I was thinking of labeling this post with a really outrageous title like "Sex, Sex, Sex!" because I wanted to make sure that every photographer who sells (or hopes to sell) prints to their clients reads this post.
"How to Sell" from Joyce Smith will help you do it (the sell part, not the sex part).
But before I tell you what the guide contains, let me tell you how it made me feel.
It starts out with a story fraught with obstacles and hint of desperation.
Joyce had just moved from New York City to Pennsylvania, she did not have a drivers license (so her husband had to taxi her from place to place), she had a new baby but no baby sitter and she did not have a studio, so her only option for making sales was online.
And if she didn't make those sales Joyce would have to return to her "real" job, teaching.
So there she was - with more than her share of obstacles (certainly more than most of us) and the motivation to overcome them.
As I read the guide it wasn't as if I was reading the words of just some photographer, who was somewhere else, I felt like I was sitting down with a friend. I felt like I knew Joyce and she was sharing her experiences with me over lunch.
So before I even got to the first tidbit of information I was feeling good, good about who was talking to me, and good about her message.
The "norm" for me when reading something like this is to have my trusty highlighter and Post-It tabs, so when I come across a "gem" I highlight it and then mark the page.
I quickly abandoned the highlighter as it would surely run dry it just a few pages, then about 20 pages in I abandoned the tabs, as I realized I was tabbing almost every single page.
Here is an excerpt from "How to Sell" that Joyce considers an often overlooked but crucial component to solid portrait sales, whether online or in-person: confidence.
"I am not a gregarious person by nature, nor am I the life of the party. Swear. I don’t love meeting new people and trying to win them over. I could never, ever be a telemarketer or sales rep. I say this lest you believe that I possess some sort of inherent charisma that makes clients want to buy from me and hire me over and over again; in other words, what I know is not something that is specific to me and unteachable. My personality, lovely as I like to think it can be to those who know me well, does not magically lead to instant sales.
Regardless of my cautious, sometimes reluctant-to-speak-up nature, I still possess something extremely invaluable to what I do, and that is my overarching philosophy--my unshakeable, sincere belief--that what I do has meaning. We have all heard “You have to believe in your work,” and yet how often do we sit back and watch the “rock stars” of photography and think, “Good for them, but I could never be that confident”? But confident you must be if you want to impart the important message of “Yes, she’s so worth it” to your clients. Please note that I don’t mean you need to brag. On the contrary, you don’t want to look like you’re trying too hard. Rather, you are someone who knows that he or she is in demand, both valued and valuable, and doesn’t need to boast about it (not too loudly anyway!). When you truly believe in yourself and your work in this way, clients will perceive what you do as more desirable. This is true whether your target market can spend $500 or $5000 with you.
While this may seem all a bit too Anthony Robbins and Rhonda Byrnes’ The Secret for you, I‘ll be darned if it doesn’t work! When I first started out I was confident about work that now makes me cringe a little inside (we have all been there, and we will be there again as we continually improve!). Nevertheless, I knew the type of photographer I wanted to be and I carried myself as if I had already arrived. It was clear to me early on that I needed to come from a place of confidence. I knew that projecting any whiff of desperation to my clients, any air whatsoever of “Gee, I really hope you like my pictures. I really do think I’m a bit better than The Picture People, don’t you think?” would be the kiss of death. Did I sometimes think these less confident thoughts in the back of my mind? Sure! But did I allow them to pervade my thoughts and, consequently, my client interactions? Not for one second.
If you are someone who struggles with this concept (and you probably already know if you have this innate confidence or not), it’s helpful to think of your images as a product that you are very excited about. You can trick yourself somewhat into thinking you’re not selling yourself per se. Couldn’t you talk enthusiastically about the newest Bugaboo stroller or the latest Pampered Chef gadget that’s made your potato peeling drudgery infinitely easier? Haven’t you told friends why they simply had to go see your latest favorite movie? Then why can’t you get excited about the latest artist who is THE photographer to go to? Isn’t she fabulous? Oh wait, she’s me!
All kidding aside, while I do believe that we are our brands--clients will remember how their sessions felt and how we interacted with them as well as their images--this sort of mental distancing exercise can be fruitful if you’re struggling.
If all else fails, slightly shift focus to your wonderful subjects. “Wasn’t it so wonderful when we got this shot?” you ask your client when she picks up her order. “Oh, that little one was so sweet and the light was perfect that day,” you effuse as you show sample session albums to your new client. After all, we should have no problem whatsoever being effervescent about what it is we purportedly love to do! Once you fully embrace the idea that you provide both treasured images and a memorable experience to your clients, the respect you show yourself will infuse each interaction you have throughout the process and the sales you desire will follow.
With this said, here it is: my sales process with each client and the many ways, both overt and subtle, that I attempt to influence the final sale . . ."
If you had just $95 left to spend to improve your business, "How to Sell" is where you should spend it. Seriously.
In the near future we will be reviewing "What to Write" and "What to Wear" but they will so help improve your business that you might not want to wait until then to make the investment.
To learn more about Joyce and to see her beautiful work be sure to visit her website and blog.