Who’s tired of wasting time on unqualified inquiries?
Who’s done with price shoppers?
Who’s ready to work with better clients?
Who wants to spend less time “selling” your services?
That’s what I thought. I can feel you nodding in agreement through the intrawebs of the universe right now as you read (and answered) these questions.
I mean, who doesn’t want all those things?
You’re too busy to waste time selling to dead-end inquiries
I do (now). And I did when I was selling venues and catering for a destination resort in Washington.
First of all, I was selling weddings in addition to my duties as a Lodging Director. Besides getting 8-10 inquiries each week and doing 3-5 site tours on Saturdays and Sundays, I had to manage front desk, housekeeping and reservations operations – including the 40+ people who worked in these departments.
So, I didn’t have time to mess around with looky-lues. I wasn’t going to give my time to people who weren’t serious about getting married at our property.
But I had to walk a fine line between being overly aggressive about who was “qualified” and taking anyone who stayed at our resort on a romantic getaway and thought, “Wouldn’t this be a nice place to get married?”
It’s actually quite hard to tell the difference between “I’m serious,” and “I’m simply asking about pricing” when you get an inquiry in your inbox.
Unless it comes from a trusted source.
Your #1 referral source
I know what you’re thinking. The best inquiries come from venues and planners. And you’re right – at least partially.
Now, these are often really good referrals. But you don’t always get throaty endorsements, especially from venues, because they’re often just sending out a list without any conversation about who they like most and why.
And referrals from planners can be problematic, because you may not get a chance to speak directly with the couple.
More importantly, the planner is recommending three or four vendors in your field equally to the couple, which means that you don’t really have a competitive advantage inside the comp set that’s been referred. You’re all on equal footing after the planner helps make the final cut.
The absolute best referral will (almost) always come from past and current clients. Here’s why:
They’ve tested out your services – and others respect that more than a B2B referral. The fact that they’ve gone through the experience of working with you and still recommend you means you’re doing something right. Very right. If a couple gets a referral from a planner or venue, there’s always this little nagging feeling that it could be for their own self-interests (eg. they’re a friend, they get a kickback, they like working with them, etc.).
They’re emotionally invested in sharing their recommendations. One of the reasons people trust reviews from peers on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and The Knot is because those reviews aren’t paid for offering their perspective. No, they do it because they’re genuinely interested in helping others like them find a service provider they can trust. Altruism is the purest reason to give a recommendation – and the most trustworthy.
They are more in number. You can get only so many planners and venues to refer you. And everyone in your comp set is trying to get the same planners and venues to refer them too. But your clients won’t refer other vendors in your category, because they worked with you, not those others! Over several years, you might amass hundreds of brand ambassadors for your “sales team.”
‘Tis the season for building your referral base
Now’s the perfect time to get your referral game on-point. Your current clients are ready and waiting to sing your praises – if you know how to motivate them, make it easy for them, and give them the right things to talk about.
Here’s a good rule of thumb for referrals: For every year you’ve been serving couples, 10% of your booked business should come from past and current clients. Each season builds on top of the next, and eventually, most of your couples will come on recommendation from those they trust most, and who also know your services the best.
If you’re not seeing enough referrals from clients, tune into this episode of Own Your Business, where I’ll share:
Why client referrals trump vendor referrals
The difference between a sales funnel and a referral flywheel
5 specific strategies you can put into practice today to get more inquiries from your most qualified buyers