I had a very revealing luncheon with a friend who is in the non-profit sector of the event industry. While I was wailing about not having enough business (does anyone ever have enough?), he said, “Do you know the number one reason people give so generously to non-profits?” My response was, “because they get tax write offs?” He smiled indulgently and said, “They ask.” Light bulb in my head time. Of course. “They ask”.
Salespeople do a grand job of presenting brilliant ideas, solutions to problems, strategies to help their clients develop an idea. They spend a fortune on proposals, detailed graphics, renderings, 3d models, and all the bells and whistles, including expensive leave-behinds. And the usual ending is, “Thank you for this meeting. We are committed to making your event outstanding and blah, blah, blah.
What they almost never do is ASK for the business. And I must wonder why. Let me get anecdotal. Many years ago, my mother, a recent immigrant from Europe, went shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue. She found a coat she wanted. Let’s guess that at that time is was $49. She then told the salesperson that she would pay $40. The salesperson scoffed and said, “we don’t discount our fine clothes.” Unabashed my mother said, “please get your manager and let me ask her if she will sell it to me for $40.” Fast forward, and my mother paid $40 for that coat. She operated the same way at jewelry stores, the hairdresser, and even occasionally at the market. In Europe everyone bargained. It was not the way of life in the USA, but my mother didn’t know that. And in the end, with her beauty and charm and self confidence she usually got exactly what she wanted BECAUSE SHE ASKED FOR IT.
I could embellish and could probably tell many more stories, but there is a great point here. Do not leave your work… your creativity… yourself… on that table when you leave. Let the very last words from you be an honest “ask”. Ask for the business because you know you deserve it. “When will you be making a decision?” is not an “ask.” A savvy question that leads into this is: “I am here asking you for your business. What else can we do to show you that we are the perfect match for this project and to work with you? We WANT to do business with you.” And then shut up and see what happens.
Andrea Michaels is the founder/president of Extraordinary Events, a Los Angeles-based, multi-award-winning event agency. She is the author of Reflections of a Successful Wallflower – Lessons in Business; Lessons in Life and a contributor to numerous other business books. She may be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.