If I asked you if you enjoy selling photography prints, what would your answer be? I’m guessing you’d say things like ick, yuck, ugh, or even just a definitive NO!
But if I asked you the following questions, would your answer change?
- Do you enjoy serving your clients?
- Are you willing to help clients solve problems?
My guess is you might say yes, of course, or absolutely!
In summary, we hate selling but we love serving and problem solving for clients.
But guess what? They’re the exact same thing!
If you’re interested in prints but can’t wrap your head around how to do that without feeling “salesy” this article is for you! We’re going to talk about how the biggest barrier to increasing print sales is our mindsets about sales, and how by shifting that mindset we will be better able to serve clients.
The Secret Sales Sauce
I’ve been a hybrid photographer for a while, offering digitals and selling prints through my Shootproof gallery. But after hearing the Cole’s Classroom Find Your Focus Podcast Episode 9 with Jenni Maroney, my idea of how print sales could tie into my business started to change. Jenni emphasized emphasizes that it’s not about sales, it’s about service.
Chris Swift, another guest on the Find Your Focus Podcast (Episode 28), reiterated that thought.
“The reason that you should be switching to in-person sales is not just because it’s going to make you a lot more money. It’s because it’s actually better for your clients,” Chris said.
The idea that sales could be a positive experience and another way to service clients opened a whole new world to me. So I reached out to a great friend who is one of the most successful saleswomen I know and asked for her advice. Laura makes an incredible living selling skincare products for a multi-level marketing company.
I asked Laura to sit down for a different kind of consultation. I was after her best sales advice. I wanted to learn how to sell as effortlessly as she did. Her response? Stop selling and start serving.
Without any hesitation, she shared what she calls her “secret sales sauce.”
Sales=Problem Solving + Service.
That’s it. No tricky formulas. No sneaky tactics. No step-by-step process to close the deal. She simply tries to solve skin-care related problems and serve her clients.
It really can be that easy.
So let’s dive into the Secret Sales Sauce and learn how to create a new vision of what print sales can look like for our photography businesses.
Let Go Of the Ghost of Sales Past
Laura says sales feel uncomfortable because we’ve each had a bad experience in the past that we call up anytime someone mentions sales.
“When you think of sales, selling, salesmen, or commissions, what do you think of?” she asks me.
I immediately think of my experience of buying a car. When I graduated from college, I needed to buy a more reliable vehicle to get me to my new job in Indiana. The 15-year-old Nissan Stanza on it’s third transmission just wasn’t going to cut it driving from Wyoming to Indy.
I hit the doors of the dealership at 8:015 a.m., asking to see a zippy white Ford Escort that fit my budget. I was told that the car was being driven by another customer, even though no other customer cars were in the lot. The salesman said they had another Escort he’d be happy to show me. So I test drove the beige car.
It’s a long and convoluted story, so I’ll give you the highlights.
My bad sales experience included:
- A salesman tried to “bait and switch” me, luring me in with a less expensive car that was never really available.
- A finance officer telling me the prices for two cars were the same when only the monthly payments were the same. The total prices differed by more than $5,000.
- Two men constantly patronizing me by calling me honey, sweetheart, and little lady (my personal favorite).
- The salesman telling me I didn’t understand the car buying process and telling me to go home and bring back my dad “so the men could handle it.”
Yeah, I didn’t buy the car. I ended up working with another salesman at the rival dealership who respected my budget and treated me with respect. I bought a lovely Chevy Lumina that I drove for the next five years and am a fan of the GM brand for life.
We Hang On To Those Bad Experiences.
That was more than twenty years ago. And you know what? I STILL get mad just thinking about it. In fact, my hands were shaking as I told Laura the story. My voice even got a little screechy. Just typing this summary out, I’m irritated all over again at thought of how I was treated. And that was more than 20 years ago!
Laura says that’s the problem.
“We’ve all had a negative selling experience, whether it’s a dishonest car salesman, a smarmy guy in a sweater vest selling us a couch, or a pushy woman selling makeup that bullied us into buying products we didn’t need because she wouldn’t take no for an answer,” she says.
And when we think of selling, those are the experiences we recall. The times we were pressured, coerced, taken advantage of, or just plain insulted. And we think that’s what selling requires.
Selling photography prints can and should be a positive experience for both parties.
To begin creating those GREAT sales experiences, we need to let go of the bad ones. Recognize that you are not the dishonest car salesman. You are not the smarmy dude in an ugly sweater vest pushing couches. You are not the pushy woman selling makeup. Those bad sales sessions were the fault of selfish salespeople, not you. You are different because you approach sales from a place of service, not profit.
Part 1. Help Clients Solve Problems
“Selling make us feel icky because we focus solely on the money,” Laura says. “And money is a sticky subject for so many of us. So take the money piece out of the sales equation and you’re left with two objectives. The first is helping clients solve problems”
Laura approaches every consultation or interaction as a way to help clients solve a problem they might have with their skin.
In fact, the first words out of her mouth during our consultation were “What can I help you with today?” She didn’t jump right in and start telling me what I needed to buy or start throwing products at me. She listened to my problems so she could recommend how to solve them.
Photography Client Problems
A photography sales session can also help solve clients problems. Here are a few common problems our photography clients might have and how you, the photographer can solve them. It’s an easy way to turn a sales session into something you can feel good about!
Problem: Client doesn’t understand the online store or gallery software.
Solution: You walk her through the gallery and place the order for her.
Problem: Client doesn’t know what the different paper types are.
Solution: You bring paper samples and show her how each type looks and feels.
Problem: Client doesn’t know how to choose prints in the right size and shape combo.
Solution: You walk him through different wall layouts and show him how the prints/groups will look on the walls.
Problem: Client wants to scrapbook but doesn’t have the time.
Solution: You build a custom album of her favorite images for her.
Problem: Client knows what he products he wants but doesn’t know where to find them or how to make his images work with them.
Solution: You find suppliers for those specific products and place the order for him.
Problem: Client doesn’t have wall space for huge prints but still wants beautiful, tangible, memories.
Solution: You suggest smaller products that will fit her decor, such as a folio box, album, or collection of frames.
Translating Problem Solving Into Sales
When you provide the right solution to your customer problems, you get a sale.
Laura suggests knowing the client’s pain points well before you ever sit down with them at a sales session. She includes questions on a typical morning skin-care routine, for example, in a client questionnaire.
For a photographer, that might mean including questions about finished products in your questionnaire or opening up discussion on prints and products during an initial consultation.
Then you can head into your photography session, and your ordering session, with that problem-solving mindset at hand.
“The ordering session becomes less about money that way and all about ‘here are some solutions I think would work for you,’” Laura says.
Part 2. Serving Customers
Part 2 of the Secret Selling Sauce is understanding this is just one more way you can serve clients. And that doesn’t feel icky, does it?
So how can you serve clients selling photography prints?
Speak Their Language
Nothing turns someone off faster than a bunch of jargon. Know how to discuss your prints and products in terms the client understands, not just photographer speak. They can’t see the value of the product if they don’t understand the product.
Be in it for the Long Term, Not the Quick Sale
Sure, having a sales session that tops $1,000 would feel awesome. But so does knowing you’ve secured a client for life. My dad used to say “Don’t jump over a dollar to snag a dime.” It means don’t ignore the real value trying to earn a quick dime.
That means if your product doesn’t fit their needs, be honest. If you can’t provide the product they want, be honest. And don’t push for a big sale just to pad your pockets. Your customers will appreciate the time you invest in the relationship and remember how you treated them. And they’ll come back again and again!
Laura says she often has clients make small orders, or none at all if they were part of a hosted party. And she’s okay with that.
“My goal is to serve my clients. I host a party or consultation with that mindset. So if my client and their friends have learned something about skin care, had fun, and enjoyed their time with me, my goal is met regardless of how much they order.”
She says that attitude of service is what clients remember. It keeps them returning to her and it earns her referrals to their friends and family.
“You might have a client who orders your smallest package the first time,” she tells me. “But if you make it a great experience, solve her problems and treat her the same as someone who drops $2,000 with you, she’ll remember that. She’ll be your customer for life AND she’ll refer you to her friends and family. And all because you focused on connecting with her as a woman, wife, and mom…not as a checkbook.
Do the Work For Them
I am perfectly capable of changing the oil on my car. But I haven’t done that particular chore myself since I found gainful employment twenty-five years ago. I HATE crawling under a car, cleaning out the oil pan, etc. So I take my car to an automotive service center.
You can sell photographs and serve clients in sales sessions by doing the work for them. This can be as simple as setting up an ordering session so clients actually order high quality prints instead of settling for a bargain-basement print lab! I can’t tell you how many moms tell me “Oh, I need to order photos but I keep forgetting.”
Serve those clients by helping them order prints!
Doing the work can also mean:
- Guiding clients through which poses to choose or paper to use.
- Designing graduation announcements or Christmas cards.
- Drop shipping gift prints to your clients’ relatives.
- Placing the order for them.
- Getting the prints framed for them.
- Hang those beautiful prints on the clients’ walls.
- Scouring search engines to find that one-of-a-kind product the client wants that you don’t offer (yet!)
- Getting an address list from the client then addressing and mailing Christmas cards for them.
Educate and Demonstrate
Another way you can serve clients when selling photography prints online or in-person is by showing them beautiful physical prints before and after their session with you.
Laura says she uses her social media feeds to serve clients and educate them on skincare. That way, her followers are getting value from her before they ever sit down for a consultation.
“Because I’ve been serving them on Facebook or Instagram at no cost for months, when it comes time to order products, the value I’ve given them becomes part of the experience for them as well,” she explains.
- Share blog posts about different types of wall hangings or how to use clusters of photos.
- Post videos demonstrating how an 8×10 print on the wall looks vs. a 16×20 print.
- Set up display tables of your work as physical products at craft fairs or vendor expos so clients can see how beautiful photo prints look.
Not only are you laying the groundwork for a future ordering session, you are serving clients by providing information and education!
Problem Solving and Service…That’s Not Icky at All
As you consider ways to improve your bottom line, make your work more efficient, or provide more value for clients, consider incorporating selling photography prints into your business model. And remember, selling isn’t about how to sell your work. It’s problem-solving and providing great customer service. And that’s not icky at all.