Of course it isn’t. Being a Professional Photographer often has very little to do with “just taking pictures.” If it were just that, everybody could do it. That happens to be the fun part.
Truthfully, the secret to being a successful photographer has much more to do with one thing: Sales. Once you master these few tricks of the trade, even sales can be fun too.
Let the Sale Begin
“Making a sale” doesn’t happen the day of the photo review when your client is sitting down to view their completed photos, it begins earlier, way earlier. It begins when you get the first phone call, e-mail, or contact inquiry from a potential client. This is where you begin to go above and beyond, this is where you start to show them why they should buy from you in the first place.
When competition is as high is at is nowadays, the ones who make it are the ones that provide an exemplary experience, one that stands out in every regard, from the beginning.
Answering the Phone
I don’t know what it is about the current generation of young professionals, but they all seem to be terrified of answering the phone. It doesn’t make sense to me. If you want to excel with sales, you first and foremost need to talk to your clients so that they become comfortable with you. People buy things from those they trust, not from someone who’s too afraid to talk to them.
Also, you need to be upbeat and encouraging. When you answer the phone, make sure you smile broadly, and they’ll hear that in your voice. It will set them at ease. As I just said, most people aren’t always comfortable talking on the phone, so it’s up to you to be the image of confidence in order to help them along.
Furthermore, you need to be available at times when most people wouldn’t be. This means nights, weekends, and early mornings. Many people work a day job and won’t be able to talk to you at length during “normal hours.” So being available in the off hours is critical. Because trust me, if you’re not available during these pivotal times, someone else will be.
It’s a hard-learned fact in photography sales that your client will have no idea what they want. They may think they know, but they often won’t until they see it. Therefore it’s up to initiate, to provide structure, to follow up, and to go the extra mile or seven. Sales is about making your product irresistible, and if you take the reins, and you are clever, you can make that a possibility.
Service Not Selling
The reason why so many people are practically allergic to the world “sales” is because people are naturally dubious of anyone who seems to be “selling” something. Salespeople are often seen as oily and untrustworthy, individuals who will take advantage of you in a vulnerable moment and leave you with a product which isn’t worth half of what you paid for it.
So when it comes to photography sales, don’t just focus on the sales aspect, make sure you’re focusing on the service as well. If you’re providing a quality product (and if you’re a talented, thoughtful, and relatively experienced photographer you ought to be), any transaction made will be mutually beneficial, as in, both parties will end up feeling better off than they did before the transaction occurred.
If you offer a superior experience that serves the needs of your client in every way, if you go the extra mile to provide customer service that is high quality and unique to your brand, then you will have greater sales, because your clients will be satisfied.
Upselling refers to a well-known sales technique where if a customer wants to buy a horse, you want to use the opportunity to sell them the saddle, the shoes, the hay, the riding helmet, and as an added challenge to the more talented salesperson, maybe even the stable.
In photography sales, upselling is where you can really turn a profit. It is the icing on the cupcake, the cheese on the nachos (have I exhausted my use of metaphors?) Basically what I’m saying is you want to design your packages in such a way where they can pay more to get the good stuff, which you can designate as anything: e.g. more prints, specialized print options (canvas wraps anyone), day-of services (bring out the champagne!), etc.
Choosing Your Carrot
Continuing with the theme of horses, you’re going to want to select the right carrot to dangle in front of their eagerly awaiting noses, you have to make them an offer just so genius that they can’t refuse. This is especially relevant to the photo review session, where the order of photos can determine how much your client will buy.
This also goes along with the bit about “taking control.” if you suggest something both artfully and strongly, they’re going to be convinced that they need this thing. Once they are, they’ll buy it, and your job is done.
Mirroring is another popular sales technique where you subtly “mimic” the gesticulations, speech patterns, and general demeanor of your client. This inconspicuous act, if done correctly, will make your client feel more connected and familiar with you, even if he or she isn’t fully aware that it’s happening. If they sit up straight, so do you, if they speak slowly, so do you. Just make sure that it’s not too obvious what you’re doing, because then they’ll probably take it the wrong way. This is definitely a more advanced technique that requires practice, but will become more natural over time.
Set the Tone
Above all else, when it comes to photography sales, remembering that you are marketing a brand, specifically your brand, and there are boundaries. Developing a sales structure with built in up-selling options and clear goals early on in your career will help shape the future success of your business. If you make things easy to understand from the outset, and are committed to the rules that you’ve laid out, things will go better for you, because people will see that they can’t get away with trying to negotiate. However, if you change your standards to meet the demands of every new client, people won’t know what to expect, and they’ll probably begin to take their business elsewhere.
The secret to sales is essentially this, you are the one who is in charge of what happens, and if you offer superior customer service, guide your client throughout the process, and up-sell whenever possible, things will go well for you.