Archive for sales
Thinking more about the concept of putting the customer first and being more empathetic, I had a recent experience that occurred to me might be a good example of what some of our customers might feel like.
I have a horse for sale that was a difficult and emotional decision for me. The night I dropped her off to be with the trainer who is going to be her agent, he was so busy trying to impress me with all of his other horses in training. He was so busy bragging, and maybe thinking he was going to sell me another horse right away that he totally missed what I really needed from him. I really didn’t hear a word he said about the other great horses, I was in a daze, I was stressed. I was selling my sweet, funny horse and I was sad. His mistake was not focusing on me and being helpful.
This experience got me thinking, do we as photographers do that to our customers? Possibly. Do we forget they are nervous about their photo session? Absolutely! I wonder if we are so busy being salespeople and photographers that we might be overloading our subjects with too much information about us. We get real busy showing all of our images, our awards, and all of our products we offer. Or maybe we simply do this at the wrong time of the process.
I really hope that a portrait experience is not as emotionally draining as selling something you really like or even love. But in reality, for some people it might be. They have clothes to pick out, schedules to coordinate, and maybe power struggles within the family to deal with. We might win bonus points in their eyes if we can concentrate more on them than ourselves.
Do you have a similar example from being a customer somewhere yourself? I would like to hear about it.
2012 Barb Gordon Photo Coach
There are more choices for finding a photographer these days so help your callers out. Help them get through the uncomfortable moments of opening a conversation they may not know how to do.
Last week I shared an experience I had as being a new customer myself that helped me understand what it must be like for a new person calling a studio for the first time. You can read that here:
Even though they may start with the question of how much you charge, it is not necessarily the question they are really asking.
The salesman in the horse feed booth at the fair could have helped me out by asking some fact finding questions to get me talking. Since I did not know how to start shopping for new horse feed, I needed some help but I was unable to verbalize that at the time.
The salesman could have asked me questions like:
- What kind of horses do you have?
- How many do you have?
- Are they varied in ages and jobs that they do? As there are different feeds based on the amount of physical energy they exert.
- What are you currently feeding them and how is that working?
All of these conversation starters would have been more helpful to me.
So as a photographer your conversation starter questions for a new prospect can be very similar. But first, ask permission not to answer their question right away with a statement like: “I would be happy to answer that question [about pricing] for you. Before I do, may I ask you a few questions first to get an idea of what you are looking for?”
- How many people are in your family?
- What are the ages of your children?
- Do you have a family hobby? Something that we could use to tell a story about you as a group?
- Do you have a location or style in mind?
- Where are you going to display your portrait? (This question also sets you up for planting seeds of a wall portrait sale.)
All of this discussion delays the “how much is it” question. You have time to build some rapport and get to know your prospects needs without focusing on the cost first. They will quickly find out how much you care about them too. You will also get the information you need to more accurately answer their pricing question, which, as you are discovering, really isn’t the real question anyway.
In order to get the prospect to move from a being caller to an actual booking, I offer a consultation in the studio. This is a low pressure invitation for more information so they may discover that I am indeed the photographer for them. At the consultation we look at images, discuss clothing options, and pricing. Personally, if someone does not want to invest an hour of their time to take this step, they are not a good customer for me and I let them go.
© 2012 Barb Gordon Photo Coach | Gordon Photography & Gallery, Inc.
Most photographers wear all of the hats in their business and the position of sales person is one of the critical ones. You can create all of the beautiful images in the world but you will starve if you can not sell them.
Find ways to not to let your preferences or assumptions get in the way. Here are a few ideas to consider.
Be aware that everyone has their own money personality. Do not assume other people respond like you do. Some people are driven to hold onto money for security. Some people are spenders, some are savers. Others are risk takers and some do not really think about money at all. (A great book: First Comes Love Then Comes Money http://www.amazon.com/First-Comes-Love-Then-Money/dp/0061649910 )
Don’t take it personal. When you work for yourself, especially if it is for the first time, it is a personal undertaking. I was fortunate to work for many retail companies and photography studios before I started my own business. Working for a successful studio with substantial pricing helped desensitize me to pricing sensitivities. It helped me see those prices as normal, correct, and valid. When I started my own studio the prices felt right, I did not have to get comfortable with them. Try and take yourself out of the numbers.
Do not assume what someone is willing to spend. If someone really appreciates your work they might even save up or use a credit card to be able to use your services. A family that is losing a member or has lost a member may be more willing to invest in portraits than a family that has never considered a tragedy striking.
Do not assume what someone is able to spend. Have you been ignored in a fancy store if you are dressed down? I sure have. You are not alone if you have ever misjudged someone’s ability to spend money. Sometimes the most unlikely person will surprise you with a substantial order. Have you ever read the book The Millionaire Next Door? The insight it provides about who people with money really are is good business information.
Remember that not all people are going to be good clients. Sure we believe that everyone needs a family portrait but we certainly do not want to deal with all people and the headaches they bring. It is okay to pre-quality customers to find the right ones for you.
Next week we will discuss some action steps you can take.
Many photographers do promotions that involve special props. Christmas decorations, chicks, bunnies, and lambs at Easter are popular themes. Although these themes might be eye catching and make great photographs, these same props may be hurting your sales.
When an image has only one specific use that is all you are going to get out of it.
For example, a family needs Christmas holiday portraits for their Christmas card. If your family group arrives in all red sweaters, or you have very Christmassy props, what do you think the chances are for this to become a wall portrait above the fireplace in their very neutral family room? No, it will only be purchased as a Christmas card.
What about spring specials using little chicks? You may find that the chicks are quite popular and book a lot of sessions but is this wall image possibilities? Will this client hang a very seasonal image on the wall? Yes, a few might but my advice is to take a few images with the chicks and a few images without. Show both to your client and see what happens. You may find your sales are actually better without the chicks even though the original draw was the chicks. It certainly won’t hurt to give that a try.
If it is possible to create a more neutral, timeless image you will find you will get more sales from that image.
PS – Be sure to check into your local laws, licenses, or guidelines about working with animals before you bring them into your studio. You might be surprised to find out there are restrictions and what they are.
You will probably not come right out and ask someone what their “love language” is. But you can pick up some clues by listening to their unconscious choice of words.
An auditory person will generally say “that sounds good to me”. What do you feel like for lunch? The more verbal affirmation style person responds, “pizza sounds good to me.”
I was selling some art images from Hawaii to a friend of mine for her office. I found it interesting how she voluntarily described herself saying “I have to see the images and find what feels right to me.” When I tell you she is a massage therapist and a kinesthetic learner, it makes sense.
A more visual person would use the word “look” more often. They would look at a menu and say “pizza looks good to me.”
What do you do with this type of information? A good salesperson would tune into a customer’s words and style and respond in a similar language. This is bound to make the customer more comfortable. It is subtle, I know, but when people feel more connected and comfortable with you they will like you and buy from you.
In the example of my massage therapist friend, I would respond to her by saying, “here is great flower image, how does that feel?” “What size image would feel right above your desk?” would probably feel better to her than “what size image would look right above your desk?”
You may find it interesting to note what your customers say. It could help you know how to communicate with them in their preferred style. This is great for thanking them for their business in their language as well as how to make better sales.
You may find out that showing that you appreciate your customer is more powerful than only saying so.
If you have your own experience to share please post it here. Sound good?
Assuming that someone will not value your work is as dangerous as assuming they can not afford your services.
Not everyone is price sensitive about the same items. What one person thinks is expensive is not expensive to someone else because of their perception, desire, or different life experiences surrounding that product or service.
Price can be about perspective. An item is expensive compared to WHAT? A diamond is expensive compared to costume jewelry but it is not expensive compared to an Alaskan cruise for four. It depends on where you are coming from and what you want most.
The key is finding the right people, people that value your time and your skill. Look for prospects that will appreciate your talent and are willing to pay for it.
The best example from my life is that I have heard so many horse people say, “Oh, horse stuff is so expensive.” Or boarding is so expensive. The vet bills are so expensive. That may be so for someone who does not absolutely love horses or if horses are not the most fabulous hobby in the world to them. For me, I compared boarding a horse to the vehicle payment I no longer have and boarding was less than half, so I do not view boarding as expensive. Sure keeping horses at home is cheaper than the one I board but I am taking lessons, have access to an indoor arena to ride in, and other horse people to talk to.
So do not worry if some people think of you as expensive. You can not serve everyone and you can not be everything to everybody.
© 2010 Barb Gordon Photo Coach & Gordon Photography & Gallery, Inc.
Sales are a part of every business. Small business owners typically do not take the time to understand how each person’s money personality influences how and why they buy things. One mistake that we sales people make is judging the other person’s ability to afford us.
We might look at a lady’s massive wedding ring and assume that she can afford our services. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I didn’t realize how false that was until I received my own wedding ring purchased with money that was originally for a speed boat purchase. You see, it just happened that my husband to be thought he was buying a new boat when we met. Because of his personality, when he needed a ring, he used all of the boat money not just some of it.
On the flip side, I have had clients that appear that they can not afford my photography but spend very well.
So be careful not to make a financial judgment call for someone else. The people with discretionary income are often not the people we think they are.
A great book on this topic is “The Millionaire Next Door” it will open your eyes. People with true wealth are living modestly and saving money, not living large and still in a financial bind.
Do You Own Large Portraits?
Another tip that makes selling wall images possible and easier to do is to have a wall image or two at home yourself. This is more important than you might think. How can you expect someone to purchase something that you don’t own yourself? If you really believe family portraits are special, priceless, and worth the effort you need to set the standard.
First let me remind you that I define a wall image as 16×20 and larger. But you need to display and own images much larger than that.
You won’t feel like a hypocrite trying to sell someone a wall portrait if you have one. As a matter of fact, if you have one it kind of gives them permission to have one too. Their friends may not own wall portraiture so someone needs to show them that it is important to do so and that is it okay.
I have two 24×30 images, double matted, with a fillet, and beautifully framed of my husband and I. I also have a 20×30 character study of my grandma triple matted, a 30×40 canvas of my dad sitting on a porch with his first horse tied to the rail, and a 24×36 of my first horse in my sewing room.
So when a client has a hesitation or wonders if people actually purchase images that size I can say of course. “I have five at home myself!” Purchasing just one image doesn’t seem so crazy now.
If you do not have a current family portrait, find a photographer friend you can trade services with and shoot family portraits for each other. Consider hanging yours in your studio before taking it home. Or better yet, make one pose for the studio wall and a different pose for home. You can rotate them back and forth too.
Another side benefit of this exercise is that you will go through the same process you ask your clients to go through. You will be reminded how it feels, how much work it is, how nervous you get. You may find ways to improve your systems or process at the studio to benefit your clients.