In a utopian world, it would be effortless to get people to give you money in exchange for what you provide for them. In this land of rainbows, and elves and unicorns, it would just happen. Money would be deposited in your bank account, simply because you exist to do whatever it is you do. You would have a new client at whatever frequency you desire, and never once, for any reason, would you ever have to "sell" anything.
Of course in the real world? Get over yourself. If you think you can build a business that doesn't involve "sales," then you're either a magician, or an idiot.
I've heard it before... "my clients don't like feeling sold to," or "my clients don't want to be nickel and dime'd." Guess what - no one on earth wants to feel "sold to," or be "nickel and dime'd." No one. Sure, those can be a low-level function of a "sales" process, but if that's your view - you're severely limiting your business perspective.
MORE SALES THAN YOU THINK
Let's start by looking at what "sales" really means:
A sale is the act of selling a product or service in return for money or other compensation. Signalling completion of the prospective stage, it is the beginning of an engagement between customer and vendor or the extension of that engagement - Wikipedia
In a photography business, there are essentially two common functions where "sales" is manifested.
1) The process of booking clients AND
2) The process of providing products (usually prints, canvases, albums, etc).
It's pretty much impossible to create a photography business without #1, and while you could create a business without #2, you'll have to decide if that's worthwhile. The problem for most photographers is that they confuse "sales" with sleazy, manipulative tactics they may have experienced somewhere along the way. What if, instead, we adopted a more effective definition of "sales?" What if we looked at sales as:
The process of discovering your clients problem, and providing them with a solution that meets their needs.
If we redefine what "sales" means, how does that change the way you look at both functions above. How might that change the way you approach booking clients (especially since we've already established that it's difficult to build a business without paying clients).
If the "process of booking clients," was about discovering your clients' needs, and providing them with a solution that meets their needs, how would that change the way you approach prospective clients? Would it change how and where you meet with them? Would it change the conversation?
I think it does. I think that the process of booking clients becomes less like an interview, and more like a consultation. I think that booking meetings (or consultations) become less about showing clients your sample albums, and slideshows, and cool ipad presentation options, and more about understanding who your client is, and how you can solve their "photography problem."
By the way, I've said it many times, but I'll say it again. People who come to you, do not have a "I need pretty photos of my wedding" problem. They don't come to you because they have a "I need a super cool photographer to be at my wedding" problem. Their problem has little to do with photographs, or photographers. Instead, I've always believed that people resonate with photography for the important moments in their life because they have a: "I want to remember the way I feel...." problem.
They want to remember the way they feel when they first put on that wedding dress. They want to remember the way they feel when they first see each other at the opposite ends of the aisle. They want to remember the way they feel when they promised to love each other forever. They want to remember....
Solve that problem, and you'll never run out of clients.
QUIT BEING IGNORANT
And what about #2 above? Can I be brutally honest? There are hundreds of reasons that photographers say that they don't sell products. "I don't like selling prints." "I don't have a way to do in-person sales." "I can't......"
Here's the thing - there is a valid model for only selling your services. There truly is. Generally, it's known as commercial work, and it's often work-for-hire. But for most photographers, the aversion to #2 has nothing to do with "sales." In reality, the aversion is either ignorance, or laziness.
Yes, I really just said that. Let's be clear - I'm not saying there isn't a model that doesn't involve selling, but I am saying that that model has nothing to do with making people feel "sold to," or nickel and dime'd, or whatever... Guess what - a problem-solving sales model doesn't do any of those things either. A true sales model adds value to your clients - it doesn't subtract it.
If that's your objection, giving up on "sales" doesn't have to be the answer - and yet so many photographers do. So many photographers give up the opportunity to add value by providing something tangible to their clients - something that meets a clients needs - because they "don't like sales."
I don't think it's that they don't like "sales," I think it's just that they have no idea what that really means.