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Sunday, December 19, 2010

How Watching Reality TV Helped Me: Talking Budget with Your Clients

You’re going to find out soon enough so I might as well just admit it early on in my blogging career and get it over with – I am a reality TV junkie. However, I justify this guilty pleasure by using the real-life situations I observe on TV to learn how to improve my own life, personally & professionally.

Once in a while, I’ll catch that show Say Yes to the Dress on TLC (The Learning Chanel), where brides-to-be are shopping for that perfect wedding dress and the sales consultants are working tirelessly to make the sale. Every episode is like a mini sales-training video. Although they’re selling dresses & we’re selling furniture, the process is very similar. They are both big ticket items that visually represent the individual's personality and design style.

One of the most important lessons I’m reminded of with every episode of Say Yes to the Dress is that if a client loves something enough, they will find a way to pay for it.

Every client will come in with one budgetary number in mind, absolutely adamant that they will not spend a penny more. But after being in the store for a little while trying on dresses, they soon find out that none of the dresses in their price range really “wow” them.

At this point, the consultant will usually say something like, “I have a dress in mind that I think is very much like what you’re describing to me, however it’s outside your price range. Would you like to just try it on to see if I'm on the right track as far as understanding the style you want?” (A low pressure way of getting the client to try it on without thinking she’s going to be pressured into buying it at the end.

Then the client, or usually her Mom or Dad who are actually paying for the dress, will usually ask, “Well, how much over?”

The Consultant, who is not afraid to talk about budget openly and confidently (another great tip: always talk about budget early on in the process), will respond, “About $2,000. You told me you wanted to spend no more than $4,000, I know. But I think, realistically, to get the type of look you want, it’s going to be more than that.”

I love it! Already the consultant is “planting the seed” that the client will be spending more that $4,000 – not because she wants more commission, but because, realistically, this is what the client will need to invest to get what she really wants.

Inevitably, the client does want to at least try on the dress just to see if the consultant is “on the right track” when it comes to understanding her style preferences. (Basically, the client totally fell into the “trap” at this point ;)

After seeing the more expensive dress on the bride-to-be,sometimes they will love it so much, they work out some type of arrangement to be able to afford it – maybe the bride agrees to clean her parent's home for the next year if they will buy her the more expensive dress. And sometimes, they decide, even though they love the dress, they don’t love it enough to pay the additional amount.

Either way, the best part is, when you talk this openly about budget early on and continuously throughout the process, there are no monetary surprises when it comes to the point of making a buying decision. They’ve already had time to “digest” the numbers. They’ve gotten used to the fact that they will be spending more than what they originally intended.

If you work this way with your clients, you’re less likely to hear the ‘ol “We’ve got to go home and think about it” - which is just a stall tactic usually used because they had no idea what they wanted to buy would cost so much. Therefor, they're not prepared to make that commitment.

And by the way, I can’t believe people are spending this much on wedding dresses. 13 years ago, mine was about $1,000 after alterations. We thought that was expensive! But this must be exactly how people feel when they go furniture shopping every 10 years.

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