In 1988, Howard Baker was President Reagan's Chief of Staff…
Intro by Skip Cohen
It’s another excellent post from the Sprouting Photographer archives. This time Rob Nowell joins us with a terrific look at getting fear out of the selling scenario.
At every conference, one of the most popular business programs is always about selling and especially closing the sale. So many photographers are afraid to ask for money for their services. They fail to recognize their own skillset and the endless amount of time they’ve worked to perfect their craft.
While this post is a little longer than usual, I hope you’ll take the time to read all of it. Selling doesn’t have to be scary. It’s not if you have the confidence in your skillset and an appreciation for the value of the products/services you’re providing to the client.
Remember, a business without revenue is a hobby!
You’re not selling photographs but memories where you’ve taken an intangible moment and turned into something tangible for your clients to cherish the rest of their lives.
By Robert Nowell
THE WORD “sales” is common to just about every entrepreneur on the planet.
Creative types such as photographers, however, seem to have a real disdain for sales and avoid the idea of “selling” to their clients. Many photographers have told me personally that they just don’t like being a “salesperson.” They just want to take great photographs and they hope the client will order enough from the session to be profitable.
Successful businesses don’t rely on hope for profits. They have a strategy for sales and marketing. They implement systems. Many companies spend thousands on sales training for their employees so they can feel confident in a sales situation.
So why do many of us cringe when faced with the thought of being both photographer and salesperson?
Perhaps it’s because too often the word “sell” is thought to be synonymous with the word “force.” Maybe we’ve had one or more experiences with “salespeople” who have been pushy, aggressive or even rude. More than likely if we have had those experiences it has been with a salesperson on commission. We have to learn to separate those past experiences from what we hope to accomplish in our own business.
Another main reason for avoiding sales is we might just feel we are terrible at it, based on a few previous attempts in our own photography business. I feel that is usually due to four main problems:
- Knowledge – We do not know all of our own products and pricing. Too often we will change the pricing of our services and products from sales sessions to sales sessions. We base our price of the day on perceived thoughts on what we think the client will spend and what they can afford.
- Confidence – We don’t think we are worth what we are charging. We can’t imagine spending $XX for photography so we aren’t confident asking someone else to pay it. We constantly second guess the quality of our own work so we lack the confidence to charge top dollar.
- Communication- We haven’t spent adequate time learning and rehearsing how to properly articulate the benefits of our products to our customers. Sometimes we talk too much and don’t know when to stop and just let the customer buy.
- Fear of rejection- we don’t want to turn people off and are afraid to have our client say “no” to us. We want the entire experience for our clients to be positive and want to avoid a customer disagreeing with a suggestion we make.
I believe that when we have invested the proper amount of time into knowing and owning our pricing we will always come across as more confident. We must invest in quality samples with enough variety to give choice but also being careful not to overwhelm with too many choices.
When we approach sales by thinking like a consumer, we realize that all we are doing is responding to two things.
We are solving a problem, which is the logical response. We are also making them feel good which is the emotional response.
Most purchases we make will fall into one or both of those buckets. We often talk about wants and needs when making purchase decisions and we can often justify purchases even if they don’t seem completely logical (within budget for example).
Our customers have to make purchase decisions all the time and professional photography should be no different an investment than anything else they might be considering.
Take jewelry for example. For most people, jewelry would be a want, not a need. Yet most people wear some form of jewelry that they received as a gift or bought for themselves. Wearing jewelry makes us feel good and in some cases, it fills a logical role as well. Engagement rings tell the world that you are not available and soon to be married. Wedding bands fill the same purpose. Watches can be a fashion accessory and also function to keep us on time.
Jewelry can be considered a luxury item, as can professional photography. Those that value the experience and product of a professional studio will be willing to pay well for it.
Those photographers that understand the value of exemplary customer experience will go beyond just giving good customer service. They will provide delight and surprise along the way and try to anticipate questions and provide answers before they get asked. Leading the customer on a path that educates them and sets proper expectations will give them a smooth journey to the delivery of the final products.
The sales session is an important part of that journey. Instead of thinking of sales as a negative thing, try looking at it as an opportunity to educate the client on all the amazing ways they can enjoy their images in a physical and tangible product. Take the time to show how albums can recall all the moments of their wedding day. Help them understand how wall portraits in the home will only grow in value as time goes by.
One important element when someone is buying from you is trust.
If you have gained trust by meeting or exceeding their expectations during the inquiry stage as well as on the session day, you are in the best place possible. People buy from people they like and trust. If they don’t trust you, they simply won’t buy from you.
Finally, if you approach every sales session with an attitude of gratitude for the client you will naturally have their best interest at heart. You won’t go in with an agenda or sales quota in mind. You will simply want to listen to your client and do your best to give them exactly what they want. It needs to be repeated that if you have done a great job of creating desire, building trust and explaining all the options, then the client will be in the best frame of mind for purchasing. They will be guided by emotion and logic. Emotion when it comes to how the photography makes them feel and logic when it comes to how exactly to best enjoy the photographs in their homes.
Don’t let the fear of sales suppress the potential for superb profits. When you are confident in your work and the value you provide, you should be able to look forward to every sales opportunity.
Enjoy the feeling you’ll get when you know you have provided your customers with a fantastic experience from the first contact to the delivery of their final gorgeous photographs.