How to negotiate with couples

Does the phrase “can I have a discount?” gives you the creeps? Well, our first advice is: calm down! It is really important for wedding planners to know how to negotiate with couples and to show how important your work is for their big day. So, take a look at some valuable tips from international wedding planners and see how you can improve your negotiation skills.

Getting ready to negotiate

Negotiation might begin even before the first meeting with the couple. Cecilia Pineda Rosas tells that in her company, they have protocols to follow when a customer get in touch with them. The first step is to send a questionnaire with questions about the wedding. Once they fill it in and send it, they set an appointment to meet the couple and talk about their big day. “This appointment is really important to us, cause it is when we realize if we are the right wedding planners for the couple.  We don’t sell a service, we sell an experience and the couple must feel conformable with the way we work”, explains Cecilia Pineda Rosas. The main idea is to close the negotiation that day, next day they send the contract and once they signed it, Cecilia Pineda Rosas starts working on their wedding.

Getting to know the couple is a really important step for negotiation and a first meeting. “I like to ‘feel’ the couple, to know them and drive the meeting according to them. If they are a more fun and relaxed couple, I do a more relaxed meeting. If they are more formal, we can have a  more formal meeting. Adapting my communication at the moment depending on the couple is very important”, suggests the wedding planner Rui Mota Pinto.

Another good tip from Rui Mota Pinto is to try to think about the questions the clients might ask to be prepared to answer.

For the wedding planner Samantha Cooley, before the meeting, it is important to set limits to the negotiation. “If you don’t do that, you can get lost with the price. I think everybody has a price and a limit of negotiation, and we need to be straight to that”, she states.

Talking about prices

When it comes the time to discuss prices, opinions can get a little bit different, depending on the country and the culture. “I have to admit that there is a false myth of making deals with suppliers in Italy with negotiation. This is not quite correct. There is always a space for meeting halfway, but this is not a pure negotiation”, says the wedding planner Valentina Lombardi, from Italy.

According to Valentina Lombardi, in general, when clients ask for discounts, she explains that thanks to her good relationship with other vendors, it is possible to get better prices or conditions for their booking, but this is not a real negotiation. “I always try to do the best for my couples working honestly with suppliers but we try always to set a limit respecting both sides”, she points out. Cecilia Pineda Rosas, from Mexico, agrees with that: “I always say that I will look the best discounts with the vendors I work with, but not about my services”.

The wedding planner Joyce Mnguni, also from Mexico, works in the same way: “We have a good relationship with local vendors. So, sometimes, they might get an extra hour on the photography, for example. We always try to give more than what they are paying for, to avoid the word discount”.

What if the couple doesn’t have conditions to pay for your service? Rui Mota Pinto, from Portugal, says that he tries not to make discounts, but if he feels that the couple really want to hire him and they do not have financial conditions, he sometimes tries to adapt the service. “We try to adapt the service so we can make a proposal that suits what they want and what that can pay for. But always adapting the services”, he suggests.

Joyce Mnguni believes that if they are not ready to pay what she charges, then it’s best to referrer them to some of other local planners who are able to charge what the client is asking. “It’s important to ask the couple what their budget is. This way, we know how far we can go with the budget or our limitations. Then, we can make the decision to referrer them”, she says.

The brazilian wedding planner Samantha Cooley has a more flexible position regarding discounts: “I think it’s ok and normal to ask for it. We can always negotiate so it can be good for both parts. Of course, there’s a limit, but if I can help the couple with a little discount, it’s fine. However, if the couple asks for a different price, out of limit, I just tell them it’s not possible. They need to know that we have our price. If we agree with a price that’s not ok for us, we’re not working right”.

Show you are worth

During a negotiation, it is really important to show the couples that your services are worth paying for. And every wedding planner has its own secrets to do that.

Valentina Lombardi believes that it is important to remind them that they need a trustworthy wedding planner, especially if they are doing a destination wedding. “When a couple plan a destination wedding it is always a leap of faith. They really need to trust their planners, since they’re not at the location. So I try to create with a couple a trusting relationship that could let us face any issue that might come with maturity and collaboration”, she explains.

Another good tip from Valentina Lombardi is to show a good portfolio to the clients. “It is the best way to show our couples what we do and that they worth what they pay. Seeing other successful weddings on our blog, social pages, international blogs and the awards we won is the best way to show how we work and that hiring us is a good choice”, she argues.

To show the clients how important her work is, Samantha Cooley uses the “step by step” strategy and also offer them some referrals. “I show them everything we do, all the details, how many hours we work, the number of vendors we need to talk and coordinate, etc. I also give them the contacts of brides I’ve already worked for, so they can ‘check’ about my work, if they were satisfied, etc”, she recommends.

The referrals are also important for Cecilia Pineda Rosas. “Nowadays, in my company, 99% of my clients are with us because the word of mouth – advertising or because they saw us on their friends’ weddings. So, they already know how we work on the big day”, she tells.

The wedding planner Rui Mota Pinto chose a different way to sell his work. Instead of showing his portfolio, he focuses on the couple and offers a completely personalized wedding. “I believe that hiring a wedding planner is more than just hiring a service or a professional. It is important that they feel connected with their wedding planner. My work is represented by the creations I make, not by the technical aspect of wedding planning. What set us apart from the others is the ability to create new things, new concepts, ideas that are really part of the couple’s story and life. I always say that each wedding has a Past, a Present and a Future. If you have the ability to understand that and put it in a unique creation, that’s what wedding Tailoring and Planning is all about – making dreams come true! I always tell my couples that they are hiring not just a service but myself, my ‘creative mind’, my ideas, my experience. That is what sets me apart. I try not to show photos on my first meetings. I do prefer to talk about the couple, their story, who they are, who they want to be after the wedding, how they imagine themselves on the day, how they fell in love. This way they understand what they can expect from me – a true wedding created for them, a real tailored wedding and not just a service to plan a wedding taken from the internet”, concludes Rui Mota Pinto.

What about you? What are your tips to negotiate with clients?

First photo credit: Wedding planner – Valentina Lombardi | Photo: Pure White Photography

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