It was a pleasure attending WeddingWire's inaugural WeddingWire World conference at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC earlier this week. Today and over the next couple of days, I'll be recapping some of the presentations and the advice I took away from them.
Up first, some highlights from two Alan Berg presentations from the event:
I think it’s important to point out that different techniques work for different businesses (and the people who own them), and I’m sure Alan would agree. Some of his advice wouldn’t necessarily be relevant to my company, but if the people I spoke with after the conference were any indication, it would seem Alan’s advice was well-received and people appreciated the inspiration.
In his first presentation on closing sales, Alan pointed out the need to “finish what you started.” In other words, when you’ve done the work of conducting a sales meeting, you need to take the step of asking for the sale, as potential customers aren’t going to do that for you. I appreciated Alan’s statement that the “right” closing ratio is the number of customers you need to fill your calendar with the “right” kind of people.
Alan went on to offer some great introductory sales advice, including remembering that sales is about asking questions — specifically, open-ended questions that get customers talking — and providing an experience that’s focused on the customer as an individual. He pointed out the need to know when a customer isn’t the right fit for your business, and vice versa. He also covered some techniques for asking for the sale: paying attention to “buying signals” (such as trying to negotiate your price, asking about payment options, etc.), listing your payment methods and asking the client to choose the one that’s most convenient, and giving them a “choice close” (“Do you like this one better, or that one?”).
He also pointed out the advantage of making the customer feel as though they’ve already bought from you. We’ve found this to be extremely effective in our company, as it enables our clients to picture us as an integral part of their wedding day.
Alan’s advice on handling sales objections was pretty spot-on, in my opinion. Clients will pay more or less based on the value they perceive, he said. He also offered two great ways of responding to customer concerns. One was asking the customer, “What were you hoping to have heard?” or “What were you hoping to talk about today?” This open-ended question gives the customer the opportunity to explain their thoughts, which may be very different from what you would have guessed. Alan’s other suggestion was using a technique he referred to as “Feel/Felt/Found.” In other words, saying something like, “I understand how you feel. Another couple I recently met with felt the same way. They found that…” followed by one of your selling points, presented in a way that addresses the client’s objection.
Alan’s second presentation of the day was on customer reviews, something that’s been very important to my business over the years. He astutely pointed out that “reviews are a window to your brand identity,” and that the words of your customers — as stated in your reviews — illustrate much more about what differentiates you from your competition than your own claims of style, personality and quality ever could.
One idea that Alan promoted, with which I strongly disagree, is the idea that every review, positive or negative, should get a response from you as the business owner. I completely understand the thinking behind responding to every review. As Alan pointed out, customers may be less likely to say something negative if they perceive that you’re part of the “conversation.” (After all, we’re all more likely to talk trash about someone when they’re not in the room, right?) He also correctly stated that thanking people, especially in a personalized way, is only polite. I can’t dispel either of these claims; I think they’re true. My reasoning for not chiming in on positive reviews is as follows:
- I personally believe that your reviews seem more “honest” when it doesn’t appear that you’re looking over your clients’ shoulders. In other words, when you willingly leave the room to let people talk, what they say may be more truthful. My own company has been fortunate to amass several hundred positive reviews over the past few years, and I’d hate to think that someone felt we were unduly influencing our clients to say only nice things.
- Because WeddingWire doesn’t notify clients when you’ve responded to their reviews (at least not that I know of), then they’ll only see your response if they happen to log back in — and why would they do that? Therefore, your response isn’t for the client who reviewed you, it’s for other people who may stumble upon it. “Duh,” I can almost hear Alan saying — the very point is that the response reflects well on you as the business owner to prospective clients, and I can understand that. It just feels a little disingenuous to me, and I’m all about avoiding behaviors that don’t feel “right.”
- Aesthetically, I just think that a response to every review looks a little cluttered, especially when we’re talking about 300+ reviews. I also would feel a little overwhelmed thinking of 300+ original things to say to my clients, as much as I adore them; I just would be paranoid about coming across as generic. Again, this is just my hangup, and may or may not apply to anyone else.
Alan’s advice on responding to negative reviews was clearly of interest to many in the room, and I too am a proponent of many of the things he said, such as not being overly emotional and not feeling compelled to address every little thing in the customer’s review. (I wrote about how to respond to a negative review a while back, and hope the post was helpful to some of you!) Alan concluded with a fantastic quote that I heard many people repeat later (and tweet, too!):
“It’s more important to do what’s right than to be right.”
Tomorrow, I’ll recap several other presentations from WeddingWire World — check back soon!