One of the topics I'm asked to talk about most often is sales. It's easily the area of their business that photographers most frequently tell me they struggle with. For many, there is an uncomfortable-feeling associated with the entire idea of sales. Of course, In reality, it's really hard to build a successful business of any kind without sales.
My sense is that the biggest area of struggle, when it comes to sales, is fear. There's a fear of rejection (no one will buy anything!), or a fear of being unsure how to build a successful sales process. Fortunately, there are a few fundamental keys to developing a profitable sales process that doesn't make you sick to your stomach! Doing these 5 things well, could easily increase your sales by as much as 300%.
With that in mind, here are 5 Keys to developing a Killer In-Person Sales process.
The truth is, the success of any sales process begins long before you ever sit down with a client at a sales session. By far the most important thing you can do to increase sales in your photography business is to create expectations that educate your client. Chances are, your clients don't shop for photography on a regular basis, and as a result, they don't know what to expect. If you don't take the time to create expectations, your client will create their own - no matter how far off they are.
For example, the following are things you should make very clear to your clients:
- When they should expect to see their photos? How will they see them (online, in person)? What types of products do you offer? How a client can purchase from you? How long they should expect it to take to receive an order? What will it cost me?
Making sure that your clients know what to expect, helps them feel comfortable with you - and your sales process. As you meet their expectations, it increases the quality of their experience - which leads to larger sales. When a client arrives for a viewing session, there should be no surprises. Instead, they should know exactly what's going to happen, what they are going to see, and how the process works.
Where you sell really does matter. While it may not be possible for everyone, or in every situation, there's no doubt that there's a huge difference between selling online, and selling in-person. In fact, most studios that currently do in-person sales, will tell you that their sales grew 3-5 times over their previous online sales.
The biggest key is being able to control the environment. When you bring a client into your studio, you can control what they see, what they hear, what they smell, etc. All of these things help influence what they feel. It helps your clients focus on the experience and the images, and not be distracted from everything else that's happening in their life.
It's worth mentioning that there's no reason you can't have killer in-person sales if you don't have a studio. Even if you don't have your very own storefront, there are plenty of creative ways you can create a great environment for sales. Many photographers share a space with other photographers or vendors, reducing the overhead associated with having your own space. Other options include a dedicated space in your home - or even conducting sales in the client's home. Before you dismiss that as crazy, some of the best client sessions I've had have been in the client's home.
I have two rules for product sales. The first is that "you sell what you show." The second is "the less you show, the more you sell." I didn't make either of these rules up - but they are both true. It might seem counter-intuitive, but the bottom line is this - if you want to sell canvas gallery wraps, you need to show clients canvas gallery wraps. They need to be able to see them, touch them, and see what they look like hanging on a wall. At the same time, if you want to sell canvas gallery wraps, it's not helpful to bring a client into an environment with 20 different types of products.
By focusing on a few things, you help guide the client through the process, and act as an expert advisor. It's your job to provide your clients with the photography products that meet their needs, without clouding the picture with a ton of different products and options. This just leads to confusion - and the result is that they don't buy anything.
For weddings, we focus on selling our clients an album and a piece of wall art. The sales process is based on those two things. That doesn't mean that we don't offer anything else, but it does mean that we focus on those things. On the other hand, for lifestyle portrait clients, we focus on selling large wall art, then gift prints (anything 11x14 is not wall art - its a gift print, or something you give to someone else), and then books. The result is that our clients buy a few large pieces, some gift prints, and then a leather bound matted book.
There's a simple rule that I learned a long time ago in sales: "ACT AS IF." If someone contacts you through your form, act as if that means they want to meet with you - move the conversation in that direction. If someone meets with you, act as if they want to book you. If someone comes to a "sales and viewing session," act as if they want to purchase from you. Finally, if someone tells you what they want to purchase from you, act as if you're ready to close the deal!
Think about that for a moment. This person, who hired you to create meaningful images, has come to your studio (or home, or wherever) to view those images. They've come to meet you because they want to both experience those images, as well as find a tangible way to relive that experience. The products you offer are the solution to that problem, and you've presented them with your client in mind. Your client has told you exactly what they want, and yet photographers suddenly become afraid to give it to them - overcome with fear and doubt.
For me, the solution is simple. Once we've identified their needs, and created an order, I ask one simple question: "Would you like to take care of that today by check, or credit card?" I don't ask them, "what do you think about your order?" or "how does that look?" or "are you ready to go ahead and order?" Those are all terrible closing questions, and yet they are the type of passive question that photographers often ask - giving their clients the chance to doubt and reconsider. Instead, ACT AS IF they are ready to buy, and simply ask them how they want to pay for it.
5. The Presentation
The heart and soul of an in-person viewing session is the presentation of the images. One of the biggest mistakes photographers make - and the biggest disadvantage to only proofing your images online - is not presenting the images in a way that drives an emotional connection. Your images tell a story, and when you present them that way, through a slideshow of hand-selected images, you help your client engage with that story. This is far different than simply asking a client to wade through hundreds of files in an online gallery. Allowing a client to engage with the images in an emotional way helps them to connect with the story.
The bottom line is that in-person sales allows you to create a client experience that can't be matched through a simple online gallery. Because you're inviting the client into a more personal sales process, it becomes much more high touch. That high-touch relationship is what leads to much higher sales, and much happier clients.
How about you? What have you found are some keys to increasing your photography sales? Leave a comment below!