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I’ve been teaching and preaching Top Down Selling for years. The basic concept is simple – find out the results that the customer wants and offer them products and services that will get them there, regardless of their budget. It’s easier to work your way down in price, taking things away, than to sell your bottom service/package/product, and then try to upsell them. In theory and in practice, this works well. Explaining it hasn’t always been as easy. 

How do you start a game of Jenga  

One time while I was doing sales training, I had an epiphany about how the game of Jenga is a great metaphor for Top Down Selling. In case you’re not familiar with it, when you start the game, you build a complete tower using all of the blocks. Then, each player takes turns removing blocks, until the tower falls. When it falls, that player loses. Until it falls, the game is still on, and the tower is still standing, albeit with missing pieces.  

Do you sell from the bottom up?  

I’ve spoken and written about 4 ways to present price in emails, on the phone in-person, and on your website. It’s core to my sales training and my books “Why Don’t They Call Me?” and “Shut Up and Sell More Weddings & Events.” If you’re using only a starting price, you’re selling from the bottom up. You’re trying to get them to say Yes to a low price, and then hoping you’ll be able to sell them more, later. While I definitely want you to do upsells, later, it’s easier to try to get the bigger sale, now. Yes, for those who follow my writings, or who’ve read my latest book: “Wit, Wisdom and the Business of Weddings,” there is a chapter on not blowing the sale in front you, on the chance, you’ll get a bigger sale later. There are certain circumstances where that’s true. Most of the time, it’s better to try to get the bigger sale now.  

There are two ways to make more money  

Selling more is great. Profiting more is better. While selling more might profit you more, increasing your average sale is an easier way to increase your profits. Given the choice, I’d rather increase your average sale over making more sales. Once you master that, you’ll start profiting more from the same number of events. Then, as you increase the number of events you do, you’ll profit exponentially more. If you could profit $50 or $100 more from every event, how much more would that mean to you? We’re talking profit here, not sales. That’s your bottom line.  

A holey tower is better than one or two blocks  

Back to Jenga. In the game, you can keep removing blocks until it collapses. Similarly, if you present a solution to a customer and they say No, you can take things away until the value meets their budget. The key is to not just lower your price. Every dollar you lower your price, without taking something away is profit you gave away. Yes, I said profit you gave away. If you lower your price, but give them the same products and services, your costs are the same. That means you gave away part of your profit. Having a discounting strategy is important. I’ve also written about how discounting is different than negotiating. Having a discounting strategy (Fridays and Sundays, packages, etc.) is important. Everyone negotiates. If you’ve ever thrown something in to make a deal, you’ve negotiated. I’m not making judgement; we’ve all done that.  

A little white lie  

If you ask someone their budget, they’re likely to tell you they don’t have one, or give you a number lower than what they’re willing to pay. In other words, they’ll lie. It’s not that they’re liars, in the traditional sense. It’s that human nature says we’ll hold some back, in case we find what we need below our ability to pay. It’s funny how people who tell you they don’t have a budget seem to get one when you give them your price. Don’t judge them too harshly. We’ve all done that when we were the customer. If you want them to tell you truth, it’s better to give them an idea of price before asking their budget. The transparency will encourage them to be more truthful with you.  

Are you selling to their budget, or to the results they want?  

Your customers aren’t looking for your products and services. They’re looking for the results of those products and services. They don’t want food, photos or music. They want their guests to rave about the food. They want to feel the emotion every time they look at the photos. They want their guests to have the times of their lives, dancing the night away. What are you selling? Your bullet point list of services? The same list that your competitors are selling? What’s unique about what you’re selling? If what you’re selling doesn’t look or sound different, the lower price will usually win.   

So, how does Jenga reflect this?  

If you’re asking them good questions, and really listening to the answers, you’ll find out the results that they want. Then, you’ll sell them those results, not the products and services that will get them there. If they tell you that the price is more than they can afford, or are willing to pay, you start taking away product and/or services – like removing blocks in Jenga – until they say, Yes. It’s important to take something back, or get something of value back, when lowering the price. As I said earlier, every dollar you reduce the price, without getting anything of value back, is profit you gave away. Make them your partner in the negotiation.  

What if the Jenga falls?  

If you get to the point where you can’t, or don’t want to take anything else away, and they still won’t agree to your price, the Jenga has fallen. There’s a point below we each don’t want to go. Sometimes the work just won’t represent the quality or style to which we want to be known. There’s a point where you should just say, No. I realize that it’s easier to do for some than for others. If you’re very new in business, you often find yourself saying Yes, and then regretting it later. As your business becomes more established, and your personal radar develops more, you’ll be able to say No more often. You’ll be able to see the metaphorical Jenga tower falling. And when it falls, you can walk away, knowing that it wasn’t a good fit.  

So, start finding out the results that your prospects and customers want, and present them with a full Jenga tower. Then, ask for the sale. Don’t apologize that it’s more than their budget, just confidently ask for the sale. Then, stop talking. If they say Yes, write it up. If they say No, start taking blocks away until they say, Yes. That’s Top Down Selling according to Jenga!  

© 2020 AlanBerg.com & Wedding Business Solutions LLC

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Want help finding your Top Down Selling/Jenga strategy?  

I’ve helped wedding and event pros, just like you, develop a sales strategy and come up with a plan for structured discounting (and negotiating). Here’s what a few have said:  

I just wanted to reach out to say that your sales training is really working! I am closing more brides more quickly.” – Rachel Mandel, Mandelette Photography, Chicago, IL  

The timing couldn’t be better as we can’t grow sales without adjusting our selling techniques to meet the changes in the market.” – Steve Sanchez, The JDK Group, Camp Hill, PA  

I found his expertise so helpful and immediately put to use the techniques learned that day.” – Abby Rose, The Oaks Waterfront Weddings, Royal Oak, MD  


Want to find out about having me help you and your team, with a day of sales training, arranging a Mastermind Day with some of your industry friends, or having a 2-hour phone/website review or business consultation? Contact Alan via emailtext, use the short form on this page, or call 732.422.6362, international enquiries +1 732 422 6362 


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