Closing Sales on Weddings
by Bill Hansen
May 15, 2012
One of my favorite memories is time spent with some of Miami’s leading attorneys, business leaders and politicians while serving them lunch in my early days as the caterer to the Miami Club. I recall the story from one veteran attorney and partner in a major law firm about the three arguments that he had when he tried a case before the Florida Supreme Court. He talked about:
“The argument that I planned to make while flying to Tallahassee, the one that I actually made, and the one I wish I’d given afterwards, while thinking through the day’s proceedings on the flight back to Miami.”
We all have thought the same after giving a talk or sitting with a bridal couple who is undecided or who never called back. Was it something we said? Or, perhaps, was it something that was left unsaid?
Today’s bridal couples are extremely knowledgeable. But most really need a lot of coaching from us, so we can help them turn their dreams into reality. One exception: the bride I met with last night had everything down in black and white, from her welcome drink with food coloring in the bottom of the flute, to the brand of scotch and cigars to be served to the men at the end of the night. But she is the exception, not the rule. I think you’ll agree with me that lots of couples come in, and when we ask whether they’d like a buffet, seated-served or food stations, we get a blank stare!
Great salespeople ask the right questions at the right time, keep their mouths shut, listen and take copious notes. That’s why they’re great and why they close more sales than other salespeople who start talking and never stop.
I recently read "Power Questions" by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas, which revealed 337 essential questions to help us succeed at work and in life. Many deal with sales scenarios and can be applied to our profession as we consult with starry-eyed couples who are planning one of the biggest days of their lives.
Using the book questions as a stimulus, here are some questions that you may want to ask while meeting with wedding couples and discussing proposals. Their answers to each of these questions will help you identify things that they will not tell you if you ask them directly - all you need to do is listen, and listen between the lines.
1. What would you like to know about our catering firm?
2. Why did you decide to meet with us?
3. What is of high importance and what is of lesser importance for services such as food, venue, bar service, music, décor, photography, etc.?
4. Are there particular areas that you would like to discuss today?
5. What do you want your guests to say about your wedding and reception?
6. In deciding which catering firm to use, what’s most important to you?
7. What aspects do you like about us, our firm and our proposal? I sense that you have some hesitation. Can you help me to understand what is behind that?
8. What aspects concern you?
9. Who will be making the final catering decision? Is there anyone else who I need to meet with?
10. From your perspective, what is the next step?
Obviously, there are hundreds more questions, but these are great starters, and I guarantee if you ask them of your clients and listen intently (and between the lines), you will considerably improve your closing percentages, as well as sooner eliminate those couples who are not for you.
For more thought-provoking questions, I’d suggest you read the book "Power Questions" by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas.
Bill Hansen is a Consultant with the Catersource Consulting Unit specializing in Mid Market Business Development. Learn more about the Consulting Unit here.