COVID-19 isn’t just changing the way that we run our businesses. It’s also changing the way that we interact with our customers. Particularly, the ways that we can continue to sell to them.
While you need to keep going business-as-usual for many aspects, you also want to make sure that your company isn’t seen to be taking advantage of a crisis. And that can be a tricky balance to navigate.
At the moment we’re seeing that many aspects of weddings aren’t actually business-as-usual. Weddings are being postponed and the clientele that we already have for 2020 are being put on hold. However, as people get more used to restrictions on gatherings, wedding planning is starting to also pick up.
Alan Berg is a wedding industry expert, certified speaking professional and business consultant based in the US. He has been in the industry for 25 years and worked through other crisis events around the world. We spoke to Alan in our Easy Weddings webinar on April 3, 2020, to get his tips about what you can do with your wedding sales during a crisis.
Alan says: Respond to the couples who are looking now
If a couple has reached out asking about the usual questions such as prices or availability, then you can attempt the sale. Alan says that you should be selling to anyone who has reached out to you. They have shown that they are interested in your services, and you are simply responding to that.
These enquiries should be treated like any enquiry in normal times. We have heard of some businesses who are only working with existing clients rather than new couples at the moment. Alan says that while this could create a stronger relationship with your existing couples, you are limiting your future business. At the very least you should be responding to people who are showing interest in you now.
Maintaining your marketing is important to help your revenue stream for late 2020 and into 2021. However, Alan suggests not trying to drum up more business than you usually would. You can keep your website up-to-date, stay active on directories and post to social media about your services. But now might not be the time to start an aggressive targeted advertising campaign.
Don’t bring up COVID-19 unless your new client does
It could be that they want to plan their wedding in peace. They could simply be sick of hearing everything about COVID. So Alan says that if a new couple doesn’t mention what is happening around the world at the moment, then don’t bring it up with them.
If the couple has any questions or issues that they want to address with the current climate, they will bring it up. Then you can discuss what is happening.
This is not the same for your existing couples. Alan’s advice is to reach out to couples who have already booked you proactively to discuss their plans and whether they need to postpone.
Top tip: Do not discount your services
One of Alan’s biggest pieces of advice during a crisis is to not discount your prices to encourage more business. If a couple is looking at you vs your competitor in a crisis, then your usual discounts or value-adds are still valid.
Selling to a new couple in a crisis is similar to selling to couples in normal times. You don’t want to just sell them on what you do. You want to sell them on the fact that it’s you who is doing it.
Alan says that your objective isn’t for them to want someone to do what you do. It’s for them to need YOU to do it on their day. He says that if a couple asks about discounts or prices, then you could respond something like this:
“I can’t do what they do, and they can’t do what I do. You can get their price. Or you can get my results.”
If you do find that you need an incentive for them to book now, then use urgency. With couples postponing their weddings, 2021 is going to be a massive year for many suppliers. Couples who are postponing are taking dates in the 2021 calendar year and this is what will incentivise your new customers to book now. Alan recommends incentivising new couples to book in their date now to avoid missing out if someone postpones to that date instead.
Alan’s advice for being creative and selling to couples while social distancing
We’ve heard a lot from businesses who are concerned about how they can sell to new couples when there are restrictions in place and rules for social distancing. Alan has heard the question of how to sell without meeting a couple in person many times in his career, and says it all comes down to your mindset.
He told us a story about a group of ten DJs he worked with in Toronto. One of them was selling virtually because they were based outside of the city, and their business was doing very well. The other nine insisted that they could only close a sale if they met the couple in person.
Alan quotes American business leader and Ford founder, Henry Ford:
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.
Alan points out that the only difference between the two groups of DJs is the mindset of “I can sell virtually vs I can’t.” He says that it’s time to shift selling virtually from being the exception, to the rule.
It’s time to get creative about how we sell to couples. But it’s also important to make sure that we still look professional even if we’re meeting online from the comfort of our own homes.
Digital platforms like Zoom, Skype or Google Hangouts are available to have a conversation with couples online as if you were sitting across the table from them. However, Alan says it’s important to make sure that your space looks professional. It’s as much about what is behind you as it is about the tech you use. He says to make sure you have good quality audio, video, internet, and can remove as much background noise as possible.
There are also ways to be creative with how you sell. It could be a bridal store allowing a single person to come in to try on a gown with gloves on, and setting up a webcam to involve their wedding party who don’t want to miss out on the experience. It could be a venue manager walking a couple through a venue and explaining the details in a live video. In the words of Alan, virtual selling for any type of business in the wedding industry is possible. If a couple is interested in chatting about your services or coming to see your product, then you should find a way to make it work.