The eye of the beholder
By Michelle Nicol, CERP
By Michelle Nicol, CERP
Can I get a discount?” “What’s my preferred industry rate?” “What is my discount if I order in bulk?”
These are among the most popular questions we as event rental professionals hear on a daily basis. Having a client ask for a deal can be a sticky situation that you have the opportunity to turn into a positive experience for you and your client. This is your chance to showcase your company, to educate your potential customer on where the value is by selecting your company and to turn them into a loyal customer for life.
Talking about price can be uncomfortable, especially if this request comes out of the blue and catches you off guard. When the question is asked of you, remember that you do not have to answer them right away. Do not leave them hanging for days or weeks, but give yourself an hour to evaluate their request and formulate your response. You should ask your client what budget they are working with, what percentage of their budget have they allocated for rentals and what is the most important thing to them in terms of their event. Be cautious not to allude to the guarantee of lowering your costs to meet their budget – chances are they have lowered it a bit for the sake of conversation in hopes of receiving a higher discount.
Unpack why they are looking for a reduction in price. What are they really asking? To save money. Is your pricing out of their budget because your pricing is on the higher end, or is their budget unrealistically low? Have an open and honest conversation on why your pricing is what it is, how you remain competitive within the industry and what value they are getting beyond the rentals by choosing your company. Ensure the client is seeing the big picture and comparing apples to apples. While your pricing may be on the higher end, perhaps you don’t charge a mandatory damage waiver or have a lower delivery fee, which all adds up to the final total.
Adding value to a sale will not only help foster a long term, loyal customer relationship, but will create a ripple effect in increasing your revenue down the road. What can you add on for your potential customer that will mean something to them? Upgrade their linen, chair or tableware to a luxury level – no cost to you. Round up their items to the nearest dozen at no additional cost – they are going out anyways, what’s a few more pieces? Offer them a preferred delivery time at no additional fee – if you have the availability, now’s the time to do that. There are many ways you can add value to their overall experience that may seem normal to you, but will leave them feeling beyond satisfied with their experience. Here are a few examples of adding value. Replying to their emails within a few moments of receiving them, even if just to say that the email was received, earns major bonus points. Offering complimentary CAD drawings upon order confirmation. Flexible deposit and payment terms or samples at no charge for an at-home trial. Offering referrals to other suppliers in your network that will offer the same level of customer service is a great example of adding value without adding a cost, plus those suppliers may return the favour one day.
Nothing is more important than communicating with a customer and building that relationship. If there is an item that would achieve the same look or purpose in your arsenal that may cost less, let them know. They will appreciate your honesty, and this will build their trust in you to be someone who has their best interests (and budget) in mind.
At the end of the day, you want to make sure all of your clients feel heard, valued and important. There will be clients that just do not have the budget to work with you, no matter how much value they are getting with your company. Once you lower your price or offer a discount with a customer, the expectation will always remain that they are entitled to that preferred rate, even when the event industry is booming again. Value looks different to every client, it’s up to us to determine what that means to them and how we can help them achieve their event goals.
Michelle is an award-winning account manager and festival specialist with Higgins Event Rentals in Toronto. She is an active member in industry associations and enjoys serving on a variety of boards and committees.