Referrals: Don’t Take Yes for an answer

September 19, 2008 by Andy Ebon

fish-eat-food-chain.gifIf you’re a supplier of wedding products or services, chances are that a lot of your activity comes from venues, in one form or another.

Some facilities hand out a Preferred Vendor list. Others act an Agency capacity and book your services, marking them up to the client. That may also include asking you to discount your fee for service, as well.

These kind of relationships have become more prevalent with larger properties, but they are not uncommon with country clubs or restaurant banquet facilities, either.

Often, you may be asked to donate product or services for a venue’s event (employee, corporate clients or members) as a spoken or unspoken part of ‘getting their referrals.’

Now, months have gone by. Your phone isn’t ringing with referred prospects. Your email isn’t dinging with new prospects. Just what’s happening?

In plain language… you may well be getting jerked around by your contact at the venue.

You may have to employ some ‘guerilla tactics’ to ascertain this. At a minimum, you might set up a phony email account, and pose as a bride. Requesting banquet information and a list of preferred vendors will show whether or not you are ‘on the list.’

Worst case, you may have to hire a ‘shopper’ to pose as a bride for one or more appointments to ascertain the same information. Some venues will not give out a preferred vendor list until they have been contracted as the reception site. So, it’s not a perfect situation.

Why are you being jerked around?: Often, it involves kickbacks (as opposed to commissions). A commission is an above-board agency fee, paid to the facility through the mark-up of your services. The venue may redistribute some of that money to its catering sales staff as compensation for reselling outside services.

bribe.jpgA kickback is a straight-up bribe. For example, a vendor putting a $100 bill, directly in the hands of catering sales manager. This would be an under-the-table transaction (upper management out of the loop).

If found out by some hotels, a catering sales manager will be terminated, and walked off property that day.

Should you find out unethical behavior is taking place, although you’ll be very angry, you need to act slowly. It’s always wise to try and find out why you are not being referred, directly, and see if you can remedy the situation. It could be that it’s a performance failure, on your part.

That’s fine, but you should be told ‘yes, you’re on the list,’ and be misled. That’s bogus.

I wouldn’t suggest going over the head of a catering sales manager, without attempting to square it with them, first. That can create an all-out war.

If you’re a catering sales manager, reading this piece, you need to think long and hard about the importance of quality and ethical referrals. One doesn’t want to risk the reputation of your property or your job, for that matter, by overreaching.

Andy Ebon The Wedding Marketing Blog

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Andy Ebon Andy Ebon (78 Posts)

Keith Alan has been in the DJ biz since 1975, started hosting weddings in 1982 and went full-time in 1993. While personally hosting over 60 weddings a year on the weekends, his mid-week programs generate income through out the year. Young children and seniors are the strong points of the business. Outside of the weddings division of Keith Alan Productions, Keith’s summer program, Campardy™ has grown from 1 event in 2000, to 75 events within a 6 week window! Keith is busy with game shows, trivia, photo booths and extreme bingo the other 46 weeks of the year.


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