I had just finished moving our business from low-price online sales to in-person sales, incorporating a drastic shift in our product pricing.
We were happy with the new direction we were headed in, but we were still a little nervous about the change. Then I came across this forum thread: What Would You Pay for Custom Photography. I discovered there are an endless number of threads about photography clients who want to pay practically nothing for digital negatives and stories about photographers who charge $75 per session, including prints. Our print prices started at $65, so I was more than a little nervous.
Finally I saw something familiar. One of my clients posted this:
“We did an OpLove session, so I had no session fee and my darling husband got something sent to him overseas. I paid more than $65 per print and $5,000 total [despite other photographers who offered budget photos from $25.] They do not even give CDs, but I would gladly pay that for their work.”
What justified this higher price for her? Was it our work? I’ll be the first to admit that wasn’t the case. My boyish good looks or inappropriate sense of humor? No.
It was the entirety of our sales process, which is designed to give our clients exactly what they want from their session — nothing more, nothing less. That’s when it finally clicked for me: This is what our clients want. This is what they expect. And this is what they deserve.
So let’s dig in to the details of what such a sales process looks like. By the time you’re finished reading this article, you will have clear and actionable steps to take that should increase your sales and thrill your clients.
Oh, and by the way… the client I’ve been talking about? She was the first person who went through this sales process with us.
The Ultimate Sales Secret
Ask your client what they want. Then create it for them.
As trite as this sounds, take a second to think about it. What we’re talking about now isn’t sales.
Collaborate with your client and work as a team to create the best products possible for them.
First Thing First: Setting Expectations
Throughout the sales process, we are constantly setting and reinforcing the expectations we have for our clients. These expectations include the types of products we sell and the price our typical client spends. It’s absolutely critical you do this. If you don’t, it won’t be until the sales meeting when you find out you and your client aren’t on the same page. You could end up with a much lower sale price than anticipated, and your client could walk away feeling, at best, underserved — and at worst, embarrassed. You don’t want to waste each other’s time.
There are a few places you should be setting expectations.
On your website
Show what you sell. If you sell wall art, blog about the art pieces you’re creating. (Shameless plug: If you haven’t sold any wall art but want to start, get Preveal (affiliate) and use some of our free stock rooms to create custom wall art pieces with some of your favorite portfolio images. Blog those images to show that you intend to create wall art pieces for your clients.)
Give them a price range. Let your clients know how much they should expect to spend on you by including a simple message, such as “our typical client spends between $xxx and $xxxx on photography” or “custom wall art begins at $xxx.”
When you meet with your clients, ask them questions that make it clear what you intend for them to purchase.
This is as simple as asking, “Where in your home would you like to display your images on your walls?” or saying, “Tell me about your design style so we can start talking about what type of album would fit it best.”
Through Past Clients
If your client is referred to you by someone who has your images displayed on their wall, your new client’s expectations for wall art are already set. Conversely, if the client only sees your images on Facebook, there’s a good chance he or she only will expect to receive digital files from you.
The goal here is not to convince people to buy what you want them to buy. Instead, your aim should be to attract people who already want what you offer. If they want what you want to give them — and they have a general idea of how much that’s going to cost them — then you’re both well on the way to a great experience. If any of these things aren’t a fit, happily refer them to someone who is a great fit for them.
Step One – The Planning Meeting
After our client has looked at our website; reviewed our prices, products and process; and decided to move forward with us, the first step is a planning meeting.
The Purpose of the Planning Meeting
- Continue to reinforce expectations.
- “The Funnel” — Start with all of the products you offer, session location options, wardrobe options, etc. Ask open-ended questions about your clients, their style and their desired products. Narrow them down to only the things that are relevant for that client.
- Planting the seed for a sale — Start discussing specific products your client might want and get into detail about what those products might look like and what they will cost.
- Nail down logistics and session details — Decide on the session date, time and location, sales meeting date and time, and wardrobe options.
- Get room images to use in Preveal (affiliate).
- Collect the session fee.
In our best planning meetings, we’re able to take our client from saying “I want some pictures of my family” to “I want a 30×45 canvas of my whole family looking at the camera to go over the couch in the living room, The Starry Eyed Canvas Collection with candids of each of my kids individually, and one of them together to go on the wall next to my bathroom as well as a formal family portrait for the front of our holiday card and a goofy picture of our dog for the back of the card.”
If we can get this specific (which is not always possible, but happens fairly often) then I know exactly what I’m going to shoot when I get to a session — all the way down to the aspect ratio I need to shoot for. It’s awesome.
Step Two – The Session
The session is an integral part of the sales process because it’s when you build excitement for the products your client wants. We do this by showing images on the back of the camera when we know we’ve nailed one of the photos they want, and saying things like, “This is perfect for that canvas we talked about over your couch” and “This is going to look great in that collection we talked about for your master bedroom.”
This strategy for building anticipation is more powerful than you think. Yes, your client will be more excited about their images. But even more importantly, during the time between the session and sales meeting your client will be able to visualize the image every time she walks past her couch. She’s selling that product to herself! Better yet (another shameless plug), use Preveal during your planning meeting to show her what those photographs will look like at the correct size.
Step Three – The Sales Meeting
You’ve set expectations, collaborated with your clients to find the perfect products for them, and built excitement for those products during your session. The only thing left on your to-do list is to finish the job. Show your clients what they asked you to create for them. They’ve already seen your prices during the planning meeting, so there should be no surprises for them as long as you’ve set their expectations. You’re simply saying, “You said you wanted these things, and here they are. As you know already, here’s the price.”
We’ve found that a set progression through our sales meeting helps us to be sure we cover all of our bases. And it’s just plain easier. Here’s how we work through the sales meeting:
1. A slideshow with music twice — The first time through, we tell them to sit back and enjoy the images and not to try to decide which ones are their favorites. The second time through, we ask that they start thinking about which ones are their favorites.
2. Sort the images into “yes”, “no” and “maybe” piles — If it’s not an immediate “yes” or “no.” then it goes into the “maybe” pile. We’ll sometimes draw from these images later in the sales meeting.
3. Choose large portraits or collections — We start with the “statement” pieces first when choosing our clients’ wall art images. We often have these images pre-designed with the products they said they wanted during the planning meeting and also fill with the images we were excited about during the session. We’ll tweak these with different images if they love something else. We use Preveal for this (surprise!) so that we can show them exactly what these images will look like on their wall, at the right size.
4. Albums and miscellaneous products — Our clients are consistently surprised at how many images they love from their session. Even after choosing five or six wall art pieces, often a client wants to find a home for all of the other images too. So we’ll sell them albums or other products that fit more than one image. It’s a good idea to come up with some products that will allow your client to purchase more than one image but won’t take up a huge amount of space in their home. We sell an Easel Collection (a small easel with eight 8×8 mounted prints) for this very reason, so that our client has a way to display more of the images they love.
5. Gift prints — We offer a discount on any image in 4×6, 5×7 or 8×12 that our client has ordered elsewhere (i.e., a discounted 4×6 on an image that appears in an album or in a wall art collection). We then combine that “sale” mentality with suggestions on for whom or why they should buy some gift prints. For example, “Father’s Day is coming up. Do you need any images for Grandpa? If you want a small print of one of your wall images, it’s discounted off of the regular price since you already ordered it there.” As with everything else in our process, this is not pushy salesman stuff; it’s simply asking your client what they want and giving it to them.
6. Take their payment — Tally everything up, and take their payment. We offer payment plans on anything over $1,000. Half down and half due one month later.
If you use something like Successware, you typically can set these save the client’s card number and automatically charge the card on the date due, which saves everyone the hassle of arranging the second payment.
We’ve taught this sales process to photographers for years. We consistently hear from those who’ve made the switch that they are seeing giant increases in their sales and getting referrals from happy clients. The photographers who put off making the switch always mention that they wish they had switched sooner.
So there you have it. It looks like a giant process when it’s all written out, but it’s really not. You are simply asking your client what they want and creating it for them. By doing this, you’re providing your clients with a service they couldn’t get from most of your competitors, and they’ll pay you a premium for it. In the end, you’ll have higher sales averages, and your clients will be much happier with their experience than if you had simply delivered the images on a disc and sent them on their way to figure out what to do with those images on their own. So get out there and start making more money while making your clients happier!
The Perfect Selling App
Say hello to your handheld sales room: your clients’ images on their walls, via your iPad.
Preveal simplifies portrait sales by helping clients visualize exactly what their images will look like on their own walls, at exactly the right size. And because Preveal is so simple and intuitive, this can be done in a matter of minutes.
- With a simple and intuitive workflow, it’s never been easier or faster to design a wall collection.
- With its built-in sharing features, Preveal can be used for in-person sales, long-distance sales or online sales.
- Many photographers have tripled or quadrupled the price of their average sale after incorporating Preveal into their workflow.
- The Preveal Community brings the power of crowdsourcing to an already impressive app, allowing photographers around the world to browse, download, customize and save any template created and shared by any other Preveal Community member.
- Preveal includes exclusive access to the Design Aglow Inspire Guides.
- Preveal is purchased through the App Store for $75. There are no monthly fees or subscriptions and all the updates are free.