to call you, you’d have a phone message, not an email (text, chat, etc.). Unless their email says “please call me,” reply via the same method by which they’ve reached out to you.

Sending auto-replies that don’t add value.

When someone emails you, whether a prospect you’ve never connected with, or a current/past client, they want a reply from a person, not an auto-reply. If you’re out of town at a wedding, a conference or for vacation, it’s perfectly fine to have an out of office message informing your clients of that. That’s information couples need to know.

However, if they email you and get something like “Thank you for your message. It’s very important to us. We’ll get back to you in 24-48 hours,” that’s a statement of the obvious. They expect a reply within 24 hours. According to WedInsights: “Over 80% of couples use emails to inquire about a vendor’s product or service and expect to hear back within 24 hours, if not sooner.” Telling them that you’ll reply within the timeframe that they expect adds no value.

How do you feel when you’re the consumer, and you receive an auto-reply like that? Do you think “Oh goody, I got an auto-reply!” Or, are you no better off than before you emailed? The only time you should use an auto-reply is when it adds value to the conversation. People want a reply from a real person.

Sending attachments and brochures in your first email.

Some of you are puzzled now. They may have even asked for you to send information, so why would I be saying not to send attachments? It’s simple. About 70% of WeddingWire consumer emails are opened on mobile devices, according to WedInsights. Your couples are reading email on their phones and your attachments aren’t formatted for their phone. Your website may be responsive and adapt to their screen, but your PDFs aren’t. Yes, they will open. But, they will open with really small print. Many of you use the file from your printed brochures, which seems like a good idea—until you see that double-page spread on a smartphone screen.

Your brochures aren’t going to close the sale. They aren’t going to create a relationship with your brides and grooms. You have to do that.

Writing way too much in your first reply.

When you get an inquiry, especially if it’s on your contact form, it’s likely to not have much information. In email, as in person, you should mirror your customer. If they write a short message, your answer should be short. If they write a long message, they’re signaling that your answer can be long. Many are planning their weddings from work, and they can’t take the time to read your long reply. When you get a long email from someone, don’t you often put it off until later? But the short ones, they get read right away, don’t they? Keep it short, until they signal otherwise with a long reply.

Not asking a question at the end of your message.

If you want to get a reply to your message, ask one question. Don’t ask everything you need to know, all at once. That’s not how a conversation goes. With real conversation, you ask a question, then wait for the answer (which is why my new sales book is called Shut Up and Sell More Weddings & Events”). If you ask a question in your email and then write another paragraph or two, you’ve buried it, so couples aren’t likely to respond. If you end your email with a period or exclamation point, that’s the end of the conversation. If you ask them five questions, they’re likely to not answer them all. Ask one question, then wait for an answer. Then, ask another question, the way you would if you were on the phone or in person.

If you’re losing many sales based on price, then you should consider putting pricing information on your site and storefront. Most couples want to see pricing before even reaching out to a vendor, according to WedInsights. A realistic price range is my favorite, but not putting anything will invite everyone to inquire. If you have something for everyone, that’s great. But if you don’t, then putting a price range will help them filter. Just remember that every time you get an inquiry you should be happy. That’s a strong buying signal, even when the couple asks about price (which couples often do, because they don’t know what else to ask). Help prospective couples continue their journey towards hiring you by being the first—and best—at replying and having a conversation.

» Focus on Your Earnings, Not Savings

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

focus-on-earnings-not-savingsAs we approach the end of another year, it’s often time to reconcile our finances. We need to get our books in order, so we can do our taxes (I know, yuk). Then comes the scramble to find the deductions you qualified for over the year. While doing so, it becomes easy to focus on our expenses. For some of us, it’s time to re-evaluate those expenses as we prepare for the coming year.

These insights will help you get a handle on your financial planning needs and help you take control as you plan for the future!

Expenses vs. Investments

The danger in focusing only on expenses is that you can lose focus on the bigger picture. The only money you can save is the money you spend. It’s a finite amount. You can’t make all of your expenses disappear. You have to buy gas for your car, and pay for telephone service, internet connection, electricity, and more. But those are expenses, not investments. Expenses are things that you pay for, where you don’t expect any return other than what you bought (gas, electricity, phone service, food, etc.).

Investments, on the other hand, are things that may, and the operative word is ‘may’, provide a return that’s greater than the value paid. When you invest in a new employee, you would hope to get more value than what you pay them. When you invest in a new website, you would hope to get more value than the cost of the website. When you invest in advertising and marketing, you would hope to get back more than the value that you pay. When you invest in a new location, you would hope to get back more than you invest.

Opportunity Cost

What you need to focus on is getting the best return. The opportunity cost of not investing is the money you could make if you did. Sometimes, that means doing more than just paying the bill. For instance, if you buy a booth at a wedding show, and don’t take the time to design your booth correctly, and invest in great email/direct mail follow up, and actually do the follow up, you’ll never get the most return from that investment. Similarly, if you take a new office/warehouse space, build it out and decorate it properly, but don’t invest in marketing to let people know about it, you’ll never see the full return.

Go Big, or Go Home

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» Why Craigslist is Not Your Competitor

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

Just the other day, I heard yet another wedding pro bring up Craigslist, lamenting how easy it is to get into his industry (in this case, be a DJ). The thing is, he’s at the top end of the price spectrum in his market. Why would he think that people charging a fraction of what he’s charging are his competition? It’s an easy trap to fall into. Theoretically, anyone who does what you do is a competitor. In the real world, though, that simply isn’t true.

Why Craigslist is Not Your CompetitorIs there really a difference?
Technically, Rolls Royce competes with Kia, because their products are both capable of transporting people from point A to point B. Of course, we know that isn’t true. While a Kia buyer might dream about one day owning a Rolls Royce, the opposite isn’t so. People buy Rolls Royce cars for reasons beyond basic transportation needs. The same is true when couples are shopping for their DJ, or photographer, or caterer, or dress, or wedding planner; they need what you do. But do they need and want you to do it?

Marketing thought leader Seth Godin suggests that you don’t need everyone to get what you do. You only need a small portion of the total market to really understand the specific value you bring. You can’t get them all, and you probably don’t want them all. That DJ doesn’t want the couple that only has $500 to spend on their wedding entertainment. Sure, they’re entitled to have a fun wedding, with great music – he’s just not their guy. Maybe someone else is; maybe they’ll use an iPhone. Either way, he didn’t lose that gig. It was never his to get.

What about you?
Are you wasting time, energy, and resources worrying about every other company in your market, professional or not? You simply can’t control those variables. The barrier to entry, for most wedding and event businesses, is very low. Many, if not most, don’t require a license or certification. Other than those that require a substantial physical presence (caterer, venue, dress shop, etc.), the monetary investment is very low as well. You don’t need the most expensive camera to take great photos; you need a great wedding photographer behind that camera.

Experience can’t be bought – it has to be earned. That said, experience is not a guarantee of success. Being in business for 10 years doesn’t guarantee that couple a great outcome from you. Have you done 5 weddings each year of those 10 years? Or, have you done 50 weddings each year? Have you updated your technical skills, as well as your business and customer service skills? There are many moving parts when it comes to providing a successful wedding outcome.

Who is your real competition?
If it’s not everyone who does what you do, then who are your real competitors? To figure this out, you have to understand how your target market shops for your product/service. What are the things that they value the most? Their priorities drive their budget, and fear is a major factor when making a big decision. What are they afraid might happen if they make the wrong decision? If they’re afraid that you can’t or won’t deliver the outcome they want, they’ll pay more to someone else for the peace of mind. Those are the times you scratch your head, wondering why they chose a higher-priced supplier, when you felt you could do everything they wanted.

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» 5 Ways to Handle Losing a Sale

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

In the perfect world of butterflies and rainbows, we’d close every sale at the exact price we want – but we don’t live in a perfect world. There are no trophies for second place when it comes to winning a sale. You either get the sale or you don’t, so what do you do if you don’t get the sale? I’d like to give you a little perspective from my many years working in sales management and, more importantly, from working with wedding pros like you.

5 Ways to Handle Losing a SaleHere are five ways to handle losing a sale:

  1. Rejection is in the eyes of the beholder. When you don’t get a sale you might feel like you’ve been rejected, but that’s not usually the case. They just liked / trusted / believed someone else more. Isn’t that semantics? I prefer to call it optimism. When it comes to choosing the perfect pro in your category, there can only be one winner. That doesn’t make all of the others losers; they may like a few of you enough to hire you, but ultimately they have to choose one.How many weddings do you do each year? That’s how many times they’ve chosen you and not another wedding pro. Are you the winner? Yes, but you may not have been their only choice. Had you not been available they would have chosen someone else, someone who is very capable, and nice, and likely at a similar price point. So, while this isn’t like elementary where everyone seems to get a trophy just for showing up, there’s a winner and then there’s everyone else.
  1. You often lose the sale before you even had a chance. Often you lose a sale before you even knew that they were looking for someone in your category. Some couples are looking for you in places where you don’t have a presence (a certain wedding show, Instagram, Pinterest, their wedding site of choice, etc.). To them you don’t exist, but that was your choice; you chose not to be at that wedding show, or you chose to forgo an Instagram account, or you chose to take the free listing instead of paying for the more visible listing. I’ve often said that if you want others to invest in you, you have to invest in yourself first.

Other times they make it through to your website but leave without contacting you. They’re a legitimate prospect, but you lost them, often without even knowing they had shown interest (going to your website is a very big buying signal). Keeping your website’s functionality and content up to date is critical for plugging this hole.

  1. If they wanted to talk on the phone they would have called. If you’re getting most of your inquiries through email these days (and who isn’t?), then you need to make sure you’re learning to have better email conversations. If many of your email conversations stop after the first exchange, that’s your cue to change the way you communicate. Their first email is likely to ask about price, but that makes sense because they don’t know how to shop for your product or service. You also may not have pricing on your website. According to a WeddingWire survey, 88% of couples are looking for pricing information before they reach out to you. So, if you have no pricing information on your website, you’re encouraging them to ask about price. If your first response is trying to push them to a phone call you’re going to lose many of them. Why? If they wanted to talk on the phone they would have called you.

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