Seemingly one of the hardest things to do is to get your clients to increase their spend and at the same time increase their satisfaction. Most people would say that is a pipe dream; that it cannot be done. Too often we let clients steer the conversation based on price instead of value. In the meeting and event industry AV is often an afterthought. Clients will spend obscene amounts of money on travel, rooms and F&B only to cheap out on the audio visual experience. What makes this so ridiculous is that they are bringing all of these people together to convey a message. To put it another way, the AV experience is the whole reason for the event. Let’s take a look at how these conversations too often play out in this funny video:
Many sales people are order takers. They ask the client what they want and then they put it into a quote and send it back to them. The client’s response is usually going to be that the AV costs too much. Then the negotiating happens and next thing you know the salesperson has won the business, while slashing the price down to the point that the profit margin is miniscule if it even exists at all. I have seen many examples of sales people winning business that isn’t even profitable at all! The root cause of this is not asking the right questions.
Instead of asking what they need, ask what their message is. Instead of letting them tell you they want the same thing they had last time, ask them what the purpose of the event is. What are they trying to accomplish? Ask about the contact’s role in the organization. Find out how the client will measure a successful event. Who are their bosses and who are they hoping to impress within their organization. Research their company before you even reach out to them so you can talk intelligently about their industry. Your goal here is to change how they view you. You want them to view you as a partner that is going to be innovative and offer creative solutions to make them look good. If you don’t do these things they look at you as just another expense; and if that is the case they will only want that expense to be as low as possible. By asking the right questions your role changes from salesperson to consultant. This is called consultative selling.
Emotions matter in business. One way to get the client emotionally engaged is to use pictures. 3D computer renderings to be exact. Work with your Project Manager to create a unique design that incorporates the client’s message and brand. By showing the renderings to other people within the organization the planner can also justify a higher AV budget. Be creative and think of unique ways to use technology to make their event stand out in the minds of their attendees as well as their peers. Projection mapping, modular Atomik sets and creative lighting are some of my favorite technologies that when combined make for a memorable experience.
You want to make your client a hero to the client’s bosses, attendees, and peers.
Bottom line: Don’t be an order taker, be a creative consultative seller and make yourself and your company so valuable that your client will never want to go to any of your competitors.
“Good leadership involves responsibility to the welfare of the group, which means that some people will get angry at your actions and decisions. It’s inevitable, if you’re honorable. Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity: you’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting the people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering differential rewards based on differential performance because some people might get upset. Ironically, by procrastinating on the difficult choices, by trying not to get anyone mad, and by treating everyone equally “nicely” regardless of their contributions, you’ll simply ensure that the only people you’ll wind up angering are the most creative and productive people in the organization.”
Working with multiple clients on multiple projects certainly has its challenges. One of the fastest ways to lose your client’s confidence is not keeping your commitments. Returning phone calls, emails and meeting deadlines can be overwhelming especially if you do not have a good system in place to keep you organized. I use a combination of Outlook, OneNote, and Skydrive to manage my work life.
Outlook is how I run my schedule as well as communicate with clients. My Windows Phone 7 (Nokia Lumia 900) syncs flawlessly with my company’s Exchange server so all of my emails, my GAL, and my full calender are with me everywhere I go.
I find Microsoft OneNote is the best way to keep everything related to a project in one place. OneNote is very flexible and you can paste emails, documents, etc. in a particular notebook, and then access that from anywhere thanks to Skydrive. When I am on the phone with a client I will have OneNote open and type notes right into the notebeook I created for that client/project. This enables me to always go back and reference old correspondence. Clients get very impressed when I bring up the notes from a particular phone conversation we had 3 months ago.
Yesterday Nokia and Microsoft announced the Lumia 920 smartphone. This phone features a myriad of upgrades of the current Lumia 900 and also has many key features that make this phone ready to take on the iPhone 5 iPhone 6 “The New iPhone”. Nokia is truly pushing the envelope with new screen technology, new camera featuring PureView technology, NFC, and wireless charging ala Palm Pre.