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The Business of Photography: 5 Easy Steps To Grow Sales Now {Part 1}

By David Valentine on June 3rd 2014

“Most people think “selling” is the same as “talking”. But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job.” – Roy Bartell

The 5 Steps To Selling A Client

Presenting a client with your services entails a few different steps. Capitalizing on each step and knowing where you are at in the process is crucial to selling more clients and growing your business. In this article, we will define and discuss those five steps and what you can/should be doing in each step to maximize each initial meeting you book with a potential client. Keep in mind, the goal is to take that initial meeting and convert them into a client and eventually into a raving fan- read my second article to learn about raving fans and the rest of my Business of Photography articles here.

Here are what the 5 Steps look like:

  1. Meet and Greet
  2. Qualification Process
  3. Showing Portfolio/Work
  4. Presenting Sales Packages
  5. Finalizing The Sale

In every industry and in each business transaction around the world, the process is similar. They roughly follow these five steps. The only difference is each service or product will be different and the steps might carry a different label. In the photography industry, we sell a remarkable service that gives our clients an indescribable feeling. We capture raw emotions on photos and video that will last forever. Remember this when following these five simple steps. In this article, we will go over the first two: Meet and Greet and Qualification Process.

1. Meet and Greet

The meet and greet doesn’t need to be too complicated and doesn’t deserve too much conscious thought. Have you ever walked on a used car lot? If you have, odds are a gentleman in a plaid jacket with slicked back greasy hair gave some cheesy introduction. Threw out a one liner to lighten the mood and proceeded into his “spiel” and over promising the world. This was the used car “Meet and Greet” that we have seen on TV and unfortunately, experienced in real life. Take this example and never do it- unless, of course, that is your brand, then by all means run with it. I used this example to show you how unnatural and forced/scripted this type of greeting is. We don’t need to do this with our potential clients, but ideally you’ll want to follow these few steps in your meet and greet:

  • Introduce yourself with eye contact and a handshake.
  • Light small talk (be yourself and be natural)
  • Start leading them with questions (you’re the professional and direct them down the right path)
  • Transition into the qualification process

See, it is not that complicated or scary. The meet and greet is all about being yourself and being professional and friendly.  But most people get tense when it comes to transitioning from a meet and greet into the qualification process. Here are a few ‘leader’ questions to help you get the idea of transitioning from meet and greet to qualification – a leader question is one that helps you lead the conversation in the direction you need/want it to go:

  • “Your wedding/project/idea sounds interesting, what else can you tell me about it?”
  • “I am extremely excited to take on this wedding/project/idea with you, fill me in on some more details, that way I can picture it more clearly.”
  • “Your project/idea is interesting, what inspired you to take it on?”

The Qualification Process: Are We Right for Each Other?

The qualification process is extremely important to see if your business is right for the potential client and if the potential client is right for your business. Here you will want to see if the wedding/project/idea fits in your time frame (if you have availability on that date), if it is the kind of work you do, or if you want to be taking on this type of project or client.

In the gym industry where I spent the last 8 years in sales/leadership positions, the qualification process was just as critical. If a potential client came into the gym and they were looking for only Yoga and Pilates, that means for me to meet that expectation, I would need to be in the business of providing Yoga and Pilates. During the qualification process, I would ask the right questions to get the right answers, as this helps me direct the client in the right direction and it helps me see if we are able to create a winning relationship for the both of us.

This is the part where you ask your potential client all sorts of questions, really getting to know them and what their expectations are for the project you are both about to take on. Allow the potential client to ask you questions as well. For a bride, it is the most important day of her life, the one she’s been dreaming about since she was a little girl. She needs to be reassured that you are more than qualified to exceed their expectations.

Here are some examples of qualifying questions:

  • “What is your vision for this project? What are the key factors? What must we capture?”
  • “How do you see my business maximizing your experience?”
  • “What is your time frame and when is the expected dates you will need my business?”
  • “On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being least important and 10 being an absolute must. How important is this project and its proper execution to you?” (This is a great question, tweak it into your personality and your situation. This allows you to see their commitment level it gives you the tools you need to convert them into a client when it comes to ‘Finalizing The Sale’ part).
  •  You may even venture to ask about their project budget to prepare yourself (and them) for when you get to the Presenting Sales Packages step. The budget should come closer to the end of your qualifying questions, too soon and it looks like you’re greedy with only a concern for money.

Taking It Home

  • All these questions listed are only a handful of the thousands of transition questions and qualifying questions that could be asked.
  • Make a list of qualifying questions you would like to use on your next initial meeting and use them!
  • The set up is everything, just like in chess, sometimes you make moves that makes you lose a piece immediately, but it sets you up to take the king later. Same applies with the setup in your initial meeting, you ask the right questions to get the right answers to proceed down the path you wish to take your client.

In the next article, I will discuss the importance and proper ways to presenting your portfolio/work to maximize value in the customers eyes. Understanding the psychology of sales is crucial and once you understand your clients, they will understand your business and value.

Sometimes it’s helpful to role play these scenarios with a friend or partner so that you can practice these steps so that when the time comes and you’re facing a client, the presentation is smooth. So, go find someone to practice these first two steps with you today!



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David is a business and sales expert who resides close to the beach in Southern California. With a knack for sales and marketing, he has consulted with many organizations ranging from car dealerships, door to door sales, and fitness gyms. When not selling or a running a business, he can be spotted on the beach with his dog, Goliath, any restaurant that will take him far from his trainer approved diet regiments, or Las Vegas.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. joel Keister

    “How do you see my business maximizing your experience?”

    Really? Do you want the clients to think you’re a soulless robot ?

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  2. Chris Cummins

    The thing about sales that is scary but essential is getting your head right with hearing “no.”

    As photographers we tend to run a little more insecure than a lot of professions. It is he nature of what we do as a personal expression. It’s very easy to put so much of our heart and soul into what we do that it can feel like a client turning us down is a client turning *us* down on a personal level.

    I always tell people that the deep inner game of sales is a lot easier and fun if you 1) accept the necessity of this role to your success 2) stop trying to get your emotional needs met in the business, particularly in the sales side.

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    • David Valentine

      I have been in sales many years. At first I thought it was the scariest thing ever. But eventually realized I have been selling my whole life, even as a child! I would convince my parents I deserved ice cream or even tried to convince them to let me stay up late. That is a sale in itself.
      I agree completely with you Chris. It is extremely fun and the relationships and friendships that I have created from being in sales can’t even begin to be measured.
      Thanks for reading and commenting.

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