Mar 1, 2016
From the moment a bride says “Yes!” to her fiancé, she opens the door to a world in which she’ll be navigating a lot of unknowns and making many decisions.
For most brides, one of the biggest questions they’ll face will be one that you, the consultant, will ask her. It will sound something like, “I see tears of joy in your eyes. Is this dress the one?” That is a more heartfelt way of saying, “Do you want to buy this gown?”
The question itself seems fairly benign but you know better. Behind every sale is the story of a bride who is likely emotionally charged for a whole host of reasons. Although she’s usually somewhat educated about certain aspects of the gown, she’s still experiencing these (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime choices for the first time. It’s intense. Which is why your job in asking for the sale at the right moment is a skill – and an art – that matters.
After all, odds are, “if you do not ask the prospect to buy, the answer is ‘No,’” says Joe Curcillo (http://themindshark.com), a professional speaker, communications expert, entertainer, lawyer and adjunct professor at Widener University School of Law, where he developed a hands-on course for using storytelling as a persuasive weapon.
“When the sales dance begins, the prospect expects you to ask,” Curcillo says. “It is a natural step in the process.”
Yet in the back of almost every bride’s mind, and the minds of other key people who are with her, lingers worries and whispers of uncertainty.
With large-ticket items, even when customers feel convinced it’s the right choice, “there are always the ‘Maybe I should continue to look’ thoughts,” says Chris Lott, a business solutions consultant, sales management expert and owner/author of SalesBlog! and totallysales (http://www.lottspace.com and http://www.totallysales.com).
And because of these thoughts, “they’re most likely not going to blurt out ‘I want to buy this now!’” Lott says.
That’s where you step in. Whether it’s good etiquette or simply the way the sales game goes, your customer expects you to play an important role. This means asking the right questions at the right time, as to enable the bride to respond and the process to continue.
“Asking for the sale creates a moment where the prospect is called to act. It puts the ball into the buyer’s court. She now is empowered. She can simply say ‘Yes’ or come up with a reason to say ‘No.’ If you have confidently and logically explained all the reasons why your product is best and is of the value you have placed upon it, as you build up their excitement, you will limit the ability for her to say ‘No’ and allow a ‘Yes!’”
But if asking for the sale is clearly something you must do in your job, why does it feel so hard at times? There are a number of reasons but it usually boils down to one of five very common fears.
1. Fear of rejection. Without a doubt, no one likes rejection. It can feel very personal at times, particularly when you have worked hard to cater to a customer and think the gown she’s wearing looks phenomenal. But sales consultants need to realize rejection happens. Remember, as Curcillo says, “A ‘no’ to your product or service is not a rejection of you. It is simply a reflection of the prospect’s current needs or budget.” If you tend to personalize rejection, create some awareness around that habit and its triggers. Reach out to your boss or other team members for advice on how to depersonalize it. Remember, for this job, tough skin is required. If you don’t have it, you’ve got to get it—then maintain it. And there are people and strategies that can help you in this area of professional development.
2. Fear of inadequately handling objections. Part of preventing the “no” is handling objections that pop up during the sales process, Lott says. But “those who can handle objections and have been trained to recognize buying signs will not be afraid to ask,” he adds. Again, part of addressing this fear is having tough skin. For example, if the bride loves everything about a dress but worries about the train being too long, you’ve got to be prepared for how you’ll solve that problem. Perhaps by telling her about the way it can be either customized to be shorter or bustled? These and countless other verbal objections are often fairly predictable. Make a list of them and practice your responses so your comebacks are second nature. In addition to verbal objections, you also have control of how you handle nonverbal cues your customers are giving. If a bride says she loves a dress but her head is pointing down and she’s not making eye contact with you or anyone else, she’s not on board yet. Either this dress isn’t the dress and it’s time to move on or it’s a chance to surface more concerns. The great thing about managing objections is that as you discuss and address those concerns, you’ll win her trust. When it comes time to ask for the sale, she’ll feel amazing about saying yes – and to you!
3. Fear of lack of knowledge. There’s an old saying that every sales consultant should take to heart: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Knowledge is power yet consultants commonly fail to ask for the sale because they have not done their homework in regard to either the product, customer or both.
As Curcillo says, “You cannot sell unless you have internalized and understand exactly what you are selling and, of course, why someone needs it. When you are confident and sure, the buyer’s confidence builds until they want it and can’t live without it.” So if it’s gowns you’re selling, know your stuff! Get a grasp of the ins and outs of the gown, options, designer behind its creation, what celebrities if any are wearing it, key benefits and drawbacks, and solutions that address any common objections to this dress. Also, make sure you know your customer. Take the time to really read any questionnaire she’s filled out prior to coming to the store. Send her a short pre-appointment e-mail to ask her about any preferences in advance of her arrival. Ask a few driving, open-ended questions that expand upon anything you know at the beginning of the process to get dialogue rolling and communication flowing smoothly. All this will grow your knowledge of her, facilitating both a smoother selling process and the odds that you’ll more quickly land on the right dress for her. Then, asking for the sale feels easier to you, and both expected and logical for her.
4. Fear of coming across as too pushy. While it’s never good to go overboard, there’s a time and place to be assertive, and every bridal consultant needs to recognize when that moment arrives. As well you must understand how to be assertive in a tactful, respectful way. Again, “asking for the sale is expected,” Curcillo says. “If you never ask, your customers are then simply window shopping and trying on pretty gowns. Remember, they are there to buy and you are there to sell. If you do their job, they will do theirs.” Struggling with closing sales? It’s always possible that you may be coming across as pushy or desperate-sounding at that crucial moment. If you aren’t sure, have someone with a strong track record for closing sales observe your techniques and language. With objective feedback, you can find out if this is really an issue and then take necessary corrective action.
5. Fear around the value or worth of the product. If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, it’s going to be hard to convince someone to buy it. The fastest way to build that product faith is to learn more details about it either through formal training or by simply taking the initiative to find out. Why does this matter? Because if you don’t learn this, then your customer won’t either and it will be pretty hard to convince her of its value or worth. Such an oversight or error in understanding can then lead to lost sales and undermine your potential as a sales consultant.
For example, years ago, I was with a bride who was getting married in Denver. She went to an established salon where she was told by a consultant that the store’s accessories were way overpriced, and she could find something like it online for much cheaper. In a matter of seconds, two things happened: The consultant demonstrated she didn’t believe in the store’s pricing or her ability to sell it at that price. (Secretly, I began wondering if the gown was also way overpriced!) And this consultant lost an opportunity to make a sale. The moral of the story? If you don’t understand why something is priced the way it is or are unsure about a product’s worth, ask questions of the person behind the pricing. You may be surprised to find that instead of fake crystals, the accessories are made with Swarovkski crystals. Or perhaps the veil’s lace is hand-sewn by some French seamstresses in Paris. When you catch yourself wondering about value, there’s only one real solution and that’s for you to get that homework done so you’re more empowered to sell it and at the price that it’s been assigned.
Now, it’s remotely possible your boss may be pricing things in an unreasonable manner. Or, you may discover that in spite of understanding more about a gown’s worth, you still can’t believe in it. In either of those cases, you’ve got a bigger decision to make around whether this job is best for you. But that aside, fears around a product’s worth are usually tied to insufficient understanding of the products or pricing. Remember: In sales – as in many things in life – you’ve got to understand it to believe it, and believe it to sell it.
A final note: Every sales consultant has had that moment when she could’ve asked for the sale, let it slip by, and regretted it. And every consultant has felt fear and a host of other emotions that have maybe triggered her confidence. When it comes to asking for the sale, be proactive about how you identify and address your fears – the sooner the better. On the salesfloor, time is often not your friend, but it can be a teacher. When you have a limited amount of time to ask for the sale and all signs are supporting a possible close, it becomes the excellent reminder you need to just go for it!
Is It Time to Ask for the Sale?
– There’s a lot of dissention among the team of people who are there to “support” her in this decision, some of whom may be footing the bill. Go back and focus on countering objections if the bride seems to still be interested in this dress. Otherwise, move on to the next option quickly!
– She’s somewhat interested but you know you can do way better with a different gown. Don’t rush the sale if you know greater options exist.
– If she says she “likes” the dress. You’re going for “love.” You’re going for tears of joy. You’re going for the big “YES!” Even if it means losing the sale because you don’t have the very best option for her, it’s better to be honest than be wrong for the sake of earning her buck.
– The customer is showing ownership. As Chris Lott, sales expert and the owner/author of SalesBlog! says, “Language or statements that are saying things like ‘When can this be ready?’ or ‘This is a bit over budget, but I love it!’ are buying signs that it’s time to close the deal.”
– Your relationship with the bride is solid. If you feel you can ask her almost anything, you can ask her whether the gown she’s in is the gown for her big day.
– There’s a shift in her perspective, mood and energy. When she’s suddenly seeing herself as a bride (not a woman trying on fancy white gowns), speaking in a more positive way, and demonstrating other cues indicating she’s getting energy from wearing this current dress, you’re close if not ready to pop your question.
Shannon Hurd, Managing Editor, oversees the editorial content and direction of VOWS and its platforms. She writes on Social Media and the intersection of bridal business and life. Shannon's recent blog posts are below.
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Peter Grimes, Publisher and founder of VOWS Magazine. His comments are presented in each issue's Publisher's Note, and often address industry issues and pertinent news of the day. He can be reached at 949 388 4848 or via email
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