A sale is transactional, by definition, the transfer of ownership from the seller to the buyer. It will happen once and be done. But a relationship, even a sales relationship in event rentals, implies a long-term connection. Ideally, this relationship will go beyond the initial rental and will have a higher chance of repeat rentals and referrals. In today’s climate, especially, it’s key we focus on the relationships.
Think about how many times you haver gone to a store and not wanted to talk to anyone. You see a salesperson walking your way, and you put up a wall? That’s what some clients do before they come through the door of your event business.
“I just need a quote, please,” they say. Ultimately, it’s the salesperson’s job to break down those defenses, making them feel welcome and relaxed and open to purchase.
In event rental sales, we are selling to both private wedding and corporate clients. So how does the emphasis on relationship building differ between the two? The thought initially may be that you spend more time building the relationship with a corporate client because we know they may have the capacity for more events in the future. But the fact is, a wedding brings with it an immediate circle who may be in a position to be influenced and utilize your services.
So how do you forge a relationship no matter the kind of event?
Bear in mind that creating a relationship in the window of a consultation takes focus and attention. Actively listening to the needs of our clients should be the top priority. It’s essential to remember that clients come in with needs, and are focused on what they are able to afford. They may also come in with the pre-conceived notion that event rentals are expensive. By actively listening to their desires, we can make accommodations and offer items that will help bring their event to life.
Get beyond the business of the transaction and ask what the inspiration is, how they want their guests to react or what memory they want their guests to take away. If they have reservations about the rental process or whether they can afford it at all, why do they feel that way? Have they been to another vendor, did they have a bad experience? What can you do to allay their fears or make the experience better? Tell them how you are different and make the effort to let them know how you will be with them every step of the way.
Many clients want to compare on price alone because they are working within a budget and although it is understandable it may not be the best way to get what they really want. Getting past the dollars and cents will allow us to offer options that will give them what they want versus what they think they need. They may be looking for an overlay because the venue has linens but what they really want is a cloth in their color. Simply knowing what they actually want the event to look like and the reason they were willing to settle gives us the chance to offer them affordable options that they love.
Event professionals sometimes make the mistake to try and force a friendship to get the sale but by simply being genuine and focusing on being the person they can count on you can forge a real relationship. Friendship requires respect, trust and support. Walk them through the process of event rentals and provide evidence of past performance through reviews, anecdotes and imagery.
Creating a solid relationship and finding common ground will set the foundation for the future and as their family grows and life events are celebrated, you will be the first person they think of when the planning starts. Because of the relationship you have already built, you will be called on for baby showers, christenings and anniversaries and each time they participate in events for schools or the office, your name will be the first on their lips.
Maintain the relationship after the initial sale with follow up information. Include them in on specials and recognize their anniversary. Many of these follow up connections can be programmed into an email program like Constant Contact and Mailchimp, or you can keep the dates on your calendar with reminders.
As sales expert and author, Jeffrey Gitomer says, "All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. And all things being NOT so equal, people STILL want to do business with their friends." As salespeople, if we are looking for long-term business, we will want to cultivate the relationship with a client.
Ultimately, when a client buys from you, what are they really buying? It’s not necessarily the linens and chairs- what they're actually signing up for is you, and you represent the company. If they don't like you or more importantly trust you, they won't feel comfortable renting from you.
As we all take this time to focus on sustainability and long-term strategy, it’s important to allocate time to consider how you’re establishing, and leveraging, the relationships you’re building from the initial contact. Carve out time in the coming weeks to revisit the role relationships play in your rental company’s success, and it will truly pay back in dividends.