Not one photographer raised their hand! Not one, when I asked them if they had thought about their sales process when starting their photography business.
I was the keynote speaker at one of the convention centers in Las Vegas, my keynote centered around an incredibly effective sales method and sales process I created. In a room packed full of photographers, business owners who rely on selling their product, not one photographer had put any intentional thought into how they would actually sell their images. Wild!
It’s Not Sexy
I get it. Thinking about a sales process is not as sexy as thinking about creating the perfect light falloff, or which new lens you’re going to pick up. Yet, a solid sales process will keep the doors to your business open long after your new camera body that you didn’t need to upgrade, is due for another upgrade.
I get it, I truly do. It’s not sexy... or is it? A solid sales process will make you more money, and that’s pretty sexy. A great sales process and method will also give your client an amazing experience, and that’s essential. I’m confident that putting some thought into your sales process will be one of the best uses of your time.
I come to the photography business from a different perspective. While I'm a headshot photographer now, my background is in luxury sales. I was incredibly lucky to work for some of the world’s best-known luxury automotive brands, which invested tens of thousands of pounds (I lived in the UK) into me, my sales training and development. I still use the information I learned from that training, every single day.
Sales Isn’t Just About The Money
If you don’t put money above all, it pays more in the long term. Luxury sales are not the cliche of the hyperactive sales team screaming down the telephone, it’s not about screwing your client for every penny you can. It’s however about listening to your client and being the best solution to their problem.
My number one rule is that I never want somebody to spend more than they can afford. I never, ever deviate from that rule. My number two rule is that I never want a single client to leave my studio without being given the opportunity to spend more money if they want to.
A photographer who knows how to operate their business to its fullest potential and takes average images will generally make more money than a photographer who knows how to create amazing images but neglects the business side of their profession.
So, What is a Sales Process?
If you asked our mates at Google what a sales process is, you’ll find hundreds of answers about hundreds of different sales processes and all things related.
- You’ll also read about sales methods, which is generally a framework or philosophy of how you sell. Very important!
- You’ll read about the sales cycle, which is the time it takes a buyer to go from the point of discovering they need a product or services, to purchasing, and starting all over again.
- You’ll hear about the buyer’s journey, the journey a buyer goes from discovering they need a product or services, researching which company best fits their needs, to buying that company’s product or services. It’s very helpful to keep your client’s buyer’s journey in mind when creating your sales process.
Sales processes vary based on business models. If we’re going to get all wordy about the description, most salespeople might describe a sales process, as “a series of steps taken in a particular order which enables a salesperson to close a deal.”
For me, the description is “a series of steps taken in a particular order which enables the client to easily identify and communicate what they want”. It’s then up to you to provide your client with the product or services that they want, at a price that’s right for everybody involved.
A sales process and sales method should benefit your client as much, if not more than it benefits you. If you can do things which make your client feel like they had a great experience, right from the beginning of their buyer’s journey, and complete the sales cycle with a smile on their face, they will put more value on what you do.
This leads to repeat business, better referrals, awesome reviews, and more money for your business.
Who Needs a Sales Process?
You do! If you own a business that relies on selling something, whether you have a sales team, or more likely, it’s just you, you need a sales process.
In fact, whether you know it or not, you already have one. You already have a sales cycle and sales method also. But if you don’t know that you have them, they’re probably inconsistent, costing you and your business much-needed revenue.
Make It Easy For Your Client
The first thing I thought of when creating my sales process was “how do I make it easy for the client to spend more money if they want to?” I knew straight away that selling photography packages wasn’t going to work for my business. Packages limit a client’s options and make it hard for them to spend more money.
In my first full year in business as a headshot photographer, my goal was to make $100,000. I ran the numbers and worked out that I'd need to sell a $400 package as my average price, and photograph 250 people to hit my $100k target.
First off, I was a new headshot photographer and wasn’t confident at the time that my photography was good enough to charge $400 for a middle package. Secondly, with 261 workdays in a year, photographing 250 individuals is a tough ask, no matter how good my sales process is.
I knew from my years of sales training that if you offer three options, or “packages” in this instance, your average sale will most likely be your middle-priced option, and if the price is predetermined as it is with photography packages, (X amount of money for X amount of images) people will generally not spend any more than that predetermined amount.
I dumped packages and ran with a session fee with no images included, and sold images a la carte, images that clients could choose at the end of the shoot.
I knew that this would all but erase the predetermined mindset that clients would have about how much money they were coming to spend, but it also gives them the option to spend a smaller amount if they want to. While it would increase the length of the sales cycle, I almost preferred it.
As many luxury brands do, I aim to provide a great experience and make clients feel good about themselves, and most people can’t get enough of that feeling.
It’s not a trick or a sales tactic, they’re simply being given a great experience, which in turn makes them value it more. We as photographers don’t have the luxury of a sales team like most businesses do, so it’s important that we pay close attention to what we’re doing.
Using this sales process, my first full year goal of earning $100,000 almost doubled. The year after that hit $250,000 - shooting only headshots!
In one respect, I outperformed that first year, I was a beginner shooting headshots and I made more money than my ability as a photographer should have allowed me to. Where I made it up, was in my ability to make my client feel good about themselves and provide an excellent experience for them.
“I Can’t Do Sales”
That’s what most people say. Always remember that the best salespeople are communicators. Great salespeople are listeners, providers, they care that their clients feel good at the end of the sales process.
Salespeople who only want to make as much money as possible are generally terrible salespeople. The thing I love most about sales is the relationships you build: genuine relationships, built on trust and mutual respect.
You don’t need to make your clients buy more to be a good salesperson, you don’t even have to hope that they buy more. Just give them the opportunity to buy more, and even to buy less. Make the sales cycle easy.
I’m certain that if they enjoy themselves, they will buy more. In my opinion, so much of what photographers do unintentionally makes it difficult for the client to buy more even if they want to.
Your Sales Process
Let’s talk about how you’re going to create your sales process.
The steps below show what a typical sales process looks like. Some sales processes have more or fewer steps. Getting your mind thinking about how you handle these steps in your business is what’s important.
- Prospecting: Prospecting begins whenever somebody first sees or hears about your business. Your website, for example. Your website will also play a massive part in the consideration/research stage of your client’s buyer’s journey. To prospect well you should have clear communication, show your potential client that you understand their pain points and that you have the product or services that are the best solution to their problem.
- Qualification: This has a lot of variables depending on what your business model is. Traditionally, it means to ask questions which determine whether a lead can become a client. Can they afford it? Do they like your work? Do you want to work with them? If you get to the end of the sales process and don’t know this information, everybody has wasted a lot of time if at closing you find out that they can’t afford your prices.
Presentation: A great presentation is where you earn your money. If you think of the last time you bought a car, the salesperson offered you a test drive. They let you feel how smooth the car drives, see how shiny it is, hear the clean sound when the door closes, that new car smell. They were in the presentation stage of their sales process.
Presentation is huge as it is all geared towards emotion. Emotion is the biggest driving force behind how much money people will spend. As photographers, we use our photographs to elicit the same emotion from our clients.
Send me a DM on Instagram and I’ll tell you a tactic that salespeople use to look out for next time you go to buy a car.
- Handling Objections: Objections can range from “it’s too expensive” (in this case, just respect it and never attempt to persuade them otherwise) to “I don’t like that lighting.” A simple way to handle this objection would be to show them images with different lighting. Simple stuff, but a skilled objection handler is well prepared and calm when opposed.
- Closing: One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is to not ask somebody for their business. Once you’ve completed the necessary steps in the sales process, always ask for their business, “Would you like to book a session?” “Which images would you like to buy?” you’ll be surprised at how many don’t book simply because you don’t ask.
- Follow up: Also the final part of the sales cycle. The Follow up happens after the shoot and is pretty self-explanatory. Are they happy with your product or services? This is when you earn repeat business, referrals, and great reviews.
Throughout this, I’ve mentioned a sales process and method that I developed. My sales method heavily supports my sales process. A sales method compliments the process and is more customer-focused and less linear. These are a few things in my method which may help you when you’re creating your own sales processes:
- I mentioned packages earlier, I’ve also dumped proofing galleries. Clients take galleries home and get opinions from everybody they know! Opinions from their partner, their parents, their friends, the guy who comes around to clean out their fish tank, make them feel unsure about which shots they like. This makes them feel less positive about the overall experience and ensures they spend less money because if your client is unsure about the product, they’ll spend less on it.
- I also don’t limit outfit changes or even time. This builds real value into my session.
- I keep my client informed every step of the way. I call this “Setting The Process” so they feel comfortable and in control. We photograph people often, your client gets photographed rarely, so it’s important to remember that your client probably has no clue what’s happening from one moment to the next before, during, and after their shoot.
- I’ll also communicate with decisive and indecisive people slightly differently. I change things slightly to suit the individual, because being too helpful with a decisive person can appear pushy, and being not helpful enough with an indecisive person can easily overwhelm them. In both instances, you will make less money.
I want my clients to complete the sales cycle with images they love and an experience they remember. Money comes second, but it’ll still come. That’s how important the sales process is. I know it works, so If I stick to it, my business will be much more likely to succeed.
Take some time to think about your sales process and your sales method. I know your business will be infinitely better for it.
Feel free to contact me on Instagram at @tonytaafe if you have any questions about this article or my method.
Thanks for reading!
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