You’re not sales-y, and the words “photography sales” give you the heebie-jeebies. Here, we discuss a BETTER way to sell – and it’s all about relationships! (Photos and quotes contributed by: ALICE PARK: PARK STUDIOS and NAPCP)
Photography is all about sales, from the moment a prospective client first views your website, to the moment they first see their finished photographs.
“I’m not a salesperson!” you say. “In fact, I HATE selling!”
But do you hate relationship-building? Because great selling is just that: establishing trust and connection with the human beings who want to hire you.
Those oh-so-important relationships can all-too-easily disintegrate if you misunderstand your ultimate role as a salesperson.
But don’t panic! Take a breath; drink some tea (or coffee, or wine); and settle in for the next few minutes as we reveal the most common photography sales mistakes – and how to avoid them!
#1: You Let Your Clients Intimidate You
When you need your clients’ approval (and ultimately their money!) in order to survive, it’s easy to embrace a “me versus them” vibe. You start to feel like your clients are an obstacle to be overcome, or a wild beast to be tamed.
This perspective can subconsciously infuse defensiveness into your photographer-client relationship. Next thing you know, you’ll be answering their questions like you’re telling a toddler no for the umpteenth time, and they’ll get the feeling you just don’t like them very much.
Instead of viewing your clients as the enemy, start seeing them as your collaborators; your dance partners; the organic, honey-sweetened almond butter to your grandma-preserved strawberry jam.
They need you. You need them. And together, you can make something really, really cool.
#2: You Price-Shock Your Clients
We’re not going to tell you whether you should or shouldn’t list your prices on your website. Nor are we going to tell you what to charge.
What we will tell you is to never, ever, ever avoid talking about money.
Sure, it can feel awkward. But at the end of the day, it’s at least half the reason your potential client contacted you.
Yes, they want to book you. But first they need to know what the whole scenario is going to cost them.
Don’t hem and haw over dollar amounts. Have your prices available and ready to share. If you prefer to chat with them for a half-hour first, getting to know their favorite bands and TV shows and pizza toppings, that’s a-okay. But at the end of it all, you need to reveal your rates.
“Never, ever price shock your clients. Photography is an investment, so give your clients time to review ALL your pricing and product offerings prior to their session and any in-person photography sales meetings.” – Alice Park, founder of Park Studios and NAPCP
Practice saying these words out loud: “My session fee is $_____, and prints begin at $_____. On average, couples/families/clients invest between $_____ and $_____ with me.” Then create pricing materials (printed and online) that your clients can reference at any time.
#3: You Avoid In-Person Sales
We get it. The shoot-and-share model is where it’s at for some businesses. But because photography sales is all about relationship-building, consider that you might be leaving some clients hanging if you send them a gallery link and call it a day!
If prints and albums hold any value to your clients, they’ll love the personalized guidance that face-to-face photography sales offers.
Take the opportunity to show your clients the difference between deep matte and luster papers; invite them to examine your beautifully stretched gallery canvases; and place your albums in their hands to fall in love with.
“We make the ordering appointment as enjoyable and relaxing as possible. Our clients really do love gushing over their children’s gorgeous pictures and talking to us about what they love about each image captured! Don’t think of it as a photography sales session. Think of it as an added service you provide to your clients to enhance their experience with you.” – Alice Park
If you simply can’t bring yourself to conduct a Viewing and Ordering Session, at least take the time to share your product samples with your clients at a pre-shoot consultation or on the day of their shoot, and provide plenty of detailed product images and wall gallery examples in your pricing guide!
PRO TIP: SELLING ONLINE… IN PERSON!
ShootProof is the perfect companion to your in-person photography sales experience! Sound crazy? See how Alison Winterroth conducts her Viewing and Ordering Session using ShootProof, her laptop, and a whole lotta client-love!
“I believe in-person photography sales allows us to deepen the relationship with our clients. The more time we spend with them, the better we get to know them and their needs & wants.” – Alice Park
#4: You Spend Too Much Time On “Busy Work”
If you’ve never heard this term, we’ll enlighten you. “Busy work” is work you do that keeps you busy, but doesn’t necessarily impact the most critical needs of your business.
At a recent networking event, Atlanta photographer and designer Angie Webb discussed websites as a potential example of busy work. Many photographers dedicate endless hours to constant revisions of their websites; but that time may be better spent on other marketing endeavors – such as building relationships with their clients.
Paperwork can be another example of busy work. If you’re repeatedly customizing Word document contracts, converting them to PDFs, emailing them to clients to print out and sign, then receiving them via snail mail, you’re performing inefficient, time-sucking busy work.
“For some photographers, it’s hard to find the time to meet with clients in person, because they’re already so busy shooting and editing.” – Alice Park
The New York Times examined a study that revealed higher levels of happiness in people who spend a little money to save a lot of time. And if that saved time can be reinvested into relationships and business-building that, in turn, earn you more money, then you’ve made a wise choice.
“I outsource my photography sales sessions to our Ordering Consultant. She meets our clients in our studio, where we have all of our product offerings on display, making it easier for them to visualize different groupings, size offerings, etc. It has reduced the Viewing and Ordering Sessions from two or three hours, to less than an hour!” – Alice Park
#5: You Think Photography Sales = Products
“Selling doesn’t begin with a Viewing and Ordering Session. It begins during the first consultation – long before the photo shoot.” – Alice Park
Whether you’re a family photographer, a newborn photographer, a wedding photographer, a headshots photographer, or some-other-kind-of-photographer-altogether, you’re engaged in photography sales from the first moment you speak with your prospective client.
Just like the beginning of this article states, “sales” is just a business-y word for “relationship-building.” But what, exactly, does that relationship-building look like?
Earning Your Client’s Trust
In your very first conversation with your client, you begin earning their trust by being open, honest, and personable. (Better yet, this trend should begin with your website!)
Being authentic serves two purposes.
- it inspires your client to let down their own guard and be real with you.
- it reveals any glaring values differences that would make you a poor fit for that prospective client.
The clearer you are about who you are, what you offer, and how you approach your art, the more likely you’ll be to attract clients who are right for your business.
Showing Genuine Interest In Your Client
Showing interest in your client doesn’t necessarily mean asking them a lot of questions about themselves. It means paying attention to who they are and what they respond to.
Some clients will love chatting about their lives! Others will want to get straight to the point: pricing, contracts, booking. Neither personality style is bad. What matters most is that you show genuine appreciation for their unique personality style, and (as much as possible) seek common ground.
Listening To (& Providing) What A Client Truly Needs
When a client calls raving about your wedding photography, then asks if you can photograph their newborn – but you don’t photograph newborns – it’s okay to say:
“I’m so thrilled to hear about your new baby! Newborn photography is not my specialty, and I only photograph weddings. But I would love to refer you to some of my colleagues who would create some beautiful newborn photographs for you!”
Or you may find yourself really excited about a new album line you’re offering; so excited, in fact, that you aren’t hearing your client say, “I’m not interested in an album.”
Take the time to truly hear your clients requests, worries, and wishes. Clients, like us, want only to feel seen, heard, and validated.
Now You’re A Professional Relationship-Builder!
We mean salesperson.
No – we mean relationship-builder.
Oh, who cares what you call it! Get out there and connect with your clients with authenticity, openness, and artistry.
We believe in you!