The very idea of becoming a salesperson can strike mortal fear into the heart of many a photographer!
Understandable, for sure.
We’re artists, not salespeople, and we didn’t get into this business simply because we love selling, right?
But a business needs money in order to prosper, and there’s really no way around having to make sales if you want to make money from your camera and photographs.
Therefore, knowing how to grow a successful photography business also requires knowing how to sell.
Regardless of what many people think or say, photography does not sell itself, even though people try to convince me otherwise at least a couple of times a week 🙂
The fact is, it’s up to you, the photographer, to communicate the true value of what you do and to inspire your clients to want to own your work for themselves.
But this does NOT mean you suddenly have to turn yourself into the awful stereotype of the used-car salesman who will stoop to any level just to con some unsuspecting sucker into buying from them.
That is NOT what sales is all about.
In fact, if you approach the sales process with the right attitude, you might find it to be one of the most gratifying areas of your business.
Here are 4 big tips to help you do just that…
#1: Use Planned Pre-Booking Consultations
One of the mistakes a lot of photographers make is to treat sales as if it’s just a single defined event, such as the final sales presentation for a portrait photographer.
In reality, the sales process is baked into every interaction you have with a prospect or client, even including the photography session or wedding itself.
Let’s take the portrait photographer as an example.
After generating a lead and talking to the potential client on the telephone, the next logical step might seem to be to get them to book right there and then while you have them on the phone.
In most cases, that would be a big mistake.
Although it can happen, that’s just too big a step to take for most of your clients.
Instead, they need to get to know you, like you, and trust you a little more before they’re ready to make a firm booking.
This is where a pre-booking meeting comes into play.
It gives them a chance to get to know you more, but it also gives you a chance to decide if this is the right client for you (this works both ways).
A pre-booking meeting is a sales process to get the actual booking, of course, but it can also do some subtle pre-selling for the future portrait order session that comes after you’ve created the images.
Even the portrait session itself can be used to sow seeds that will grow into future portrait sales, simply through your enthusiasm and interactions with the clients during the session and subtle mentions of potential product ideas for specific images.
#2: Don’t Delegate Sales To Your Website
I mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth repeating that your website really has only ONE purpose:
To convert anonymous website visitors into valuable leads you can follow-up with by phone or email…
With some exceptions, such as a global fine-art photography site or stock agency, expecting your website to also handle the sales process is really asking for trouble! Portrait and wedding photographers, for example, can suffer in missed print and album sales by expecting clients to self-serve photos from the website.
For example, expecting people to make a firm booking online when you could service them far more effectively in person, is simply a waste of resources and time, and you’ll end up leaving a lot of money on the table as a result.
There really is no substitute for the human interactions needed to complete a complex sale, and a website simply isn’t built to handle those kinds of interactions.
#3: Avoid Random Sales, Discounting And Daily Deals
I’ve already mentioned the perils of discounting, but it should be stressed that knowing how to make money from your photography also means avoiding unplanned sales and especially Groupon-style deals.
What I usually see from photographers who are struggling is the knee-jerk type of sale or promotion that comes directly from the need to make money right away, however they can.
Such sales might create a small rush of business, but it’s usually not enough to keep the business going for long, and it can hurt future business by training prospects to expect sales and discounts the next time as well.
Groupon-style deals are a complex topic, and they can work for some photographers, but my own experience has been more negative than positive. For example, significant upsells are needed to raise the average sale per client for these kinds of deals, which can present a big challenge for the inexperienced salesperson.
#4: Sales Means Helping The Client
The last tip on sales is very simple.
Stop thinking of sales in the commonly-held traditional way, in the sense of being something you do to someone. In other words, don’t think of it as “selling to the client”.
Instead, view it as a process of helping your client to get what they want and what’s best for them.
If you focus your sales efforts 100% on making a client totally happy with her investment, then you’ll start to see much more success in the sales room.