In-Person Sales 101: Understanding Client Behaviors

In Part I, I discussed what an In Person Sales business model can look like and why it is right for me and could be right for you.  The concept of doing business in person isn’t a new concept and is the way portrait photography used to be prior to the digital revolution in the photography world.  

A frequent complaint among photographers thinking about IPS is that their clients expect to have images delivered by internet download, on a CD, or on a USB.  More importantly, many photographers believe their clients do not want prints or wall art from the photographer (such as canvas and metals) because they can have it done for less money by printing themselves.  While these reasons are valid, it doesn’t mean an in person business model can’t work for you.For these reasons, it’s important to better understand client behaviors. 

In many forums and photography groups on social media, photographers (or creatives in general) refer to identifying your Ideal Client. What or who, is an ideal client?  While the short answer is: someone who values us enough to seek our services and purchase our products, it is so much more than that and it takes a great deal of analysis to sketch out the characteristics of those mythical Ideal Clients. 

Let’s start by identifying the three basic types of clients:

The Bargainer 

This client is focused solely on price and is always looking for a deal. Frequently, this client is challenging to work with because she will expect discounts and frequently try to haggle price with you or get more than you are offering. Manipulation and passive aggressive tactics are very common with the Bargainer and it’s difficult to establish a long term relationship because this client is always on the hunt for a better deal.

The Explorer

This client is looking for authenticity and individuality. She is often attracted to you based on something you have said in person or on your website, or because your work is different from others in your field. She also wants you to find out more about her in order to feel an interpersonal connection. This client is open to and seeks unusual and creative customer service experiences.

The Exclusive 

This client desires everything the Explorer wants along with a strong interpersonal connection to you, but also is seeking products and services that are not readily available to everyone else. She is attracted to premium products that reflect individuality and/or luxury status and also enjoys and expects a superior customer service relationship.

Tip: While we all encounter the Bargainer, don’t be afraid to turn down those clients if it doesn’t fit your business model. In order to attract the Explorer and Exclusive, promote yourself in a way which reflects your values. Be selective. Promote the scarcity of your work to create urgency for your ideal clients to seek you out.

Okay, now that we have a basic understanding of client types, what can we do to attract the Explorer and Exclusive? 

In-Person Sales 101: Understanding Client Behaviors

Stop Selling!

One reason people shy away from IPS is because they feel they are not good salespeople. This can be a good thing because it’s important NOT to sell to your clients. Yes, that’s really what I said… Stop selling to your clients! While your clients are interested in your products, keep the information limited to how it will benefit them rather than you. Many years ago when I booked our daughter’s senior portrait session, the photographer mailed me a worksheet that listed all the possible items I might need for our daughter. It listed prints for grandparents, wallets for announcements, and so much more. I had it filled out with sizes by the time we got to the session and saw her portraits in the reveal. It made ordering easy (and expensive) but it was about our needs, not the photographer’s needs. There was never any sales pitch. Not only brilliant, but completely effective!

Get to know your clients

In order to establish rapport with a client, use open ended questions as conversation starters that requires the client to think. Look for “threads” in their answers and gently tug on them as you listen and discern their needs. As people open up to you, they begin to trust you. And if you can master the art of asking questions, it puts you in a position of power so that you can guide and direct the conversation. 

Tip: Spend at least 10 minutes in the beginning of a new client meeting ending every sentence in a question so that you can get to know your clients better. If you are having your meeting by phone, have a set of questions ready to go, take a few notes, and ask more questions as the conversation unfolds. This will help you to determine what their needs are and ultimately help you sell to your clients.

Begin with the end in mind

It’s important to think about post-session sales and you should do this when having the initial consultation with your client. Again, as you continue asking questions, your client will begin to trust you. The more they trust you, the faster they will purchase. Each meeting should bring you a step closer to closing the sale at the reveal and ordering appointment. Visualization is key in successful ordering appointments and there are a number of apps such as Preveal or Shoot & Share to give your clients an idea of how the finished artwork will look in their home. For those of us who are just starting out and can’t afford to invest in those apps, the slideshow feature in LR works very well on both laptops and a desktop monitor. It can also be hooked up to a television, but be aware of calibration issues that can make the images look pixelated or off in color (I had this happen with good friends last year and thankfully, there was enough wine flowing they didn’t notice!)

Tip: Remember, you sell what you show! If you can’t afford to invest in samples that show your client work, order items that reflect your style even if it’s personal work. For example, I have a 16x24 metal print of flowers hanging in my office. It gets tons of attention when people come in and they can see the quality of the product. This helps them envision their family in the size and the medium.

No More Discounts!

Discounts. Another hot topic in the photography world and if at all possible, avoid discounting your services. This is an especially difficult thing to master for those of us who are just starting out in our business because we don’t yet have the confidence that we are worth it. Trust me, you are worth it! The secret to success is 90% business savvy and 10% photographic skill. Get your business acumen up to speed and the rest will follow. When you show you are worth it, clients will value your products and services. You do yourself a tremendous disservice when you begin discounting - it undermines your value and hinders your ability to grow your business. It also sends the message to former clients that you aren’t as valuable as you once were. Instead of discounting, use incentives to book clients who are on the fence. Keep in mind any incentives must hold value so they must be worth it to both you and the client.

Tip: Be confident with what you offer clients - both in service and in pricing! 

Adapted from: shootdotedit

Tina Auten

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