If your business is anything like mine, then you know that profit in wedding businesses can be small, especially after you pay for your time and expenses. That can make finding and affording good help nearly impossible. What I mean is that if you book 35 weddings at $2000 each, you theoretically make $70,000. But that’s not actually the case, because you have to pay yourself something for your time (say $50,000 to live on), and then you have to cover all of your expenses (like marketing, software, rentals, credit card fees), and your expenses leading up to and on the day of the wedding. As well, you get taxed on that income too. By the time everything is said and done, you are lucky to wind up with anything at all. Then it becomes a bit of a vicious cycle. You take on more weddings to earn more money, but the more you take on, the more work you have to do. As you book more, your expenses rise and you have less and less time. The freedom you worked so hard to create suddenly vanishes and you felt richer before when you were taking on less weddings than you are now.
What if there was a better way?
A few years ago, I studied under a friend who was a master businessman in every way. He also owned a wedding company, but I will always remember one thing about him. He insisted in doing all of his sales, marketing and administrative tasks himself. Even though I was so impressed with the professionalism with which he ran his business and managed his team, I instinctively knew he was doing too much at the office. When I asked him about it, he told me it was just too expensive to find someone to replace him for all of those tasks. For a few years, I believed him and agreed myself, but then I discovered a secret that you can use when you’d like to hire someone but simply can’t afford it. It’s called commission on performance.
I think the most important person that nearly EVERY established wedding business owner should hire is a salesperson. Why? Because most people who get into the wedding industry (myself included), don’t get into it because we love sales. We get into it because we love interacting with clients, being creative and making beautiful events and creations. We are artists at heart and a world class salesperson is kind of the exact opposite of what most people think of when they picture an artist.
At my company I realized that the magic formula was to hire a sales representative to focus solely on the following:
-Responding to inbound inquiries
-Following up with clients via phone, email and text
-Creating and sending proposals
-Turning inquiries into bookings
As I started interviewing, I quickly learned that the average rate for a salesperson was a minimum of $20 per hour (if not more like $30 or $40 and up). Since I only had work for between 2 and 4 hours a day, it really didn’t make sense for me to take on all of that financial risk. Plus, it just didn’t seem motivating for my sales person. What if they didn’t book any weddings? Was I still supposed to pay them that $1600 a month or so? It really didn’t seem like a good idea.
So, I decided to cut up the pie so to speak and give my salesperson 10% of every wedding they booked. If they booked a new client, they’d get 10% of the total. If they didn’t book anything, they’d earn nothing (and be fired within a month or so). It was a pure commission model. I did the mental math myself and realized that if I was doing the job, I could make a couple thousand a month minimum myself, just doing the sales role, so it seemed like a reasonable commission for the job. Even better still was that the sales rep could work from home, part time and earn a pretty significant amount of money for just a few hours a day. They would also have all of their time to focus on sales, which gave me more time to focus on marketing and delivering great service.
How My Experiment Turned Out
It’s been a few years now and I’ve probably been through a dozen sales reps, but I finally have figured out what to look for in a sales team member. I’ve also learned to meet with my sales rep about once or twice a week to come up with better ways to differentiate ourselves, handle objections and ensure we are running the best sales process possible. If you are earning over $100,000 per year in revenue with your wedding venue business, I’d highly suggest trying to hire a PT, commission-based sales rep just to handle your inquiries. If you are under $100,000 a year, you could try paying a higher % for booked sales to make it more worth the sales reps time, or you could use Event Temple to do your follow ups for you and then hire a sales rep later once you begin to book more weddings.
Streamline Your Sales
One way I really powered my sales into overdrive was to use www.eventtemple.com. I also highly advise using Event Temple if you are making under $100,000 a year in sales and therefore still can’t afford a sales rep because it’s the closest thing to having a live human being working for you that you can find on the market. With Event Temple we’ve been able to create standardized email follow ups, so that any new team member we hire instantly has access to all of the emails we send out to potential clients. As well, we use Event Temple to follow up 8 times with every client, automatically, which has my current Sales Rep worried for his job since he spends most of his time following up!
No matter what you do in your business, never settle for the status quo and believe that you can’t afford something. If you really want or need a staff member, a software tool, or another investment to get your company to the next level, you should always be able to find a way through creative thinking. Hiring a sales person on commission is just one way to grow your team with no cash up front and in my humble opinion it is much more effective than paying up front as it incentives that team member to book deals.