Charlotte Winship on why being openly critical of your rivals isn’t going to win you wedding bookings.
I have had two experiences over the past couple of weeks where the salesperson has been openly critical of their competition.
The first incidence happened when I was in the market for a particular product. This product is only sold by a few companies in the UK. I made it known to the salesperson that I was speaking to another company. He immediately wanted to identify who that company was and it wasn’t hard for him to guess. Before he had started telling me the virtues of his product he was criticising the flaws in the other company’s product and in the people themselves. I didn’t buy his product!
The second incidence occurred when my husband and I happened to be passing a pop-up electric car test drive centre. My husband expressed interest in the cars and mentioned we would be in the market for a new car next year. The car we drive at the moment happens to be a direct competitor. Again, before the salesperson had even persuaded us to book a test drive or tell us anything about the benefits of his car, he had been dismissive of our car. My husband and I love our car for multiple reasons so we walked away without even touching the alternative.
These two separate experiences lost two potential sales and significant revenue.
This tactic of being openly critical of your competition troubles me greatly. It is not the first time I have experienced it and I expect you have too. I have probably also been guilty of it myself in the past.
Here are five reasons why being critical of your rivals fail in the competition to win venue bookings.
Being openly critical of your competition in my opinion is lazy salesmanship. It is too easy to list the faults of your competitors. It highlights to me that you are not confident in your own business enough to simply talk about the benefits of choosing your venue. Focus on actively listening to your customer’s needs, match their needs to your services and highlight the virtues of your venue. Certainly ask them if they are considering any other venues. If you know your competitors well and where you out-class them then it can be straightforward to simply draw attention to your own particular assets to win venue bookings rather than criticise the limitations of others.
As a customer, hearing criticism of someone or something I respect and admire can leave me feeling personally injured. Neither of these sales people took the time to understand my opinion of their rivals. The fact that I might have already been won over and was just doing due diligence did not register with them. They were not mindful of the fact that I had already struck up a good relationship with the other companies, that I had received excellent service and was satisfied that their products met my needs.
Trying to persuade me to buy from them by insinuating that my decision to buy from another company was flawed was a personal insult.
As a reasonably intelligent human, I am capable of analysing and evaluating the benefits and shortcomings of products and services to make my own decision. Don’t take that away from me.
When I am investing a lot of money, like engaged couples, I like to shop around to make sure I am investing in the best place for my needs. I tend to do a lot of research before reaching out to companies and venues and often I have already made a decision before engaging with the salesperson (the importance of a good website folks!). That final engagement or site visit is often simply to verify a decision before making a final commitment to book.
If your customer is taking the time to engage with you verbally then they are keen. It might be a tight race between you and one other venue. It will likely come down to the all-important personal interaction and customer service. Good customer service is often the ability to use discretion. By criticising your competitor you are not displaying any ability to use discretion. This does not evoke trust and client trust is fundamental to winning venue business.
Modesty over arrogance
Alternatively, by praising the virtues of your competitors you can help win trust and win venue bookings. I prefer modesty over arrogance. Do not draw out your shortcomings but give praise where praise is due. If your customer mentions something that they particularly admired at another venue, hear that and express your own admiration and then draw their attention to your own. For example, ‘I loved the view at ….’ ‘Yes they do have an amazing view. Come and have a look at our view!’
Remember, no product or service is perfect for everyone. You have an ideal customer and not all customers who contact you will be ideal. Trying to persuade a customer who is looking for an extravagant and sophisticated wedding that your charming but rustic barn conversion is the right venue for them might not be worth your while. But recommending a more suitable venue might win their favour. All customer interactions provide an opportunity to create a memory. This couple might not book you but they might tell their friends about you and they could be your ideal customers.
Be outward facing. Talk to your competitors, get to know and understand them. Business associations are set up with the intention of sharing best practice, driving quality, and encouraging collaboration and mutual support. Respect your competitors, don’t fear them, particularly if they have been in the business longer than you. You each have your own unique qualities and no doubt certain similarities.
You have already decided that there is space in the market for your venue. This doesn’t mean stealing business from other venues. If it does then the market is saturated and that’s not a good place to be. You might be more innovative and maybe cheaper but businesses that have been trading successfully for a long time have established trust and reliability through their longevity. This is invaluable to you particularly if you have a good relationship with them. Often well-established venues are turning away business because they are too busy. Give them a place to turn the business to!
Unless you have invented a completely new, unique product or service, the likelihood is that you will encounter competition in your business, particularly as a wedding venue. Competition is what drives us to be the best we can be, to out-class the rest. Knowing our competition is crucial in understanding the marketplace and how we position ourselves within it. Know your competition but don’t treat them like the enemy. Respect your competitors, respect your customers and you will gain their mutual admiration and, most importantly, win venue bookings.
About the Author
Charlotte Winship has over 20 years’ experience transforming good wedding and events venues into great ones. She is an expert in helping venues reach their ideal customers, maximise sales opportunities, increase profitability, establish effective teams and streamline venue operations. 07493 350303 / email@example.com / www.charlottewinship.com