Sales 101

Taking the traditional ‘sales funnel’ model, Isabel Smith guides us through how to make selling your venue to couples natural and sincere

As Open Air Business readers, many of you will be small venue and farm owners just breaking into the wedding industry and you may not have much experience of business to customer (B2C) selling as yet, so let me introduce you to the process.

No doubt you’ve heard of the ‘sales funnel’ – the description of the customer’s journey from becoming aware of your business, becoming more familiar with it, researching alternatives and finally selecting the best option for them and making a booking (hopefully with you). It sounds so simple doesn’t it? But in truth you need to not only have familiarity with the customer’s journey, but also (more importantly) understand your role in guiding them through the funnel to your benefit. This takes a lot more than just throwing a few words around and hoping for the best. There is a skill and technique to learn and master here.

Wedding and party place decoration
Pic: Getty Images

To make this all a little clearer, I have re-worked the traditional sales funnel model (pictured) so you can compare your client’s experience with your role. The stages of your role (attract, engage, nurture, sell and deliver) correlate with those of the customer’s journey, and at every stage you are selling yourself and your venue. You must learn to attract new customers and engage them through your marketing. Build their confidence in you through nurturing them and taking care of their enquiries sincerely, and then exceed their expectations and prove they made the right choice.

It all begins with your marketing. Through consistently presenting your message in a variety of marketing methods, potential clients will find you (AWARENESS).Your marketing should lead them to your website, which should have all the information a client might need to engage and begin getting to know you and what you offer (EDUCATION).

From here you receive an enquiry. This is your opportunity to begin nurturing their interest and let me tell you, selling starts from the moment you answer the phone. It can be daunting dealing with brides for the first time and making a good impression is vital.

Nurture, nurture, nurture
Have an enquiry form prepared to ensure you are always asking the right questions. Without sounding too robotic in tone, get the couples’ names and contact details, find out the date of the wedding, what their needs are in terms of space (ceremony, daytime reception, evening event?) and the number of guests they want to invite. From here, think ‘nurture, nurture, nurture’. Show interest in their individual wedding plans, passion about your venue and ask open questions like: ‘What are you looking for in your wedding venue?’ or ‘What are your priorities for the day?’ so that the enquirer can expand on their thoughts. The idea is to start finding out what they want, so that you can showcase how your venue meets their needs.

After the initial enquiry and the phone has been put down, you can email or post your venue’s brochure to them. There’s no telling when they will be in contact again, so the next stage is chasing, but give it three days – you don’t want to come across as pushy! Give them a call or send a kind email a few days later asking whether they have received the brochure, offering to answer any queries they might have and inviting them to your venue for a showround. If you don’t receive an answer straight away, wait two weeks until you chase again. Remember, most couples can only research and venue hunt in the evening and at the weekends so working through the shortlisting process takes time.

Showing off
Hopefully by now you have had the opportunity to paint a picture for the client of what their wedding will look like and they want to come and see the venue for themselves. This showround is your best opportunity to make the sale. You know the couple has made a certain commitment to the property by being there so it is important to return that investment and get it right. Here are my top tips for the perfect guided tour:

  • Don’t go rushing into the tour as soon as they step onto the site; the key is in making your clients feel comfortable and welcome
  • Ask how long they have to see you. Not only might this indicate their overall interest level in your property, but it means you can tweak your technique to suit their needs
  • Walk the spaces as their guests would see them: ‘This is where you park, this is the view the guests would have as they walk to the main event space, this is where your drinks reception would take place’ etc. This allows clients to build up a visual of their day
  • Have an iPad with you to show how the spaces look all set up. You’re trying to mentally render each client’s individual wedding for them but not everyone is good at imagining the final look so having a few visual clues will really help you ‘sell’
  • Refer back to the notes you have taken so far. If they have already indicated that food is a priority, show where the catering tent sits, how easily the caterers can get access or just wax lyrical about the great food and service your preferred suppliers list caterers offer
  • Show enthusiasm for your own property and be sure to point out key features such as how the lighting is perfect for the afternoon ceremony or how the scale of the space is perfect for any number of flexible seating arrangements. Couples want to feel like you have their best interests at heart and your passion will be infectious!
  • Advise as accurately as you can what the wedding will cost. Not just your own costs, but approximately what your marquee and caterer suppliers charge. You want to do this towards the end of the showround (after the couple has already fallen in love with your venue) but you also want to be accurate and realistic – there is nothing worse for a consumer than sheepishly having to admit you just can’t afford what you want
  • Always finish with a close. Without being pushy, ask the couple what they think of your property, how many venues they still have to see and when they think they might make a decision. Offer to follow up with any information they might have requested during the meeting or to provisionally hold a date for them.

Remember, wedding sales is all about building a personal relationship so show excitement over a couple’s engagement and proposal story and congratulate them. This shows that you are genuinely interested in them as a couple.

The showround is the best opportunity to talk up your venue but also to listen to what a couple expects from a wedding venue. Getting a better understanding of their needs will help you to sell your venue’s best features in response to their needs. This nurturing approach builds their confidence in you.

After the showround, follow up with the couple as soon as you can with any information you promised, telling them how lovely it was to meet them and of course inviting them to come back to you with any queries they might have. When it comes to chasing, wedding clients need to be treated with extra care so keep a light, helpful and consistent tone. At the end of the day, this is their wedding so you can’t expect a quick decision (CONSIDERATION). Be patient, not pushy!

As you can see, selling is all about personality and professionalism. It’s not always smooth sailing but it doesn’t have to be difficult either. If you can master the technique, follow the sales pipeline and the showround method outlined, you’ll continually be improving your own selling skills and securing those bookings in no time (PURCHASE).

Then you just have to nail the wedding itself so that your clients are blown away and becomes spokespeople for your venue (ADVOCATE). But that’s another story…


Isabel SmithAbout the Author
Isabel Smith has 10 years in the wedding industry behind her as one of the UK’s top wedding planners and business consultants to venues and other suppliers. Isabel’s expertise spans marketing, sales and operations as she helps new vendors launch as well as assisting established businesses should they find their sales fallings. /

About Open Air Business 1380 Articles
The voice of outdoor hospitality - in print and online. If you liked this article, subscribe to the printed magazine here. We produce industry e-news between issues - please sign up here