It saddens me how much guilt, shame, and anxiety photographers have over-selling their photography. Being paralyzed by the fear of being rejected or the thought of coming off as pushy or salesy. But instead of feeling good about keeping everyone happy, you start to resent your clients and your business because you burned your most valuable asset: your time. And you have little or no money in the bank to show for it. Here’s the thing: “sell” doesn’t have to be an icky word if you come from a place of service. Stick with me, because you’re going to get actionable steps to follow. You’ll see that not only are you helping your clients by selling to them, you also have a moral obligation to do it.
My relationship with sales is sort of love-hate. When I was growing up, I hated selling. I remember being a Girl Scout, and every year I had to sell Girl Scout cookies. To this day, I remember the looks on people’s faces, thinking I was just some annoying kid. Finally by late high school, I would just ask my mom, “Can you buy something for $20 so I can just turn it in, and I don’t have to ask anybody for money?” And she’s like, “Yeah. We don’t want to bug all our friends for money.” So, I had created this bad relationship with selling.
How to Heal Your Relationship with Photography Sales
Now, of course, I love sales. I know that marketing is selling, and selling is marketing. They’re the same thing. But back then, I was just thinking I didn’t want to be associated with that. When I went to the advertising agency, I loved creating campaigns and selling them to my clients. It didn’t even feel like I was selling, because I was listening to their needs. It was such a fun time. I started to sort of heal those wounds from my childhood where I built this terrible relationship with sales.
Then I opened my photography business, and I was having to sell. When I started, I was giving all the proofs away because I don’t want to be salesy or pushy. I thought I was serving my clients by doing that. For years, I’d run into them and they’d say, “Oh yeah. I’m going to come back and order that.” And they never did. My system wasn’t set up to help them get what they want, which was photography.
That’s when I realized I actually have a moral obligation to sell. Our clients are looking to us as the experts to make a system that helps them get what they want, which is artwork. We have a moral obligation to help broken families who are healing. Maybe they’re blended families, and then they had new kids together, and the older kids are feeling displaced. As photographers, we have a moral obligation to put a beautiful family portrait over their mantle and we help heal them.
We have to start healing this relationship with sales. You can’t say, “I’m going to make all this money. I’m going to make big money.” You have to ask yourself, “Why are my clients not ordering, and how can I serve them better?” I knew if I focused on over-serving them, knew the money would come.
The Best Seven Ways to Serve Your Clients
Number one, stop putting orders online for people to order their images on their own. It only creates paralysis by analysis. You become an order-taker. They start getting overwhelmed. Your clients want someone to take their hand, walk them around the store and help them.
Number two, take your prices off your website. Remember, your marketing’s job is to make the phone ring and your selling’s job is to book them. You have to talk to people. Even for you introverts, you can be taught to talk to people, it’s just another skill to be practiced. Once you learn what to say, it’s so comfortable.
Number three, you must always have an in person meeting with your client before the session. This is when you do a “needs analysis” so you know what to shoot. You have to ask questions. You have to see what they’re needing. And usually they can’t just tell you what they need, or you could do it over the phone call. You have to show them things. You have to walk around. Look at spaces in their home if you go to their home. That’s all the better.
Number four, narrow the images to a manageable number. If you can’t narrow, how can your client narrow? I try to show 20 to 25 images all for a normal session. Large families or high school seniors, I will show more based on what they’re wanting … which, of course, is found out in the consultation. More is not better. If you can’t pick, they can’t pick.
Number five, hold their hands and sit with them in an in person ordering appointment. You help them like you would help your very best friend. Sit down with them and make recommendations. Help them figure out what they actually want, and how they’re going to display them. Because there are so many options and it can be overwhelming.
Number six, during that presentation, help your clients make those tough choices. They need your help. And if you don’t have a plan and you don’t help them, how are they supposed to make the decision? They don’t do this every day. You do. When I’m with them, I’ll say, “Here’s what I would do. I would put this on my wall. I would frame this one this way.” Literally, I help them cut, because they’re trusting me to help them make a great decision. The way to get them to the decision is not by adding more, it’s by helping them pair down.
Number seven, help them cut it back and tweak their order until they are thrilled. We don’t serve them by sending them home confused, overwhelmed, upset that they ordered too much. Because if I see someone looking nervous or saying, “Oh, my husband’s going to kill me.” I say, “Hey, let’s cut back. Because I want you coming back here. I don’t want your husband deleting me from your GPS. Let’s cut. Where do you need to be? Give me a number. Give me some thoughts.” We work together to do it. People want to avoid making decisions, so don’t let them go home to think about it. Help them make a decision, even if they’re cutting back. If you take care of people, they’re going to come back. They’re going to continue to order from you, and you’re going to be able to stay in business.
The Secret to Booking Any Photography Client
Here’s the bottom line. Your client’s orders will continue to rise if you do these things. If you hold your client’s hand, and help them discover what they’re actually wanting, they will be happy to invest in artwork.
As the years have gone on, my orders have consistently increased because my system is set up to serve at such a high level. I hope this has helped you see that selling is really coming from a place of service to help people get what they came to you for. Gorgeous memories that are printed that they can touch, and feel, and look at on their walls for them to enjoy every single day.