Whether you are an event venue or an event planner, prospects and clients are looking to you for guidance and answers. However, sometimes they aren’t always quick to take your seasoned advice. This may be because they are fixated on having a certain thing done in a certain way that isn’t really feasible in the way they envision it. Or they may be following misguided advice that was provided by a friend or family member. Or they may simply be stubborn.
Regardless of the reason, it’s your job to guide them away from bad decisions that will adversely impact the overall goals of their event. Yes, this can be one of the most difficult parts of our job as service professionals, and talking someone out of what they think is a great idea may make you feel a bit like little Johnny Raincloud. I myself have had to plead with clients until I was blue in the face to not take a certain path because I’ve been down that path before and it almost always leads to disaster. But this is part of our jobs, and our clients will be thankful later that we gave them great advice.
However, for your event prospects and clients to be inclined to follow your advice, you must lay the groundwork first. Thankfully, recent research in the field of social psychology has provided us with several scientifically proven techniques for influencing people and persuading them to follow a better course of action. Here are a few of these techniques … try implementing them into your business and see how they work for you.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If these techniques sound a bit creepy or invasive, they aren’t meant to be. Sure, you could use them to try to influence people in negative ways, but you wouldn’t do that because you are a good person, right? And as a good person, you simply want to help people plan for a great event that exceeds all their goals. That’s not creepy … it’s actually noble.
BTW, I just “labeled” you (see technique #3) in an effort to convince you to use these techniques to do good.
#1 – Position yourself as the “likeable expert”
There are two tried-and-true rules of sales:
1. People are more likely to listen to and buy from people they like.
2. People are more likely to defer to someone they consider an expert.
So how do you get someone to like you? For starters, people tend to like other people who are similar to them, so try to find common interests and similarities with your prospects and clients and use these similarities to bond with them. For example, in casual conversation, ask your client what hobbies or pastimes they enjoy, and start finding common ground there. Or find out if the like to travel and strike up a conversation about places you both have been.
Oh, and flattery will get you everywhere, even if the person who is being flattered suspects that it’s not completely sincere (again, studies prove this out). So if your prospect is wearing an interesting pair of shoes, compliment them. Or if they have a great idea for their event, tell them how much you like it and ask them their inspiration for it.
In addition, people are more likely to acknowledge you as an expert in your field if you dress the part. Studies have shown that if you dress like a doctor or a pastor, people are more likely to deem you as an expert in those areas even if you actually aren’t. As an event professional, this means that you should be dressing at least 1-2 levels nicer than your prospects and clients, with dress casual being the bare minimum.
Finally, associating yourself with positive attributes and things that indicate your expertise will also make you more of an expert in the eyes of your clients and prospects. This is why people earn professional accreditations and use their associated titles (CSEP, CMP, CPCE, etc.) after their names … because it successfully distinguishes them as an expert. And pictures posted on your website of you standing next to Colin Cowie, Preston Bailey or David Tutera won’t hurt, either.
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(And, yes, I just used techniques #1, #3 and #4 from this article).
#2 – Ask lots of questions and listen closely to discover their motivations
Have you ever been approached by a salesperson and then have them talk over you for half an hour as they try to pitch you? Not only is this massively annoying, but they didn’t spend any time learning about you and your needs so that they could tailor their pitch based on what you want.
I have discovered that when first talking with a new prospect, you should start out by asking lots of questions and then listening to find out about their needs, pain points, fears, motivations and goals upfront. This gets them talking about themselves, and the one thing that people like to talk about most is themselves. This puts them at ease and also starts to create a bond with you.
Once they have opened up, when it comes time to start your pitch, you can zero in on how you and your organization are uniquely qualified to assist their specific situation. This technique also works well at screening out clients who don’t fit your business or who might be very difficult to work with.
#3 – Label your client so you can make requests of them later
Here’s how this works. You start off by labeling your client with a trait, belief or attitude. For example, say you want your client to feel like they are a good delegator of responsibilities (which is essentially what they are doing by hiring you). You can say to them, “You strike me as a great delegator. You know, someone who is successful by finding the best, smartest people to delegate tasks and responsibilities to.”
Once you have labeled them, later on when you are trying to talk them out of a bad idea, you can say, “Remember when I said you are a great delegator? Well, I like the fact that you hired me for my expertise and value my input. And I would never lead you astray or give you advice that I thought was wrong. So I would really recommend…”
By applying a flattering label early on, the client quickly applies it to him/herself, and because they want to live up to that label, it makes it easier for you to persuade them of the validity of your position or idea.
#4 – Use social proof
We see social proof at work every day. When we see someone who looks like us and is dressed like us driving a BMW, it makes us curious about how we would look sitting in one. When a good friend recommends a book, we feel like we need to read it. When people in our community all turn out to a local festival, we need to be there, too.
The way social proof works is that, when we see people who are similar to us acting in a certain way or engaging in a certain behavior, their behavior serves as a model for how we should be acting or behaving. This is why testimonials are often so persuasive, because the person offering the testimonial looks or sounds like us and they are showing us how their behavior helped them and can help us too.
How can you use social proof to guide your clients into good decisions? You can show them examples of what similar clients did and talk about the successful outcomes of their events. You can tell them stories about how similar clients chose the recommended path and how happy they were. You can offer up written or, better yet, video testimonials on your Web site and let your clients talk about their wonderful experience working with you in their own words.
#5 – Play into their self image and values/beliefs
When you are asking questions and listening, find out what your prospects or clients identify with and how they define themselves. Are they image-conscious? Do they align themselves with a particular group, cause or religion? Is there a hobby or avocation that they are absorbed in? Do they see themselves as a leader? A rebel? A parent?
All these things relate to a person’s self image, and most people are very diligent about remaining consistent with their core image, values and beliefs (sometimes to a fault). So you can refer to these traits later when you are trying to convince them of the appropriateness of your guidance.
For example, if you find out a client prides herself in having impeccable taste, you could say something like “I love your sense of style, and you have great taste, and I really relate to this because I pride myself in having good taste, too. And let me tell you, my other clients with great taste love what I’m recommending to you, and it has worked out great for them.”
See how I incorporated flattery, self image and social proof into one persuasive argument? Try out some of these approaches and see if you can more effectively guide your clients to the best decisions for their events.