Over the past weekend, my fiancée and I finally made a decision on a hotel for our wedding next year.
I have to admit that initially I wasn’t keen on spending time on this decision, simply going with an “Okay” hotel will do for me. I mean it’s just one night in people’s lives, they wouldn’t remember the next morning, and the saying goes that “the wedding ceremony is for an evening, but marriage is for a lifetime” so don’t sweat right?
However, on the insistence of my fiancée, who want to take a more hands-on approach to this decision, we made the effort, and spent evenings checking out the various hotels, some through appointment with their sales team, some through just walking in and checking out the ballrooms and amenities. And I have to say, it has been an interesting and eye-opening experience.
For one, we had our initial checklist of items that we’re looking for, but with each subsequent hotel that we visit, our checklist is revised:
- High-ceiling / low ceiling ballroom? (High ceiling is grander, but low ceiling keeps the atmosphere boxed in)
- How is the reception area? Is it easy to find? Is it exclusive? (no confusion with another concurrent wedding ceremony)
- Even the look of the chandeliers and the lighting, is it sufficient and will we look awesome in photos?
We even put ourselves in the shoes of our guests, from the moment they walk into the hotel, up to the reception and into the ballroom. We tried to visualize their experience of it.
In the end, it boiled down to 3 final choices (Let’s just call them Hotels A, B & C), and we have analysed them based on the following criteria:
Ambience and Amenities
- Ambience and Amenities
- Customer Service
- Terms of the Deal
- Touchpoint Experience (Wedding Showcase)
Ambience and Amenities
Our Verdict: Hotel B for the best ambience and quality of amenities.
Our Verdict: Hotel A for sincerity and quality of service, with Hotel C a very close second.
Terms of the Deal
Our Verdict: Hotel A for simplicity in the terms of the deal, with Hotel C a close second. For Hotel B, this was the deal-breaker.
Touch-point Experience – Wedding Show Experience
Our Verdict: By Far Hotel C. Getting to taste the quality of the food (they let us try the actual day menu that we can expect) and also delighting us by giving us a complete experience. This was what sealed the deal.
Priceless Lessons about Sales
From this experience, I have learnt several lessons in sales and business:
1) The Devil is in the Details: I now see hotels in a different light. In the past, I thought of hotels in terms of a place to sleep, in terms of quality of buffet (Yes! This foodie is talking!) and just wedding dinners. Now I pay attention to flooring (carpet / marble), interior design (chandeliers? High ceiling?), and I have learnt a lot about how different hotels position themselves. Everyone will have different preferences and budget, and so there’s business for everyone.
Applicable Insight: How are you setting up your business? Your brand? What does your website say about your business? What does your brochure say?
2) Structure Delightful Experiences: Preeminent Influence Expert Robert Cialdini, wrote, in latest book “Pre-Suasion”, that the best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion – the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it. We finally chose Hotel C because prior to the wedding showcase, their sales representatives have been in constant contact with us and have met us once. Secondly, we also had to pay for the wedding showcase, which indicated that we were open to considering buying from them. Finally, they over-delivered on the promise by delighting at the showcase, and providing a taster of the food (free flow drinks help of course!) This hotel got it right that quality of food is one of the key considerations for couples, because we want our guests to enjoy themselves, and we feel comfortable with this.
Applicable Insight: How are you structuring the experience of working with you? Do you have welcoming client on-boarding practices?
3) Make your Deals Prospect Friendly: I have to say that there are times during the process that tested my patience. Some of the deals are so complex that we had to crack our brains and take out the calculators and make several calculations. Any excitement and anticipation we felt at the showcase event dissipated when more, ahem, practical issues come up in our decision making process.
Applicable Insight: How you structure a deal can usually make-or-break a purchasing decision. Your prospects don’t want to jump through hoops just to work with you. Make the terms of the deal transparent, so that there is no confusion and they don’t have to think so hard about taking it.
4) Be Authentic – Seek to Connect, not Convert: I really find pushy sales techniques, or sales script laced with persuasive sequences really draining. It’s my wedding, it’s my happiness, so I am going to make the decision on my terms, not on the terms of your slick presentation. Be authentic, tell me what you can and cannot do for me upfront, and get out of the way and let me make my own decisions.
Applicable Insight: Salespeople can be “too slick for their own good”. Sales training has always focused on techniques, tactics and scripts, all aimed at increasing persuasion. I feel that today’s buyers are savvy and have experienced almost all the tricks that they can detect if they’re being “sales-patterned”. Just be open, authentic and present to your buyers throughout the process. At the end of the day, they’ll make up their own meanings, their own reasons, and their own minds. Believers will be believers. You don’t have to try too hard to convert them to your ideas.