How to Tell a Client She's Not Right For You

Friday, May 16, 2008

Following up on our earlier post about choosing your clients, Terri from Bash in Washington, DC asks this question:

"In following up on your latest Smart Planner post - how do you go about having to turn away clients after an initial meeting? I’ve had to do it as well and wonder if maybe there is a better way I could be approaching the situation. I’m interested in how other planners and you actually go about the process. Sometimes I feel really good about it and sometimes I feel like the client just doesn’t get it and thinks I’m being snotty!"

This is a great question and I believe it all comes down to managing expectations. It is easier to refer a client to another planner if they know from the start that that is a possibility. For example, on the frequently asked questions page of my website, one of the questions addresses the fact that I treat every initial consultation as a sort of two way interview. It is not just the couple interviewing me and my company, but I am also evaluating to see if they are a good match for us. That question is worded like this:

Q: Do you charge for an initial meeting?
A: No. All initial consultations are complimentary and last approximately 1 - 2 hours. After getting to know you a bit, if we feel that you would be a better fit with another planner, we will let you know and give a referral to someone that may be a better match for your personality. That is how committed we are to giving you the best possible event.

I really do believe that last part - that if they are not comfortable with their planner, their event will not be the best for them. Every couple deserves to have an amazing wedding, even if I am not their consultant.

This sentiment is repeated a couple of times so that they understand that I am also seeing if we click. In addition to having this on my website, I mention it on the phone and in the initial emails exchanged before the first consultation is scheduled.

I've found that couples are more comfortable with me because of this fact - they know that I am not going to push my services on them if we don't mesh well. I also always follow up with referrals to other planners in my area whom I trust, so they know that I'm not going to leave them hanging. Managing all these expectations up front is a way to make the entire process more enjoyable for everyone and it takes a lot of pressure off of the meeting for both parties involved.

As far as the point where I have to tell them I don't think things will work well, I usually say something like "Your wedding sounds awesome and I really think that you two should also meet with Jane Doe Weddings and Events. Jane is also an amazing planner and the vision you have for your wedding is right up her alley and may be a better match. If you meet with her and don't like her, give me a call, but I at least think you should meet with her in addition to myself. You deserve the best wedding, and so I want to make sure you're getting the best planner for your needs."

I think it is really important to not view not choosing certain clients as rejection. You are not rejecting them, you are helping them have the best event and part of being a professional is recognizing when you are not the best match and that one size does not fit all.

How have you handled these types of situations? Share your advice in the comments section!

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