You don’t need me to remind you that getting confirmed wedding photography bookings, no matter how long you’ve been in the business, is challenging.
How often have you gone into a sales presentation with a prospect who seemed keen and enthusiastic, only to come out of it feeling let down because they didn’t book you?
It’s annoying and frustrating, not to mention confusing and painful, right?
It’s certainly happened to me more times than I can count, and I know it will undoubtedly happen again in the future.
As hard as rejection can be to deal with, you’re in the people business.
And being able to handle rejection is one of the “necessary evils” that come with the territory.
But what can you do to keep rejection to a minimum?
How can you raise your booking percentages and make each sales presentation count?
Wedding bookings usually start with an email or a telephone call.
Or, perhaps someone you know approaches you directly to ask about photographing a wedding.
Regardless of how it begins, it always leads to a detailed in-person sales presentation.
But some time ago, I realized two important things:
- Nobody books all their prospects…
- The sales presentation is a two-way process…
No Salesperson Closes Them All
This is a simple, but important, fact of being a salesperson.
If you expect to book every single client you meet then you’re destined to be let down.
However, if you calmly accept the fact that you won’t book everyone, it takes some of the pressure off and you can relax a little more.
Ironically, being more relaxed, in itself, can help to raise your booking percentage at least a little because if you’re calm and relaxed, then the prospect is more likely to be that way too.
Who’s Interviewing Whom?
When I started out in the photography business, I viewed every sales presentation almost like a job interview.
It felt like the prospect was simply deciding whether or not to hire me for their “job”.
However, it’s much more than that.
If you accept that you can’t work with everybody, then some prospects will qualify as clients and others won’t.
The sales presentation is a way for you to work out whether the prospect actually qualifies as a client, and to help you decide if you really want to work with them, as much as it is about the client interviewing you.
There are many things that might make a prospect unqualified.
For example, they may not agree to your studio policies or there may be a personality clash.
Perhaps they’re too demanding, or you simply can’t make a genuine connection with them.
The point here is that the sales presentation is a two-way affair.
This makes it a lot easier for you as the salesperson by removing some of the pressure of “having” to make the sale.
But what should a typical sales presentation look like?
The Sale Presentation Dissected
Although this article deals with wedding photography bookings, the same principles apply to other areas of photography service just as easily.
Through my research on this subject, I learned from the likes of Zig Ziglar and others in the field that an effective sales presentation is composed of 4 basic steps.
Each of these steps should be taken in sequence.
If any step is left out, skipped, or performed out of sequence, the chances of making the sale dwindle significantly.
THE FOUR STEPS OF A SUCCESSFUL SALES PRESENTATION
- Build rapport…
- Generate interest….
- Education about USP’s (unique selling propositions)…
- The Close…
This phase of the sales presentation is the initial meeting and time spent getting to know your prospect.
Asking general questions and chatting with your client is a great way to break the ice, as it were, and it gives you both a chance to relax.
You can ask them how they met, and how they got engaged, for example.
Exchange stories with them about other weddings, and try to find areas where you share common interests.
A good sense of humor can go a long way here, but be careful not to overdo it or resort to anything not in good taste.
Building rapport with your client is not meant to be any form of confidence trickery or manipulation.
You simply want to get to know your prospect on a genuine level, and have them get to know you a bit better too.
Photography is an emotional sale, and your job as the salesperson is to generate interest, emotion and enthusiasm about what the prospect is looking for.
You need to be enthusiastic and interested too—not just in what you’re selling, but also in the prospects themselves and their wedding.
This is the place to ask them questions about the details of their wedding, the color scheme, the dress, the flowers, the bridal party etc.
Use this stage of the selling process to discover what their main buying motive is.
There are many of these, but some examples I’ve seen might be:
- They want to find the cheapest photographer…
- They’re looking for something original and different…
- They want someone interested in capturing all the details…
- Looking for a photo-journalistic style…
- Or, they may want a purely traditional style…
When you know what they’re looking for, it makes it easier to sell to them, as long as it’s something you know you can offer—otherwise, they won’t be a qualified client.
This phase of the process is also a useful time for you to show them how much you care about them and their wedding, which is critically important.
Now that you’ve built rapport with them and have talked with them awhile, it’s a good time to show them samples of your work, and educate them about your unique selling propositions (USP’s).
You should have at least ten USP’s for your business—things that really set you apart from the other photographers in the area.
You can expand on their answers to previous questions about them and their wedding to volunteer some of your USP’s, or you can supply them in answer to questions they may ask or any objections they raise.
USP’s are, by definition, unique to your specific business, and I found it was well worth the effort to set mine down on paper.
They can be hard to identify at first, but it’s critical that you discover what they are.
USP’s are not things like “my photography is high-quality”, “I have a passion for photography”, or “I take 1000 photographs of your wedding”.
They are much more personal than that and are usually connected more with your methodology, approach and philosophy than anything else.
One good example is having a solid guarantee, which means you firmly stand behind your work.
This phase of the sales presentation is one of the most important.
This is where your prospect will learn the reasons why they should book you, and it’s also where they might develop the internal “excuses” for hiring you, excuses that give themselves permission to go ahead and book.
We all use this when we make a significant purchase.
For example, we might justify it to ourselves by thinking “I deserve this after working so hard for so long.”
These are very powerful motivators in helping someone to come to a buying decision.
The final phase of the sales presentation is the close.
I was truly amazed to discover that around 63% of all sales presentations finish without the salesperson actually asking for the sale!
From personal experience, I know that the close can feel uncomfortable.
This is the point in the sales presentation when you find out if you’ve been successful, and there’s the real possibility of rejection, which can be hard to face head on.
But, it’s crucial that you attempt to close the sale if you’re going to make the booking.
The close can be made a lot easier by cushioning it with good vocabulary.
For example, you might say something like, “I hope I was able to answer all of your questions – how do you feel about what we’ve talked about?”
Hopefully, the answer to this is a positive one, in which case you can go on to say, “Your wedding sounds so romantic, and I would really love to work with you. At the moment, your date is still available and I can take the deposit now. Would you like to pay by cash or check?”
This is a closing statement, and you’ll either get a booking or hear a stall.
If they object to something, or stall the sale then you can politely address it and try to close again.
It’s not uncommon to hear at least 4 or 5 stalls or objections in the closing phase, before they finally book.
Therefore , don’t make the mistake of giving in too easily at the first hurdle.
This can be a cyclic process, and you must go round and round, addressing each concern, until they make a booking, or it becomes clear that they can’t or won’t book.
A word of caution:
Don’t confuse this process with pressure selling or manipulation.
This is simply a structured approach to the sales process that ensures you honestly answer all the prospect’s objections before they commit to a sale.
It may be that they simply don’t have the money, or they don’t agree with your policies, or that your packages don’t suit their needs.
In those cases, it’s perfectly okay to not make the booking.
In fact, it’s the salesperson’s duty to not allow the client to book in those instances, since it would not be the right action for the client.
I honestly believe that a well-structured and well-prepared sales presentation is an invaluable help to increase your booking percentages.
A structure allows you to direct the sales presentation in the way you want it go, and you can prepare yourself to handle most of the objections you’re likely to encounter.
Of course, every client is unique, and there will always be surprises, but this is where you build your experience by adding those to your repertoire.