» How to Set and Measure Your Business Goals

I received a call from a client’s sales manager asking me how many calls I expected my sales reps to make. I told him that throughout my sales career in this industry, beginning when I was an independent ad sales rep (commission only), then a publisher (with 3 sales reps), to a Regional Sales Director (16 reps) and then VP of Sales (over 50 reps), I never measured phone call volume. He seemed surprised, as that’s been one of the metrics he’d been judged by as a sales rep for most of his career, which is why he’s been using that as a benchmark for his own team.

I explained that, at least to me, measuring call volume was a distraction, as call volume was not my goal. More sales was the goal, so that’s what I measured. I never asked my sales reps for call reports, or used systems to measure their call volume… that is, unless they weren’t making their sales numbers. If the production wasn’t there, then I wanted to know what they were doing. Interestingly, my top performing reps often made the fewest calls. They just had more productive calls. My lower-performing reps were often making lots of calls, but they weren’t going anywhere.

What’s your benchmark?
What are you measuring in your business? Is it in alignment with what you want to achieve? Sales volume is certainly a good measurement, but profitability is a better one. It’s easy to increase the number of sales you make. Just lower your prices until everyone says Yes! – I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I’m looking to achieve. What about sales dollars? That’s a better benchmark, but as with sales volume, it is an incomplete measurement.

You may decide to spend more time with your family. But if you have your eyes glued to your phone while you’re with them, what did you really accomplish? The key to accomplishing your goals is to set better ones. Make them lofty, but realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure, set yourself up for success. A wall just a foot above the ground is an easy bar to walk over. One twenty feet high is nearly impossible one to surpass. Definitely reach higher, but also have a realistic plan to get there.

Measuring conversion
I often get asked about conversion percentages – the amount of leads you should be converting to a sale. However, these numbers vary from business to business. If one wedding pro’s website has clear pricing information, while a competitor has none, the second business may end up fielding many inquiries who can’t afford them, artificially increasing their inquiry numbers, and decreasing their conversion percentage. If you really want to measure conversion, you need to be looking at how many visitors come to your Storefront or website and then take the next step to make an inquiry, or click through to your site from your Storefront and then make an inquiry. That’s going to be really hard to track unless you have very good website tracking software and know how to properly read it.

That said, you can track inquiries to conversations, and conversations to either appointments or sales and appointments to sales. You need to keep good records. The first rule of computers that I learned was the acronym GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage out. If someone makes an inquiry, but you’re already booked on that date, and they can’t/won’t change their date, that was still a good inquiry. Unless you have an availability calendar, so they can check your date before reaching out, those are valid inquiries. We know from WedInsights that nearly 90% of couples are looking for price before they reach out to you, so displaying some kind of pricing guidelines is beneficial to getting better quality inquiries. And yes, I know that many of you don’t want to display pricing, but when you’re the customer, aren’t you looking for the price?

Inquiries, conversations or sales, oh, my!
So, what should you measure? Start with the easiest things to measure – the inquiries that come in through your website, Storefront, direct emails, social messaging, etc. Then calculate the number of inquiries that turn into meaningful conversations. The last conversion is to measure how many of those conversations become sales directly, or lead to more detailed meetings that then turn into a sale.

You’ll want to track the conversion from each source separately to see where your best leads are coming ‘through’. Notice I didn’t say where they’re coming ‘from.’ The reason is that you don’t get business ‘from’ your website, you get business ‘through’ it. They had to come ‘from’ somewhere to get to your website. Your couples, just as when you’re the customer, make many stops along the way to get to you. You’ll probably never know all of them, just the last one or two, and if they also were referred to you by someone they know, you may get that as well. It’s an inexact science, at best.

What’s the trend?
Reporting like this is most helpful by watching trends, rather than discrete numbers. You need to see how these conversions are trending over time so you can have visibility to improvements and degradations. If you change something on your Storefront like adding pricing, or updating photos and videos, or getting a higher placement, did it make an impact on your inquiries and click-throughs? If you updated your website, or better yet, built a new one, did it affect your inquiries? However, don’t forget that you get what you measure, so keep an eye on your sales and profitability numbers as that’s really what you want. Higher sales volume without higher profit is a poor outcome. It’s nice to say you did more events, but not if it’s not flowing to the bottom line. As I’ve said before, I want to feed your family, not your ego!

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.

» Should You Focus On Volume Or Profit?

Photography by StopGoLove Film+Photo

In my conversations with wedding pros, around the world, the topic of how many weddings/events a business should do each year is a recurrent one and there’s certainly no one answer that’s right for every business. So many factors will affect both your ability and desire to do more weddings/events. If you’re just starting out, and maybe still holding down a full-time job outside the industry, there’s certainly a limit to how many weddings you can effectively do. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re well-established, maybe even looking towards retirement, you too may be looking to do a smaller number of weddings/events.

Growth strategy

But what about the businesses who are on the growth curve? There are different ways to grow your business. One is to grow the volume and another is to grow your average sale. Given the choice between those two, I would choose to grow your average sale first, so you earn more from each wedding/event. Then, if you choose to increase your volume, you’ll earn that much more. Before you decide to do more weddings/events, think about why you want to do more. If it’s to impress your industry friends, or as one wedding pro told me, to be seen as a major player in his market/category, make sure you’re also increasing profit. I’ve often said in my consulting that I don’t want to feed your ego, if we’re not also feeding your family.

Keep your eye on the profit

Regardless of which way you go, keep an eye on your profitability. Growing your top line is easy if you’re giving it away. Growing your bottom line is the better long-term strategy. Take a close look at your costs, the time it takes you to complete an event, and your pricing. Costs are relatively easy to find. You should know what the products, ingredients and raw materials cost for each event. Be sure to include everything you use, whether it comes off your warehouse shelf, or your kitchen shelf.

Time is something that seems to be harder for wedding pros to quantify. You invest time with each wedding/event from the moment you get an inquiry. How much time do you invest replying to their emails, calls and in meetings? It’s not just the time on the day of their wedding, it’s also all of the time before and after. For some, particularly videographers, there’s more time spent after the wedding than before or during. How much are you getting paid for your time? Would you take a job that paid that hourly wage?

The 40-hour wedding

While I was having dinner with a wedding DJ friend, he received a new inquiry that asked “How much do you charge for a 5-hour wedding?” We can’t blame the couple for the question, it’s the wedding pros who are selling their services that way that create that environment. If wedding pros only value the time they spend at the actual event, and not the time they invest before, and after, then we can’t expect couples to value that other time, either.

When I asked my friend how much time he actually invests in each wedding, he said it was somewhere between 30 and 40 hours. Given that he does a grand entrance, cuts and edits different music for bridal party introductions, displays photos, does a lighting plan and more, that’s a reasonable estimate. If he were to price his services, by the hour, for only 5 hours, his effective hourly rate is actually 1/6 of that. I suggested that he reply by saying “Thanks for reaching out. I’d love to make your wedding amazing, pack your dance floor, and have your friends and family saying it was the best they’ve ever experienced. I don’t have a 5-hour package, but I’d love to tell you about the 35 hours that I’m going to invest in making your wedding great.” – and then ask one low-commitment question.

What’s the value?

So, how should you price your product and services? I recently presented at WeddingWire World in Dallas and asked that very question. Given that many wedding businesses are service businesses (and yes, we can certainly say that ALL are service businesses, even those with tangible products), it’s really about your time, your creativity, designs, and ideas. How do you put a price on those? Do you price based upon what others charge? Do you take your expenses and then mark them up? Or, do you set your prices based upon the value that you are bringing to both your couples and to you and your family. You see, you set the price, your customers determine the value. Regardless of the price you set, if you need to discount to get the sale, then the actual value is the price the customer paid, not the original price.

Giving away profit

Remember that every dollar you discount is profit you gave away. Conversely, every dollar you raise your prices is additional profit you earn… provided the customers are paying the new, higher price. So, the next time you are asked for a discount, ask yourself how much of your profit you want to give away. Your customers are entitled to ask for a discount. When we’re the customer, we have that right as well. You, the business, have a right to say yes, or no. Just ensure that you’re profiting, regardless of your discounting policy. And, if you’d like to see how you can profit, from day 1 in your business, I recommend reading “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz. It’ll change the way you view profit, for the better.

 

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.

 

» Tackling Friendors: When Couples Hire Friends Instead of Wedding Professionals

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

I’m pretty handy with a set of tools, and I’ve often helped out a friend or relative with a repair or home improvement project. In other words, I’ve been a ‘friendor’, have you? A friendor is a friend or relative who performs a service that could have otherwise been provided by paying an individual or business. It happens all the time. Have you ever benefited from the services of a friend or relative? I’ll bet you have. When it works out well, you just smile and move on. When it doesn’t, you have to decide whether to pay someone to complete or fix the job or look to another friendor to do so.

Not all friendors are created equally

While most, or all of us have either been or benefited from this arrangement, not all friendors are the same. Some, like me, aren’t currently professionals in that skill. In my case, I’m not currently a general contractor, although I did work as one earlier in my life. I have the skills to do many of the jobs that a practicing professional would do. So, whether I do something in my house, or for my friend, relative, neighbor or in-law, it will get done at a level on par with at least some of the practicing professionals (maybe better than some, maybe worse).

Have you ever helped a friend or relative with services for which you would normally charge? Many of the folks I’ve met in the industry started out that way. Maybe you were an art student and you took the photos for a friend’s wedding, party, family or new baby. You were skilled in the craft, you just didn’t charge. Did it work out well for both sides (they were happy with your work, and you were happy to give them that gift)?

Learning on the job

Other times, a friendor is learning that craft of skill ‘on the job’, which is to say on the wedding or event. That’s where the trouble can come in. Giving your professional services at no charge still avails the recipient with professional services. Learning how to arrange floral centerpieces, bake and decorate a wedding cake or keep the flow going with the right music should not be happening leading up to, or during a real wedding or event… at least I wouldn’t want it happening on my wedding or event, would you?

Are friendors your competition?

We, in the industry, know all too well that it’s a slippery slope using friendors for a wedding. Being a skilled photographer doesn’t mean you know where to be looking, or what’s going to happen next at a wedding. The skills that make you the envy of your friends in the kitchen at dinner parties, aren’t the same as the ones that you need to create meals for 200 guests, and get them all out quickly, hot and plated the same way. Cooking for 2, or even 12, isn’t the same as cooking for 200.

I previously wrote an article for this blog titled “CraigsList is not your competitor.” If the couple has a very low budget, then you were never a real possibility for them. There will always be lower-priced competitors. As a matter of fact, many of you reading this were the lower-priced competitor when you started. If you were a friendor before becoming a paid professional, were you taking away a possible sale from a pro at that time? Maybe yes, maybe no. I’ve also written and spoken about how we’re all hypocrites for asking about price, or for a discount when we’re the customer, and then complaining when our customers ask first about price, or ask for a discount. We can’t have it both ways. If you’ve ever been, or used a friend/relative instead of paying a professional, you shouldn’t complain when a couple chooses to use one.

And the problem is…?

The problem is not that they use friendors. The problem is when they use friendors and it doesn’t go well: The friend who misses the important photos; the cake that doesn’t look or taste the way they wanted; the friend who stops performing their service and starts acting like a guest. Those are the problems.

There are opportunities to help prevent this. Some businesses have popped up serving the DIY couple and their friendors. Whether it’s selling them the supplies they need, with instructions, teaching courses or giving them an instruction manual/guidebook, some wedding and event pros are servicing this market, helping to minimize the nightmares. Notice I said minimize, and not eliminate. People are people, and many will bite off more than they can chew, get in over their heads and fail miserably. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen to anyone you know.

Now what?

Just as you shouldn’t waste too much energy on trying to sell your services, at your prices, to DIY couples and those who are looking to CraigsList for cheap vendors, don’t waste too much time or energy on those who are choosing friendors. Yes, you can try to educate them. Yes, collect every article, blog and posting you can find from couples who have had horrible experiences with friendors. But you can’t make them read those things and you can’t change their minds if they believe that will never happen to them. Move on and place your efforts in marketing to your real, core audience, improving your website and increasing your sales conversions. That’s a much better use of your time and effort.

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.

» 4 Ways To Respond To Questions About Price

Photo by Rusted Vase Floral Co.

About 88% of couples are looking for price before they even reach out to you. Which makes sense right? No one wants to get excited about a service to then find out it’s out of their budget. Which is why we recommend putting pricing on your website, marketing materials, and Storefront.

However, 44% of wedding professionals say that their prices depend on the individual needs of each customer, making it hard to directly advertise or quote prices. So what are some ways to handle pricing questions in these dependent situations?  

1. Tell them

Many couples bypass vendors who don’t show pricing information for those that do. If you have an exact understanding of what your services or products will cost, simply tell them and ask to move forward by ending with a question like: “Should we reserve that for you?” or “Would you like to schedule a time to visit our venue/see our services?” It might seem unconventional to ask for an appointment in the initial reply, however, if you relayed the details and pricing that was asked for by the couple, they may have all the information necessary to make that decision.

2. Don’t tell them

If you don’t have a singular price, don’t duck the question. Instead explain to them why you can’t give that information just yet by saying something like “I don’t want to leave out anything that’s important to you, or charge you for anything you don’t want or need. So, let me get a few details and then I’ll be able to give you a quote.” Moreover, end with a low commitment question like “Have you secured your venue/ other services yet?” or “Are you having the wedding and reception in the same place?”. This low commitment question can keep the conversation going.

3. Starting price

Giving the starting price of your service is another way to approach the price question. However, it is never recommended to sell from the bottom up, especially if your services or products have a wide range. If a product of yours starts at $800 and the range goes up to $10,000, with the average amount being between $3000 – $4000 you probably shouldn’t start at the low end. Giving the starting price at $800, in this case, is misleading the customer. In a situation like this, you can try responding to a price question with something like “I can’t give you a price until I have all of the details, but I can say that the service starts at $x” and then end with a low commitment question.

4. Price range

Giving a price range is perhaps one of the best options for services that depend on individual customizations for the couple. Following the above example of what to say when you have a starting price, simply add a range to it and try something like “I can’t give you a price until I have all of the details, but I can say that the service runs between $x – $x, will that work for your budget?” and then as always end with a low commitment question to keep the conversation rolling. If a couple comes back with your range being out of their budget, don’t burn the bridge! Try to offer a lower price if possible or end your conversation with “We would love to work with you if you don’t find someone else within your budget!”

Responding to pricing questions can be daunting sometimes, but being asked for the price is one of the biggest buying signals you can hear and it should be embraced!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads, Part 2: From Conversation to Conversion” with WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg.

» A 5 Step Guide To Inquiry Follow-Ups

Couples often get engaged and start sending out inquiries before booking their venue or base services, which is why they may be slow, or not reply at all after sending their first inquiry. Because of this, it’s important to show sustained interest by following up. But, how many times should you follow up before you give up? Check out the 5 step follow-up method below to re-engage leads and get the responses you want.

The 5-Step Follow-Up Method:

1. Reply instantly using the same method

The first necessary step to an inquiry follow-up is a quick reply, especially when you may be on a shortlist with your competition. A fast reply establishes trust and a sense of reliability before discussing details, giving you a significant advantage over those who reply late. Apart from a quick reply, it’s also important to reciprocate communication on the same channel from which you were contacted.

2. The next day: Did you get my reply?

If your couple has yet to respond the day after your quick reply, fret not, and understand that work schedules and other priorities often get in the way. Give them a day and then follow up at the same time as your last reply with a little nudge. Try something like: “Hi, I wanted to make sure you saw my reply from yesterday, I’m very excited to help with your beautiful wedding.” and then finish with a low commitment question like “Have you already reserved a venue, and if so which one?” to keep the conversation going.

3. A few days later: Try a different method (text/phone)

So it’s been a few days and you still haven’t heard anything after your last follow up, what do you do next? Perhaps consider the fact that your message is not going through (especially if you’re communicating via email — due to spam filters). Try a different method or a new email address with a message that goes something like this: “I’m just sending this message through another channel just in case your spam filter caught the last one.”

4. A few days later: A simple message

The key to a good follow up is continuing to do so in a timely manner. After your last follow-up, it’s important to send another message within the next few days and not weeks. If there is no response to your message even after choosing a different method of communication, try sending a simple message like: “Are you still looking for [service]?” to confirm if this is a lead still worth pursuing.

5. A week later: Try a little humor

As a last attempt, if there has been no response, try a little humor to get a reaction! See these examples:

Example 1

“Hi Alan,

I know you’re busy, so I’ve prepared 3 convenient calls to action for you:

  1. Ignore this email and eventually I’ll get the picture and write terrible poetry about the deal we never did. [MOST POPULAR]

  2. Hit ‘reply’ and I’ll do the same. [RECOMMENDED]

  3. WILDCARD – Call me on (phone number). Interrupt my day like I have yours. I deserve it! [LIMITED TIME OFFER]

Option 2 is my favorite!

Have a great day,

Kerrie

Chief of “creating a profitable business out of thin air”

Example 2

“Hi Andrea,

I sent you a few emails and a text and didn’t hear back from you about your (wedding service). So, I figured one of 4 things happened to you.

Please reply with the number of the correct circumstance:

  1. You found a different (service) that was just so awesome you couldn’t resist

  2. You’ve been meaning to get back to me but you’ve just been really busy

  3. You want me to stop contacting you (just ask!)

  4. You’ve been binge-watching Game of Thrones and you need me to send more popcorn

Please let me know which number and if you prefer microwave or stovetop.”

Following up in a timely manner is an important part of converting leads to bookings. Wedding professionals often wait too long before reaching out or don’t pursue leads thoroughly. Use this 5-step follow-up method to reach and convert inquiries effectively.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads, Part 2: From Conversation to Conversion” with WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg.

» How to Negotiate Without Lowering Your Price

Photo by Anna Liz Photography

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

I was recently at a WeddingWire Networking Night where I spoke about how to handle price questions. As part of the presentation, I said that asking for a lower price is one of the biggest buying signals you can hear. After all, who asks for a discount on something they don’t want to buy? People ask for a discount after they’ve determined that you’ve met enough of their other needs and wants that they’d like to buy from you. Yes, they’re going to ask how much you charge (they can’t buy without knowing that), and then some of them will ask for a discount, and I’m fine with that.

Never get offended when someone asks for a discount

Unless you’ve never asked for a discount on anything, anywhere – which is highly unlikely, don’t be offended when you’re asked for a discount. Have you ever asked for a discount, didn’t get one and you bought anyway? I’m sure you have. If your customers are only buying when you give them a discount, then you’re not selling your services, you’re selling the discount, and you have no price integrity. Many of your customers will still buy if you don’t give them a discount. If you’ve done a good job of selling why they should buy from you, and only you, then they have to pay your price. After all, they can’t get you, and your team anywhere else, at any price.

On the other hand, if they want ‘what’ you do, but they don’t need to get it from you, there’s always someone who sells it cheaper. As a matter of fact, when you were new in business, it was probably you that was the offering the cheaper price. I can’t think of anyone I know who started their business with the highest price in their market and category. If your customers can’t perceive any difference between buying from you, versus a cheaper competitor, then the lower price will win. Whether tangible, or intangible, you need to make them feel like you’re the only one who can fulfill their needs and wants.

Can you negotiate without lowering your price?

At the networking night, a local DJ was telling me about how he was handling requests for discounts. Rather than lowering his price, he was offering to divide the total into 3 or 4 payments. I know other wedding professionals who are offering even more payments, sometimes dividing the total by the number of months until the wedding. When you do this you’re still negotiating, but you’re not lowering your price. When someone asks for a discount, and you find a way to give them something, even if it’s not a discount, they still feel like you’re working with them, as opposed to just saying, no.

Every dollar you discount is profit you give away

Remember that it costs you exactly the same to do their wedding or event, unless you take away some products or services. So, every dollar you lower your price, without getting anything of value in return, is profit you’re giving away. That’s why I prefer to give added value, instead of a discount. I once read a study that said, when given the choice between getting 1/3 off, or 1/3 more in added value, more people would choose the added value. That makes sense, especially in our digital currency world. Getting a discount feels good, for the moment, but you didn’t get any more than you were already going to buy, the number in your banking app is just a little higher than it would have been without the discount. On the other hand, getting added value means you paid the same, but you have something else that you weren’t going to pay for – more products, more services, additional time, etc. For example, if a photographer gives a couple a parent album with a value of $300, that costs her $100, the couple gets to give that album to their parents without paying extra for it (both tangible and intangible benefits), and the photographer keeps the integrity of her price. On the other hand, had she discounted her price by $300, she would have lost $300 in profit.

Most people like to get free stuff (although added value isn’t really free, because they have to buy something to get it). Celebrities love their swag bags at awards ceremonies, yet they can afford everything in them. I go to lots of trade shows, and I see people seeking out the best swag. I was recently speaking at a destination wedding planners conference in Mexico, and there was so much swag I had to buy a suitcase to get it home. It was my first time to that particular conference, but others told me that was one of the reasons they go. That swag isn’t free, it’s an added value of attending the conference. They bought their tickets, but the swag is one more reason to attend.

Finding a “yes”

No one likes to hear “NO,” but there are times when you can’t give them what they are asking for. Find a way to give them a yes. I read a great quote from Micah Solomon on the Forbes website: “The answer is Yes. Now, what’s the question?” What a great sentiment, starting with an attitude of wanting to say yes, every time. If you remember that asking for a discount is a very strong buying signal, then finding a way to give some concession, even a small one, will make them feel that they’ve been heard. If you’re willing to give them a discount, be sure to get something back in return: a larger deposit, higher minimum guest count, etc. If you lower your price, without getting anything back from them in return, then you’re negotiating against yourself.

Saying no, with a smile

If you don’t want to lower your price, then how can you say no, without antagonizing them. It’s all about how you say no. Don’t sound offended. They’ve just given you a buying signal, this is no time to tick them off. You might say something like this (with a smile): “Thanks for asking, I know how things can add up quickly for a wedding. After all, we do this all the time. For the particular products/services you want, and for us to have the best team to deliver them for you, the price I gave you is the best we can do to ensure the outcome you want. Would you like me to reserve your date now?” – Ask for the sale! They’ve given you a huge buying signal, so ask for the sale. One of the biggest mistakes I see salespeople make is not asking for the sale when they see/hear buying signals. So, the next time someone asks you for a discount, have the confidence to know that, if they weren’t interested they wouldn’t have asked. Don’t wait for your customers to volunteer that they want to buy. Help them buy.

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

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! Think of 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.

We’ve pulled together a list of Education Guru Alan Berg’s best tips on pricing do’s and don’ts to help prepare you for how to respond to those often-dreaded pricing questions when they hit your inbox.

DO’S

  • Do reply as quickly as possible to an inquiry. Did you know 50% of buyers choose the wedding professional that responds first? Replying instantly can almost guarantee that the inquiring couple is still in the same place mentally and physically rather than having moved on to other things. If you can catch them by responding quickly, there’s a higher chance of receiving a response and a continuing the conversation.
  • Do reply on the same platform that they used for their inquiry. Give couples all the possible ways to contact you, let them choose what works best for them, and then promptly reply on that channel. 48% of couples are frustrated when vendors don’t reply using the same channel they reached out on. So, start with their preferred channel and then request moving to another channel of communication later on if it’s necessary for you.
  • 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 and/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.

DON’TS

  • Don’t assume that a couple can’t afford you just because they are asking about price! How often do you determine the price of something before buying it? Probably all the time! Because this is a first time shopping experience for most couples, they don’t necessarily know what their needs are or what they are looking for, and therefore don’t know what other questions to ask. You are their guide, so help them out!
  • Don’t lead with your lowest price. Typically, the first number you hear is the number you expect to pay, which ends in an unfair result for everyone. Instead, give a price range. As a simple example, you can say, “Our prices range from $x – $x, with our most popular option being $x.”. Along with a price range, consider pointing out some of the ways you differentiate in order to sell them on you, not just your price.
  • Don’t be afraid to address a low budget. If a couple gives you an idea of their budget for your service and it’s far below your pricing, politely let them know that you completely understand but that you cannot deliver the quality of work that you do within that budget. If possible, try to give them other options that you can provide, although it won’t include everything that they want, within their budget.
  • Don’t dump data and attachments. Instead, give a short, concise answer and try to make sure that it fits on a smartphone screen without the need to scroll. Most people will be answering and opening on their phones and if the information given is too long or overwhelming they aren’t likely to read it or keep it.

» The Art of Listening

This article was written by Kylie Carlson, CEO of the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning.

It is widely accepted wisdom in the business world that the best salespeople are adept at one vital skill: listening. While visions of fast-talking used car salesmen may make you think otherwise, it’s the truth. Those who can perfect the art of listening can sell just about anything to almost anyone. The odds are even more in your favor when what you’re selling is completely awesome.

I know there are those of you saying, “I’m a wedding planner” (or designer, baker, or entertainer) and insisting that you are not a salesperson. I assure you, though, that you are, in fact, in sales. No matter what your specialty is, if you have to secure paying clients to sustain your business, you are a salesperson.

The initial consultation

As a salesperson, one of the most important moments in your process is the initial consultation. Successfully converting a prospective client into a contracted one hinges on your ability at reading him or her and adjusting your pitch accordingly. The secret to this can be found in the Art of Listening.

Too many wedding professionals misunderstand the purpose of an initial consultation. They seize the opportunity to dominate the conversation by sharing every detail of their lives and careers. But the prospect simply doesn’t care. The only thing that is important to an engaged couple is their upcoming wedding.

Practice the 70/30 rule

An initial consultation is not a job interview. It is the chance for you to learn what makes a couple tick and leverage that information to secure their business. Use the “70/30 Rule” to help you strike the right balance. Listen for a full 70% of the time and talk only 30%. Some people are shy and don’t know how to express themselves well. When meeting with this type of prospective client, you need to ask open-ended questions.

Avoid dead end questions

The beauty of open-ended questions is that they yield the most valuable information about your couple. The key is to avoid those that can be answered with yes, no or a single word or phrase. Examples of open-ended questions include:

  • How did you meet?
  • What was your proposal like?
  • What kind of hobbies do you enjoy together?
  • Where do you like to go on vacation?
  • If you could shop anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Open-ended questions break the ice and demonstrate that you have a real interest in your prospective clients. They require you to listen, which makes your prospective clients feel valued and important.

Some questions make people uncomfortable and should be avoided. Asking “why?” puts people on the defensive, for example. Instead of “why do you want to get married at that venue,” you could ask, “what do you love most about the venue,” or “what appeals to you about that site?”

Practice makes perfect, so don’t give up if you find it hard to strike the right balance and ask the right questions at first. Just make note of what does and doesn’t work and remember that your primary goal is to listen more and talk less. You will soon see how it transforms the conversation and yields the sales success you desire.

Kylie Carlson is the CEO of the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning. With six locations globally, the academy boasts an internationally recognized accreditation program that brings professional training to wedding planners, designers and stylists.

 

» Let’s Talk About Price in Your Lead Replies

Price is a difficult thing to talk about— but it shouldn’t be. WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg insists that you shouldn’t dread pricing questions but rather, you should embrace them. Why? It’s the quality of conversation in your lead replies that leads to a sale, and if a couple has to pay for your services anyway, price need not be the elephant in the room. To help open up your conversations, especially when it comes to talking about price, Alan Berg answered some of your most frequently asked questions about handling price questions in lead replies.

If my business offers multiple services, and a lead says that they are interested in my services and asks what my prices are, how do I keep that email short while answering a lot of questions buried in that “simple” question?

As it turns out, this reply isn’t as long as you might think. Instead of sending all of your prices for each service you offer, simply reply “What services were you interested in more specifically?” This reply will then not only narrow the length of your eventual price reply, but will also ensure that you are providing the exact information your client wants without overwhelming them with pricing that doesn’t apply to them.

But what if someone says they are interested in multiple services of mine and asks for pricing? How do I still keep that reply short?

Let’s say you are an entertainment business and a lead says that they are interested pricing for a DJ, dance floor and lighting. All you need to do is list the prices (or price ranges) for the three (and only the three!) they asked for, and ask a follow up question to keep the conversation going. “What venue did you have in mind for hosting your reception?”

I am totally guilty of sending too much information, specifically with price, because I feel like I have to. How do I send less?

There are four ways to handle price:

  1. You can tell them the exact price. While this is specific and can be helpful, it can be quite hard to do sometimes without the full scope of information from a potential client.
  2. You can not tell them the price and avoid questions about it at all costs… but we all know this isn’t good practice.
  3. You can give the starting price. You need to exercise this one with caution as you might have services that go far above your starting price. Thus, sometimes this tactic can be very misleading to couples who think your costs are much lower.
  4. You can give a price range (Alan’s favorite way to share pricing information), and share your average price.

Giving a price range lets you weed out people who might not be able to afford your services and sets realistic expectations with the potential client. It also allows a conversation to start as it gives a ballpark figure where you can then ask follow up questions to keep the conversation moving forward, such as “What services were you considering?.” (moving you closer to the sale!).

What if they never ask about price/don’t ask about it early on?

Hold off on mentioning price at the beginning (unless they ask outright). Maybe this potential client was referred, or heard a quote and knows your price already. If you feel worried that it has yet to be mentioned, feel free to bring up price in the second half of a new reply to calm any anxiety.

“By the way, I just wanted to let you know about our pricing since we haven’t talked about it and I wanted to make sure you were comfortable moving forward. Our range for what we have been discussing is between a and z.”

After you mention price, go back to the context of the first half of the reply to get off the price discussion and leave the ball in the client’s court as to if s/he wants to discuss price further. Remember, however, that this isn’t necessary. If they didn’t ask about price well into a discussion, they probably know what they need to know already.

If I have a beautiful document for my pricing and a lead inquires about price, can I send that attachment?

No! Even if you have a brilliant, beautiful document that outlines price, or any other detailed culmination of your business’s information, don’t send it. Alan insists that you should never reveal too much. Not only can attachments overwhelm couples and be difficult to view on mobile devices (the vast majority of WeddingWire consumers reply to emails on mobile), but an attachment doesn’t make the sale, you do! Attachments halt conversations, and remember conversation is what leads to a sale.

Every time I quote a price or give a range through email, I never get a reply back. However, when I am on the phone, my closing rate shoots up. What can I do?

Alan states that it depends on the conversation you are having. If you aren’t getting replies back, see if your reply left a dead-end or if it encouraged further communication. Again, emails should be like phone calls where a back-and-forth is created through questions. In situations like this, you are probably closing over the phone because you are good at conversation. So, utilize that strength in your emails and formulate them to read just like you would talk over the phone.

If you are a service that has a flat rate, try giving the price and then say “were you looking to do any special touches like a sand ceremony?” or “were you going to write your own vows or is that something you would like me to help with?” This way, you give a price and still follow up with a question to guarantee a reply and keep the conversation going.

Talking about price doesn’t need to be a touchy subject or something that is difficult to discuss in lead replies. We hope that by answering these questions, you have learned to welcome price questions and feel confident when covering them in your lead replies.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads” with Alan Berg, WeddingWire Education Expert and CSP. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» Your Questions About Lead Replies, Answered

We often hear that lead replies are one of the most frustrating aspects in the wedding industry, and we can understand why. There are many reasons why replies don’t come in, and we want to make sure you have the tools needed to feel confident that your lead reply communication is strong. We’ve compiled the most commonly asked questions about lead replies and answered them with the help of WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg.

How do you deal with couples that don’t respond to that first reply? Do I send something again? How much time do I wait to send more follow-up?

1) Respond within 24 hours of receiving the message, and no later. Alan jokingly said that you should respond the second you receive the message… but we don’t think he’s joking. Remember that couples often don’t reply because you’ve waited too long to send them a response.

2) If you reply back in a timely manner and don’t get another reply within 24 hours, follow up and restate the same question you asked in your first email (remember, you should always be asking questions in your lead replies!).

“I am so happy that you reached out yesterday and just want to make sure that you got my earlier email. Did you give any more thought to the type of flowers you would like to use in your arrangements? I’d love to hear some of your ideas.”

3) Still no reply back? Alan recommends that you wait a few days. Following up for a second time within two days might look a little too eager and come off as bothersome. Let things simmer for two or three days after your second reply. Then, Alan suggests that you should send a one-line third reply, about a week out from your first one: “Are you still interested in our floral services?”

4) We’re not done yet! Two or three weeks after first reaching out and still no reply? Alan says there is one more thing that you can do: come up with funny (yet professional!) bullet point list of why your potential client hasn’t gotten back to you. At this point, you are showing that you are still interested, haven’t given up and that you have a sense of humor too. Alan notes that this strategy ends up working for many wedding professionals— you have nothing to lose!

“Hello Tim,

It’s been a while since I heard back from you. I assume you haven’t reached out because:

  1. You’re really busy.
  2. My emails are going to spam.
  3. Hungry bunnies attacked you.

I’d still love to work with you and will be here whenever you are ready.”

Is it ok to open your reply back with “we appreciate your response, we are so glad you are interested” or should we cut to the chase?

The one thing you should never open with is “Congratulations on your engagement!”. Alan did some undercover “shopping” and found that a majority of the professionals he reached out to opened with that line. To stand out, say “thank you” instead. “Thank you for reaching out about having me assist with your planning.” Alan notes that saying “we appreciate your interest in…” sounds bland and unnatural. Read your reply back: if it doesn’t sound conversational, it’s not!

As a florist, I have had clients that flood my inbox with different ideas. One client sent me over 100 photos in six different emails all within in a day. How do I handle this?

Don’t punish the masses for the deeds of a few. Clients like this are the outlier. Alan states that in situations like this, the best piece of advice is to take back control of that conversation. Go to the most recent email and reply “Thank you for sending me those ideas! I just want to let you know that I am in the middle of a busy week creating arrangements for this weekend but I will take the time to look at these and will get back to you once I do.”

If you don’t reply, you’re missing out on a sale. Instead, replying in this manner acknowledges that you are seeing the potential client’s correspondence and subtly hints that you need them to pause what they are doing. By insisting that you will look and get back to them later, the ball is placed back in your court. Now you can direct the conversation where you need it to go to make the sale.

I am busy so I usually just ask three questions in my replies to cut the back-and-forth down, is that ok?

No! This conversational flow and build of your discussions is crucial if you want to make a sale. Replies really don’t take a lot of time in the end. Alan acknowledges that it is a lot balancing and juggling multiple emails, and sometimes, it might even require you to go back in old threads to reread what was sent to remind you what to say. But it’s worth it. Take things slowly and don’t rush it. This strategy also won’t overwhelm your couples and will ensure that each question you ask will be answered.


Do I have to address the bride/groom every time in an email (“Hello Tim,”)?

Mirror your customer. If they fill out a form, and you don’t know how formal or informal they are, your first reply back should be a standard “Hello/Hi Tim,” to keep things safe. (If you are more casual, say “Hi.” More formal? Say “Hello.”) If you get an inquiry that opens with “Dear Alan,” you should reply “Dear Tim,” back. Always match your potential client. If they stop addressing you first, you can stop, too.

Keep in mind that if tones don’t match, it can create unnecessary friction. An example? If a couple is uber-casual in their reply and you maintain a more formal tone, the couple may assume you don’t understand them or their vibe and could be turned off.

We hope this helped clear up some of your questions regarding lead replies and provided you with some new ideas to implement. Ultimately, investing the time in creating conversations through your replies is going to give you a leg up in making the sale. Even though a potential client might take a while to respond (those hungry bunnies can be quite troublesome!) or can be quite demanding, we know that you are all up for the challenge of not giving up on meaningful replies.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads” with Alan Berg, WeddingWire Education Expert and CSP. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» How to Ace Client Relationships & Manage Busy Season Stress

Photo by Gawne Designs Photography

It’s important to remember that the wedding industry is all about customer service. With busy season right in front of us, managing clients and keeping them happy while under pressure can be quite difficult. But it’s a job you must do diligently and with a smile. To better prepare for the sudden 0-to-60, it’s best to acknowledge some expectations for yourself and of your clients. By thinking about how you might feel and what your clients will expect of you before busy season starts, you can ace client relationships and keep everyone happy… yourself included! Here’s how:

Communicate expectations

Most clients aren’t wedding professionals, so they probably don’t understand what exactly busy season entails for you or realize the sheer amount of other work you have. It is always best to be open with clients from the start. Discuss your workload with them to let them know what you can deliver so that they can set their expectations for your services accordingly.

However, this isn’t to say that you should spread yourself too thin, set low expectations, or overbook yourself. When the quality of your work diminishes because you are overworked or setting the bar too low, your client relationships and in turn, your business, will hurt because of it. Know how much you can handle and what you can deliver.

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 to keep the process moving forward. Send a follow-up email to recap your conversation and show them that you will always  follow-through and keep things organized.

Get to know your clients beyond their wedding

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 relationship (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. Remember: the better the connection, the more apt they will be to refer you to their friends!

You get what you put in

The “Golden Rule” for successful client communications is the old adage: treat others as you would like to be treated. When your clients only have positive interactions with you, they will likely be more understanding if you aren’t able to respond to an email right away or if you can’t suddenly accomodate a large-scale, last minute demand. Not that you should ever be putting your clients’ needs on the backburner, but we are all human.  A little kindness and flexibility goes a long way.

Budget the time to go the extra mile

Going the extra mile for clients is important because it shows your dedication to your work and will also be what clients remember the most about you. It might be hard finding time to put in a little extra work to make something special, so it’s smart to budget this extra time from the beginning. Scheduling this time as a non-negotiable will guarantee that you can give some very special attention to each client. You won’t be under the wire to outperform and your clients will be grateful for your extra work.

Keep reviews and referrals in mind at all times

Every time you deliver a service or communicate with your clients, you should be thinking about the review a client will give you for it. When you work with the mindset that a review will be written for every interaction you have with a client, it will ensure that you are providing your client with the best experience possible. Plus, keep in mind that happy clients often lead to referrals down the road, too!

Busy season might have it’s unique set of challenges, but no matter the stress, you get to do what you love – bringing couples dreams to life! It’s the special client relationships you cultivate that leave you with the feeling of success, pride, and accomplishment (and the resulting reviews and referrals) that make busy season worth all of the long, hard hours.

» 5 Ways You’re Losing The Sale

Photo by Whitehall Estate

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 on 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 couples. 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 one of my books 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.

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.