As photographers who have been in this business professionally for close to 10 years, we’ve tried a little bit of
everything when it comes to selling our work.
I can remember when I first started out, sending a little spiral-bound proof book home with clients and praying for a “high” sale (which, at that time meant $200). IF I could get them to bring an order back in, I was lucky if they ordered a handful of 5×7’s – and of course, they always wanted to purchase the proof book.
When we moved to online selling, I thought “this is going to save me so much time!”. I would just upload the images, the clients would view them, and the orders would come rolling in, right? WRONG! I found this to be the most time-intensive way to sell. The emails… “can you show me what this picture would look like in black and white?”, “can you slim me in all my photos?”… the calls… “what size should I get this in for the wall above my couch – I’m thinking 8×10?”, “my gallery expired (oops!) – can you put those back up again?”. In an effort to save time, I ended up spending so much MORE time and being very frustrated with my clients – who weren’t trying to be annoying, but just hadn’t been properly educated.
Shifting to in-person sales changed everything. The biggest change? It doubled our sales. Immediately. We didn’t really know what we were doing at first in terms of using the software (we use ProSelect); we didn’t employ any special sales techniques – this was just the impact created from us sitting down with our clients when they saw their images for the first time and walking them through the process of choosing portraits and products.
We’ve come a long way in perfecting our sales techniques in the last 5 years. We’re no longer happy with a $200… or even a $500 sale. Our sales average is now closer to $2500, and this is in a city whose median household income is $37,000. It’s been so worth the small time investment in our clients to sit down with them to help with decisions. Here are the four reasons we believe in-person sales work so well:
Impact & Immediacy
Our clients see their images for the first time during their proofing & purchasing session. They are emotionally impacted and, because they are also making all their purchases during this same session, those emotions help increase sales.
YOU are the expert. As artists, this is part of what our clients are paying for – our creative eye. In my opinion, this applies not only to taking the photos, but in helping our client figure out the best way to display the images in their home! For example, we always help clients determine correct sizing for wall portraits. If they are looking to hang a portrait above their couch and we allow them to purchase an 11×14, we’ve done them a disservice. They are going to be unhappy with the way that looks – and it is our job to educate them! Conversely, if they need a wall portrait to hang in a small nook in a hallway and we try to sell a 30×40, we are serving ourselves and not our clients. We’ve been known to talk clients down a size if necessary, and have found that the trust we establish from this pays dividends in long-term relationships, and that is what our business is all about.
If you are looking to operate a business that is lower volume and higher priced, you are going to need to provide more and better service to your clients. It’s similar to the difference between going to a fast food restaurant and a place with candles and white tablecloths. At one you’re going to get a cheap price. At the other you’re going to have an experience. If you’re going to charge clients a premium, you will need to take care of their needs in a very hands-on way. The great thing about this model is that, because you have fewer clients, you can take the time you need to develop relationships and give those you do have a very special experience.
We are creatives, and because of this we often forget that our clients typically can’t visualize things in the way we can. It is so helpful for them to be able to sit with us and look at samples of what it is we are offering. It is difficult to sell an album from a photo. Your client needs to be able to touch and feel the leathers, experience the texture of the pages and see the quality of the final product. They need to see wall groupings on an actual wall, open folios and sift through the photos inside. This also assists us in learning their style and catering to this style in future sessions.
Ultimately, we all want the same thing: happy clients and happy… us. Finding a method of selling that serves our clients in the best way, makes a great living for us, and allows time to live life outside of the business is the ultimate success.