The word is out — events are good business, which means that getting people to book at your venue is becoming more competitive. So how do you make your business stand out? What are some steps you can take to make people want to book with you over the other venues they are considering?
At Tripleseat’s 2019 EventCamp conference, Laura Wagstaff, the Event Director for NoMad and Eleven Madison Park in New York City, reminded us that going back to basics might be the best way to land new business and get repeat business.
Sometimes we get caught up in making a splash with the latest trends or technology and forget some basic tried and true sales techniques. Wagstaff shared some of her tips with us that will help you stand out from your competitors and make a great impression on event clients.
Make it effortless
Let your clients know from the beginning that you will take care of them, and you’ll make it easy for them throughout the entire event planning process, Wagstaff said. Start with technology. Don’t get distracted by the latest gadget or software; choose tools that help streamline planning and communication and use them well. You shouldn’t be manually entering in inquiries that are interested in your venue. Make your Tripleseat lead form available everywhere — your website template, your events page, your social media profiles and content, and your email marketing — so you that your potential clients can easily enter information from whatever tools they prefer and you can capture it digitally. Once your prospects are in your system, reach out to them, but don’t just stop with their original inquiry. Keep in contact with them through emails and social media posts to remind them to book with you for holidays, seasonal events like Mother’s Day or graduation parties, or any other reason to get them to walk back in your doors.
Be responsive. We can’t say it enough: The early bird gets the worm. Respond to inquiries within 24 hours. You aren’t required to give all the answers immediately; however, you should just acknowledge that you have received their email, phone call, or visit to the host stand.
Prepare for walk-throughs. People will pop in unexpectedly. These are your warmest leads. They like your venue enough to want to see the possibility of hosting an event there. Don’t ever be too busy to see them or have someone else available who knows your event offerings from memory. You should also make sure spaces are visitor-worthy at any given time.
Communication is key. Technology comes back into play here. You should be able to communicate easily with your customer. Clients expect instant feedback and tools like Tripleseat allow you to provide it by creating contracts and documents in a few clicks, sending messages, and giving customers access to everything in their own portal. They also want to pay for their event online so that you aren’t storing their credit card information in a locked filing cabinet (you know the one I am talking about!).
Find the yes
It’s important to find a way to make your clients’ requests happen or provide an alternative instead of saying no, Wagstaff said. Finding the yes shows that you’re willing to work with your clients to find a solution and helps you to establish trust.
Make them turn you down. It’s all about the way you phrase things. When you have a client looking for something that’s impossible to do, try to find a way to make them turn you down, said Wagstaff. For example, if they are trying to book a date and time for an event when you already have confirmed bookings, provide them with alternate dates or a lunch. Offer them something, even if it’s likely not what they are looking for so that they see you are making an effort to find a solution. They will turn you down instead of you just saying no.
Address outlandish requests. The best way to address customers who want to create something that just won’t work in your space is to address it head on. Explain to them why you can’t do what they want. If they want dim sum and you are primarily a steakhouse, let them know that the chef might be able to do it but since it’s not in his wheelhouse, that the quality might not be up to par with what you have envisioned. Let them know that their ideas are really creative, but that the actual result might fall flat given certain constraints you have in your venue. Show them that you want to do what you can to please them, and offer other options when possible.
Don’t underestimate the power of the host stand
Your host stand plays a huge role in booking client events. Whether your prospective clients are walk-ins or people who call to ask about events at your space, they should receive a good first impression from the people they interact with.
We broached this earlier with having your space ready for walk-ins. The host stand is a very important sales tool. The willingness to assist with getting information for potential guests and — if possible — walking them through the space is huge. As stated before, they are already there in your space, therefore this is a really hot lead. Don’t be too busy for unexpected visitors. Also, train the hostesses about your event spaces and have them be able to give at least a basic tour.
Inquiries should be responded to as quickly as possible, as was noted earlier. No matter how a prospective client found you or sent an inquiry, you should reach out right away. This is especially important when a client stops by in person because they are making that extra effort and time to come in, talk to you, and tour your space. Respect that effort by following up with them as soon as possible.
Make it memorable
“We are in the experience business,” Wagstaff said. Try to get to know the guest that is hosting at your space and do something that goes beyond the event. Try to connect with them even if you can pass it off to the floor manager; it makes a difference to meet them in person during the event. Even if you haven’t met them before their event, your clients have already formed a relationship with you and have become attached to you! It also makes a difference to have the staff onsite put notes in immediately after the event in the event summary to know what any highs or lows might have occurred so you can anticipate these for next time.
Every time you dine somewhere and they offer you something that is just a little extra, like a homemade cookie to go, or a bag of granola (made famously at Eleven Madison Park), it makes you feel special. The same thing should be done for clients who are booking events with you. You should note in Tripleseat or any customer relationship management software you use any special occasions or birthdays and then send a note or a gift card or a box of chocolates from the venue or anywhere. Just let them know that they mean something to you. If you can, make it thoughtful; if there was a note in their event that they have a nut allergy, do not send them a cookie with nuts! It can also be as simple as a written thank you note. These touches can go a long way and make you top of mind when they are deciding to book an event again. It’s also just a really nice thing to do!
A personal touch will boost your bookings
These four types of sales techniques can make your clients’ experience with you feel personable and approachable, and they’ll be more likely to book with your venue for this initial event and future events. Using these tips should help you book and retain business. It’s a reminder to really listen to customers and empathize with them; don’t try to make everyone fit into a one-size-fits-all event.
Get more sales tips from Laura Wagstaff’s EventCamp 2019 session, Don’t Underestimate Old School Sales Techniques, by viewing the recording below, or check out all of the EventCamp sessions in our video playlist.