I spent much of last week prepping the live workshop for wedding planners I’m doing tomorrow (Wednesday, Oct. 14). Over 170 information-filled slides about discovering couples’ real needs with the right questions, tailoring services around those needs, and designing bundles with pricing to nudge their choices in your direction. I’m super excited to share this information with planners.
When I create huge swaths of content for workshops and presentations, I get a chance to collect my thoughts and refine ideas during this process. It’s hard to explain how to do something to another person in a simple, clear way. Anyone who’s trained an employee knows how hard it is to get someone to do new things well.
Where pros mess it up
The helpful part for you about all the content I’ve created for planners is by pulling out bits that matter for everyone in the wedding industry. If you sell your services, pay attention: Here are six ways wedding pros lose business every day.
#1 Trust couples to guide themselves
It’s hard to make decisions about wedding vendors. Couples rarely make decisions with this much on the line, and they’ve probably never planned their own wedding. Another factor complicating the situation is they’re working on the decisions with a new group of people. Anyone familiar with Tuckman’s stages of group development (ie. Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing)?
And it’s not like the couple gets to know how they’re doing on the decisions everyone’s making. Oh no, they’ll have to wait months until the wedding to find out if they chose well or poorly.
Stop trusting couples who don’t know what they’re doing! That’s (pretty much) every couple who inquires. They don’t know how to get from A to Z – but you do. That’s why they’re coming to you. They just don’t know how to express that very clearly. You must believe that they have no clue what they’re doing and how to make good decisions on these hard choices they face.
Your services are not a menu for them to choose from and then be on their merry way. They’ll come to you with what they want, and your job is to give them what they need.
#2 Talk about pricing too early
So when you hear or read, “What are your packages and pricing, and are you available?” don’t get misdirected from the path they’re laying out for you. Steer everyone back in the right direction by letting them know you are available, and what you offer and how much it costs can’t be determined until you know more about what’s important to them.
Do not share pricing with someone who doesn’t know what they need or how you help them meet those needs. “What are your packages and pricing?” is a trick question. It’s a no-win. You won’t get what you want (a booking), and they won’t be any closer to identifying their needs. They can collect all the information about service and pricing, but if they don’t have a criteria from which to make the decision they can’t make any decision.
People not knowing what they want is the number one reason deals stall and you get ghosted.
#3 Offer generic services for unique needs
Even if you offer the same basic services for most of your clients, you don’t want them to feel like they’re just like everyone else. Couples don’t want to repeat anyone’s wedding. They want all the comfort and confidence booking you because you deliver excellent results, but they don’t want to feel like you’re cranking out another wedding.
To book weddings and do it at high(er) prices, you’ve got to make couples feel heard. Every person wants to be heard, understood, accepted and important. Do it in this order if you want the best results. The best empathy gurus – from Dale Carnegie (“Make the other person feel important”) to Stephen Covey (“Seek first to understand, then to be understood”) – put into soundbites and chapter titles what evolutionary psychologists are writing about in research papers.
We humans have evolved adaptations in the brain that reward certain experiences. Most of us know neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are largely responsible for making us feel good when we experience things like cocaine and sex.
But did you also know that people who talk about themselves also release high levels of dopamine? It’s called the self-disclosure loop, and, as Dale Carnegie told us in 1936, when you “Let the other person do a great deal of the talking” you encourage them to feed the brain huge levels of feel-good chemicals.
Don’t cut off someone’s chance to share with you why they’re unique. It’s their chance to share why they’re in love with their own ideas, even if you’ve already seen it countless times.
#4 Sell on personality and price
I was talking with a group of colleagues the other day about how hard it is to sell in the luxury space. There’s this myth out there that if you get your services to a certain level or win distinction by getting on one of “those lists” or speak at conferences all of a sudden booking more business become easier.
Unfortunately, it’s just not true.
les who inquire about your services are looking at others like you too. Your “comp set” is both “comp”etitive and “comp”arable. You have to sell on more than your reputation, because everyone else the couple is considering has about the same body of work and number of distinctions. Those may differentiate you from 99 out of 100 people, but you’re not competing against those 99. You’re being compared to all the other one-percenters out there.
Don’t do what everyone else does when they realize this: Sell based on personality. Yes, couples and planners want to like you, but it’s unlikely to make you the easy pick amongst your comp set, because, well, they’re great to be around too! People don’t get referrals and stay in the game for a decade by being hard to be around.
Yes, even if you’re well liked by planners and get lots of referrals, your name is on the list of 3-5 vendors for the category. It’s up to you to win the business. What are you going to do, now?
This. This is the challenge all you luxury pros out there face. You can’t rely on your portfolio, reputation, visual brand, personality or premium pricing strategy to sell yourself. Now what? (If you want me to give you the answer, email me now.)
#5 Make it easy and convenient for you
Selling your services is hard. I’m not going to sugar coat it for you. Inexperienced buyers, crowded marketplace, COVID-19, multiple decision-makers and lots of money on the line make this a massive challenge. But every one of you faces the same challenge with every inquiry.
Don’t make it harder on yourself by trying to make it easy to sell. You won’t get the best results by sending out lame, templated emails. Or pricing guides attached to the first email. Or all the information at once so they have it with a simple link to an unpublished webpage. These may make it easier on you and take less of your time, but they don’t get the bookings you want.
I can assure you, the sooner you respect the level of difficulty that every wedding pro faces, the sooner you’ll move on to better strategies than you’ve been using in the past.
Good enough shouldn’t be good enough. If you look deep inside, I think you’ll find it never was good enough. You want more, that’s why you’re reading this newsletter.
But maybe you don’t know where to begin. Maybe you’re worried it will be too hard. Maybe you don’t know if you’ve got it in you to succeed. Or maybe you don’t know what you’ll do with success when you get there.
So, solve that problem. The one that’s stopping you from reaching your full potential. Every one of the thousands of wedding pros who receive this email face the same challenges. The same pandemic. The same crowded marketplace. The same 2021 calendar difficulties. The ones who want different results are the ones who’ll do things differently.
Will that be you?