Your clients should feel like they are the center of your universe, at least for the time that you are together. The entire first course in our Wedding Workshop series is designed to help you effectively communicate with your clients, because artistry comes second to building trust. They may be sold on your portfolio, but it all comes down to how much faith they can place in you.
Before we jump into these tips, the foundation for some of the communication techniques we cover in this course stem from Olivia Fox Cabane’s The Charisma Myth: Master the Art of Personal Magnetism. Her book teaches us that charisma isn’t an innate trait, but can be developed over time and taught like any skill. This is important to note because just like our artistry, our ability to relate and connect to people needs the same amount of attention and practice.
1. Build A Relationship
When around a client, especially for the first time, focus on building a relationship. Generally during the initial talk-through we’re meeting with either the bride or the bride & the groom to be. Always ask questions and refrain as much as possible from taking over conversations to talk about yourself. This engages the clients and makes them feel like you are their only client. What do they do for work? What do they enjoy as their hobbies? Focus the priority of your conversation on them.
[REWIND: EVERY CLIENT IS YOUR ONLY CLIENT]
2. Smile, be genuine, and be interested
Body language speaks volumes without you having to say a single word. In Cabane’s book, she mentions how certain body movements are representative of how someone is feeling. Being able to read whether or not your client is comfortable will definitely help you guide your conversation in the right direction. Alternatively, your demeanor and body signals also can encourage them to become comfortable because of your open body language and genuine interest.
3. Positive Reinforcement
Assume that as their photographer you can make anything happen for your clients. Meaning, if they have a ludicrous request that takes 100 hours to accomplish and a budget of $100k, you’re job is to use positive words to tailor the expectation into something that you can deliver. Generally, hearing “no” usually turns people off from voicing their opinions, and your client will no longer feel they have faith in your ability to deliver an amazing product.
4. Ask Targeted Questions
One of the best ways to understand them as people and what their needs are is to ask targeted questions. These could be questions pertaining to photography, like “What do you like about our work?”, or “How has your experience been so far in the planning process?” This helps you gain access to information to help tailor your message. However, during that initial ‘building a relationship phase’, keep the questions general and open-ended.
5. Talk Less, Listen More
Focus on being present and in the moment. Often in initial consults photographers get wrapped up in the sales aspect of their business, overlooking the fact that at the end of the day your work should sell itself. Steer clear of interrupting or stealing the conversation, this will most likely lead to frustrated clients who are unable to express their thoughts and needs due to your rudeness.
6. Be Present and Remember the Details
Being present means that your staying focused on what’s being discussed. Make direct eye contact, without getting too creepy, and use verbal and non-verbal cues to signal to them that you are engaged in this conversation. One of the most basic details that photographers constantly forget during a meeting is names. In Dale Carniege’s book ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People‘ notes that scientifically, the word that you, I, and all of us want to hear the most, is our own name. If it’s information that you should know, especially if it’s already been given to you, remember it.
7. Resolve Needs, Wants, and Concerns
The goal is to build trust throughout your relationship with your client, not just for one specific event. A concern could come up in the initial meeting or anywhere along your time with the client, and your ability to solve issues effectively and immediately will only encourage clients to trust you to capture such an important milestone in their lives. Being present while talking less and listening more, will help you identify their needs, wants, and concerns.
8. Posing Communication
Now, generally, posing communication is something that is really more useful during the actual shoot but mentioning it in the initial talk-through does two specific things: primarily, it shows how knowledgeable you are and secondly it instills trust in your ability to successfully do your job. More often than not, clients will come in with an uncomfortable feeling towards posed photos. Although this is a concern, it isn’t something that can be fixed by building trust through reassurance and education.
[REWIND: EVERY CLIENT IS YOUR ONLY CLIENT]
For more tips on how to become an effective and empathetic communicator be sure to check out our Communication & Planning course from the Wedding Workshop series, available for full streaming as an SLRL Premium Member.