I originally wrote this article for a DJ publication a few years ago. What I’ve learned through my relationships with hundreds of wedding professionals from all segments of the industry, though, is that the frustration that often accompanies selling and conveying your value and worth is universal. The remedy is also universal as you’ll find in the how-to videos that follow at the end of this article.
When it comes to how much or how little a wedding professional should or should not charge for their services, we are a deeply divided industry. There are some who charge a fair and reasonable wage. But it seems that there are far more who are charging less than the rest of the market.
I used to care (actually obsess) about how much my competitors were charging. These folks frustrated me on a daily basis.
I mistakenly believed that wedding DJs who charged substantially less than me somehow affected my ability to command and receive a higher fee. It took some time, but I learned that isn’t true.
The most common perceived barrier for wedding pros who want to increase their fees, though, is that there are limits on what your market will allow when it comes to your fees. You may be correct.
But, on the other hand, have you simply thrown in the towel before giving yourself any real opportunity to change the status quo? In other words, have you tried to educate yourself in the sales process as much as you have in being excellent in other areas of your business so you can break through the “nobody will pay that” barrier?
When I decided to double my fees for the first time over 15-years ago, I was doing everything I was supposed to do as a business to justify that increase.
But, I had no idea how to go about asking for more money.
There was also the stigma that charging a higher fee meant that I would somehow be more culpable if something were to go wrong. That fear factor weighed heavy on my willingness to make the leap.
Eventually, I decided increasing my fee was something I had to do—if for no other reason than to provide my business the optimum opportunity to prosper and to make it possible for me to make a livable wage as a full-time, professional wedding DJ.
I remember the subsequent sales consultations as though they happened yesterday.
I also remember the rejections. Because I didn’t change the way in which I presented my services at my lesser rate, every couple I met told me that my new fee was too high and my services were out of their budget.
As embarrassed as I am to admit it, on the drive home from each of those sales consults, I either called my wife or another DJ to complain how the client was cheap or didn’t know what they were missing. They could have had ME at their wedding reception. Instead, they were going to hire some lesser priced DJ who wasn’t nearly as talented or caring. Yeah, I let my ego go wild!
After more sales consults, though, and even more rejections, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps the problem wasn’t cheap clients.
Maybe the problem was me.
Since sales had never been my forte, I read every book I could find on the subject and attended a number of local sales seminars. With that new found knowledge, I set out to deliver a more compelling sales presentation that I thought no one would be able to reject. Wrong!
Clients still told me my fees were too high and my services were unaffordable. At that point, I decided I was not a salesman.
Although I understood the value of my services, I was incapable of conveying that value to others.
Instead of going back to the drawing board, I gave up and settled on a modest increase in fees that most clients found acceptable.
In 2003, wedding sales guru, Peter Merry, was the new Amercian Disc Jockey Association President. He was also a man on a mission to substantially increase ADJA membership. As a part of that recruitment effort, Peter traveled around the country, making stops in a number of cities to speak to groups of DJs. As it was at each of his stops, when he came to Kansas City he didn’t focus solely on the benefits of membership in the ADJA, he first delivered an informative seminar titled “Better Consultations Bring Better Bookings.”
In that seminar, Peter demonstrated a professional wedding DJ focused, step-by-step approach to presenting our services in a manner that clearly conveys irrefutable value.
He spoke of touching emotions, developing a relationship, listening first, the questions to be asked of prospective clients and so many other details I had not thought of on my own or had learned from others.
Perhaps it was fate, but the information he provided could not have come at a better time for my business. I was re-energized and ready to try again.
Although there is a happy ending to my story—it is not a fairy tale ending.
Even though I was better at presenting my services and conveying my value in sales consults, I was still unpolished and I still faced rejections. But, I wasn’t about to give up this time and I worked even harder to fine tune my presentation much like you work hard to fine tune your business operation.
Each rejection became a learning experience that helped me improve even more.
One evening I met with a couple to discuss their wedding. The mother of the bride-to-be was also there. As I wrapped up my presentation and presented them with my fee, I was bracing myself for another rejection when I suddenly heard the mother ask, “Do you take checks?”
That evening became the first successful milestone on my journey to becoming better at sales. Selling is still not my strong suit but it is a necessity of doing business and I know that I have to improve each time I meet with a couple.
The moral of my story is it’s easy to blame others for our misfortunes, just as I did.
And, it’s way too easy to put the blame on the client and/or our market. With all that I learned from Peter, he never provided a magic pill to take the effort out of improving.
There’s always a learning curve and if you want something bad enough, you must be willing to work hard for it and set aside any fear you may have of rejection. I say “fear” because it is the number one excuse that leads to failure.
Thomas Edison once said,
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Today, my fees is 3-4 times higher than the norm in my market. Getting here wasn’t easy, And, I wouldn’t have made it this far if not for the push I received from so many mentors, including Peter Merry.
Remaining with the status quo looks appealing when placed next to effort. But, effort doesn’t look so daunting when placed next to the rewards.
I recently sat down down with my friend and mentor, Peter Merry, for a 2-part video conversation on how you can better convey your value so you, too, can get what you’re worth. We actually share a number of easy ideas that you can implement right away and a few that may take a little more time. Either way, regardless of what segment of the wedding industry you represent, the ideas in the videos are universal. And, with practice you’ll be able to charge enough for the service you provide to earn a fair and reasonable wage.
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