No one likes being ghosted, and it can be extremely frustrating when you’ve done all you can to communicate with a potential client only to hear crickets. The most common reaction to ghosting in the wedding industry is to assume it’s all about cost and to lower your prices. While it sometimes is about money, there are other reasons that cause people to avoid telling you no:
1. You’re sending your pricing right away.
Sticker shock is real, and if you’re one of the wedding pros they’re considering at the beginning of their planning process (namely planners, venues, or photographers), it is likely that the budget they have in their mind is not based in reality whatsoever.
People hear that the average wedding in the US is around $30k, they watch the “reality” wedding TV shows that display costs on the bottom of the screen without noting which items or services were comped or discounted by the vendors in exchange for publicity, they find creative inspiration on wedding blogs and magazines and don’t know that they will have to pay triple to make that design happen because they are getting married in a union town, and when they ask their friend what they spent on a given item, the friend feels uncomfortable sharing real numbers, so they tell a little white lie to seem smart and like they got a deal.
Your potential clients likely don’t know what real weddings cost because they have never gotten married before. Your primary role at this point in the process is to educate them in a way that shows your value.
Also, if you are sending prices right away, you’re not educating yourself on what their wedding will actually require from you. On top of that, you’re branding yourself as cookie cutter because you’re essentially saying “we only do these types of weddings, so we know how much to charge without talking to you.” Lose-lose.
If you’re still sending pricing right away, I’d encourage you to break this bad business habit.
2. You’re sending too much info too soon.
I’ve spent years doing research on how couples and their families truly approach their wedding spending and as a result developed WedType, a scientifically-based wedding buyer behavior model. Of the four types of wedding consumers (Seekers, Drivers, Researchers, and Lovers), Researchers are the ones who will read everything. For them, when it comes to information, more is better. For the other three types, more is too much.
While you won’t know right off the bat which WedType you’re dealing with, if you’re sending every possible piece of information, if you’re counting on people to read through all of your website and move on the exact right path through your marketing funnel, if you’re asking them to take a quiz or fill out a multi-page questionnaire before you even talk to them, you will overwhelm the majority of your potential clients.
When people feel overwhelmed, they subconsciously associate that feeling with you and your brand. This means that they may love your work but, for some reason they can’t quite put their finger on, feel like you would be burdensome/tiring/a drag to work with.
3. You’re being a little TOO efficient.
No one likes to feel like a number. No one likes to feel like a checkmark on your to-do list. And no one wants to feel like their wedding is one of 2.2 million a year and therefore not all that unique.
Automated replies have their place, but you probably don’t need to use them. Here’s some tough love: automated and canned replies may help you feel more organized and efficient behind the scenes, but they make you look cold and uncaring.
I’m willing to bet that when you wrote out your core values and mission statement for your business and marketing plans, “cold” and “uncaring” were not traits you included as wanting to be known as.
If you’re in the luxury space, this is especially true. High end means high touch. You get to charge more because you have to hold their hand through more of the process.
People almost always hire the person who makes them feel the best from the very beginning of the process. Be the person who’s willing to sacrifice a little bit of efficiency in order to make people feel truly valued, heard, and connected.
4. You’re not scheduling a followup BEFORE you send the proposal.
If you want to close the sale faster, or get to a firm “yes” or “no” answer more quickly, schedule a 10 minute call for a couple days after you send the proposal to discuss it and answer any questions they may have.
This is a decades-old tactic that is used by sales people all over the world because it works. Here’s a very simplified example of one of the ways it could play out:
Monday AM: You receive an inquiry via your website. Yay! You reply right away that you’d love to chat for 10 minutes to learn more about them and their wedding.
Monday PM: They’re available for a call after they get off work, so at 6 pm their time, you have a quick call. Towards the end, you say, “Congratulations again! I love your ideas! I’m going to send you a customized proposal by Wednesday. I want you to take a day or so to bounce it off your friends and family and get their feedback, then on Friday I’d love to chat with you to go over it and answer any questions you may have. What time works best for you this Friday for a quick 10 minute call?”
Wednesday: Send the proposal with a reminder to bounce it off their friends and family.
Friday: On your 10 minute call answer any questions they may have. Sell your value as you go through it.
The idea that if people want you they will find a way to pay for it is true to a point. Money doesn’t grow on trees and you may just be flat out of their budget even if they decide to scale back in other areas. If this is the case, tell them that you understand (because you do, because you also do not have an unlimited bank account), and that you’d love to refer them to some wedding pros who may be more in line with their budget. While you may not get the sale, you’re raising the bar for the industry by referring them to talented people rather than charlatans who are only good at Instagram.
You’ll want to tell them 10 minutes for these first phone calls because it is too early in the process for them to feel comfortable committing to a longer period of time. Typically once they’re on the phone, they’ll want to speak longer, but showing them up front that you are respectful of their time and schedule is important.
A quick note on telling them to bounce it off their family and friends: millennials and Gen Z grew up making decisions in groups thanks to a change in the educational system in the 1980’s. Giving them space to solicit feedback from people they trust allows them to feel more comfortable with you and not pressured to make a decision they may end up regretting. Their putting a priority on their college roommate’s opinion may feel like a slap in the face to you, the actual expert, but building trust with your potential client is the most important factor here.
5. No one likes being the bearer of bad news.
Everyone is human and no one wants the icky feeling that comes with letting someone else down. Even if you have an “it’s just business” mindset, your potential clients may still feel terrible telling you they’re going with someone else. Add to this the fact that they may have interviewed a dozen other wedding professionals in your category and it’s easy to understand how telling a dozen people “no” could put a huge damper on their day.
One way to combat this is to tell them that if you’re not the right fit, you’re happy to recommend someone else who may be better suited for them. This shows that you genuinely care about them having the best wedding, even if they don’t end up booking you. Generosity wins.
Ghosting is not a new phenomenon. All ages do it, and blaming it just on millennials or Gen Z is lazy thinking and a way to avoid doing the work of examining where you could be running your business better.
Originally published December 2018