Client Communication and Workflow to Maximize Sales with Melanie Anderson
Bad communication and workflow can gum up your sales process and stagnate your entire operation.
Let’s first discuss client communication. Our sales begin with the phone call. When a client calls our studio, we immediately ask how they heard about our studio. Typical answers include the mall display, doctor’s office displays, social media and word of mouth. The number-one answer we hear is, “You are everywhere.” We ask because we want to know where are marketing efforts are working, and we want to maximize these opportunities.
This gives us an idea of the type of client we are interacting with. As we begin discussing session options, we talk clothing, time frame and what to expect. We also share a “starting at” price range to give our clients an idea of what they may expect to spend.
Next, I ask what they hope to achieve during this session. What is the main goal? Are we documenting a family that hasn’t been photographed in more than five years, or are we photographing a family that comes in year after year? This is important. I want to know what they will need. Are we looking at albums, wall art or gift portraits? I shoot with intention, and the more information I have ahead of time, the better.
I then offer suggestions that I think will best suit their needs, along with approximate costs. This ensures we are staying within their budget. I show them wall art and albums in the studio. Once we begin the session, as I’m photographing, I mention images that I think will look best as canvases or collages, and how many images we should plan for if we are photographing for an album. I want to be sure I have met or exceeded their expectations, giving them plenty of variety to choose from.
Once we have completed our photography session, I mention that we will be scheduling the in-person order session. This usually takes place the following week. I walk them into my sales room and state that their images will be narrowed down and cropped. No postproduction work will be done. When they arrive, they will view the images via projection and narrow down their favorites. I then begin discussing the portrait collection options—what is included and how much it will cost. I have wall portraits displayed, gift portraits on the sales table along with albums, wallets, announcements, etc. I want my clients to be able to hold and look though whatever is of interest to them. I explain that if they purchase a collection, any à la carte items will be 20 percent off.
A few additional items I share is that anyone who needs to be involved in financial decisions needs to be at the order session. They will be making their purchasing decisions that day. I mention that whatever their budget is, I just want to spend it wisely. That is important to me. I am here to serve. I want all of my clients walking away having experienced the best possible service and receiving the best possible products. Word of mouth is huge for me, and the verbiage and experience I convey to my clients is crucial. I don’t ever want a client coming into a sales session unprepared and unable to make a decision. We have a workflow in our studio that ensures we are efficient and productive.
As I mentioned above, I shoot with intention. That means once I have nailed the shot, I move on. I am not a spray-and-pray type of photographer, hoping that within a few hundred images that I have captured something that will work. I photograph exactly what my clients need, and then a few extras that I think they will love.
When a client calls, we make a record in our studio call log. This is a reminder of what information we need to gather in order to schedule a session. This paperwork is then placed in a clear sleeve and inserted into a binder labeled “Upcoming Sessions.” We call all clients the day before to remind them of their session and confirm their time, along with any items we need them to bring.
When the client arrives at our studio, she does paperwork, which includes a waiver covering use of the images. This is so vital, because we share everything on social media, and occasionally I use their images for commercial work or print competitions. I need to be sure I have their permission to do so. Only on a rare occasion do I have a client not willing to sign this release. This is typically a boudoir client, and for obvious reasons, I am okay with that. Respect their wishes and do not use their images if a client has not given permission.
After we begin the session, I discuss with them what to expect, and ask them a few questions so I am equipped to handle all of their needs. After their session, I walk clients into the sales room and specify everything listed above. When the client leaves, I upload the images to the sales room computer so I can prep for the order session. I’m often unable to complete this task immediately because I have sessions back to back, so I’ll have several to do at once. Once I am completely finished with that session, the CF card is placed in the clear sleeve with the client paperwork and given to our designer. Our designer then uploads the images and creates two copies to ensure we have a backup on an external hard drive. Once all copies have been created, the card is cleared and the client paperwork is placed in the order room, ready for the sales session.
The client’s order and payment information is placed in the clear sleeve and given back to our designer. Images are processed, orders are placed and images are posted to social media. That paperwork is then placed in the back for when the order arrives and needs to be sorted through. The order is then packaged and the client is called. The order and the paperwork are then placed up front ready for a signature showing their entire order has been completed. The final packet is then filed and available for reference at any time. Throughout this process, we also have information online regarding the client, type of session and payment information.
I hope this article has given you some specific verbiage you can use with your clients. The more you can educate ahead of time, the smoother the process will be.
Here’s a recap of specifically what I say to each client:
How did you hear about our studio?
What are your plans for the images?
Where do you want to place them in your home?
Whatever your budget is, I just want to spend it wisely.
Anyone who needs to be involved in financial decisions needs to be here for the order session.
You will be making your purchasing decisions on the day of your sales session.
Be intentional in your shooting.
Ensure that you have a process for client workflow; use my examples as necessary.
Educate your clients.