Death of a Salesman: How to Develop a Sales Style That Works for You with Vanessa Joy
Sales has always been an ugly word to me. Maybe it’s from growing up in the Northeast, but we’re bred for the cold and have no tolerance for salesmen pitching their life away in the hopes of getting our money. Shopping for cars is a fun pastime for me because I know the shtick so well that I play it back to them and they’re at a loss for any more creepy “buy me” metaphors.
I kept going to these conferences and hearing from my photography peers how I was supposed to be selling more and more to my clients. I hated the idea. I didn’t hate the idea of more money, just the thought of asking them for more. They had already spent more on me than I would’ve ever paid for photography, so how could I ask them for more?
The first time I tried after-sales, it felt silly. The most I could bring myself to do was send an email after their wedding telling them that the free thank-you cards that came with their wedding package could be upgraded in size and style. I also threw in the idea that they could add pages to their albums. I still remember cringing as I hit send. I felt like such a sleaze.
I shot around 25 weddings that year. I sent out that itty-bitty email of offerings to everyone. I didn’t meet with them in person. I didn’t offer packages. I just gave them a few options that they didn’t even have to say no to—they could’ve just ignored them. But they didn’t. I made an additional $20,000 that year because of silly little emails.
After that taste of success, I kept thinking of ways to sell more. I didn’t do it all on my own. I’ve consulted with amazing photographers like Sal Cincotta, Christine Yodsukar and Makayla Jade. We all have our own style of selling. I’ll outline it for you next, but I want to make it very clear that you shouldn’t copy this verbatim. You need to develop a selling style that works for you and your clients.
You can do this in person in a quiet location, or over video chat. Don’t meet at a Starbucks. Meeting in person has gotten me better results, but I meet with clients at a coworking space or in the studio of a florist or DJ I know. You have to get their undivided attention.
Here’s the order in which I do things in a sales session.
1. Show the album predesign in slideshow format.
Predesigns are crucial to creating a final album that flows beautifully and tells a complete story. I tell my couples when I first consult with them that I don’t dump the chore of choosing photos on them. Instead, I lay out a visual album that they can tweak. They love the reduced hassle—plus the fact that their album will be delivered in three to six months.
2. Edit the predesign with the couple’s input.
This part does take a long time. The whole appointment takes about two hours, often more. It’s important to prepare clients for that. I encourage them to add photos, and if they want to take things away, I don’t stop them (it rarely happens, though). I have a new little toy that I’m using for this process, which I show off in this month’s video.
3. Choose the album cover.
This is a good time to take a break from the inside of the album and start concentrating on the outside. I work with three main album companies: Miller’s Lab, FLORIcolor and PictoBooks. I don’t plop down every available option, because that would be overwhelming. Instead, I start talking them through macro options, like whether or not to have a photo on the cover and the type of fabric. Then I present various options based on what they’ve told me they like and what I know of their wedding style.
4. Present wall and table art options.
After the album, I have a good idea of their favorite pictures and can start talking about what types of pieces they would look good on. I ask about their home and wall space and suggest media and sizes that would work for them (typically from the packages that I offer).
5. Go over package options.
Based on the size of their album and desired wall art, I suggest the ideal packages. I remind them throughout the process of how many pages of their album they already have filled and how many we’ve designed so there are no surprises. I present what I think works for them, and also show another, less appealing option, and then ask which one they prefer.
This is the part where I hold my breath. Sometimes they decide they need to trim things down. Photographers have their own sales tactics here, but I’m perfectly happy not pushing. I enjoy being the catalyst, a guide leading them to what they need and want.
6. Choose wall and table art.
Now we pick final images and sizes for their art pieces and wrap everything up. I tell them when to expect each tangible item so there isn’t any confusion over how long everything takes, especially the album. I send an excited note that gets them pumped to receive their images to hang in their home and enjoy over their lives together.
So guess what? I’m not a sleaze! I’m a business that gives customers every option they could possibly want. The idea that I was practically robbing them was my own imaginary manifestation. Looking back, I realize my clients wanted to spend more money with me all along. They wanted to complete their photography experience by glorifying their wedding photos grandly with wall art and larger, more exquisite albums.
So now I have happier clients, and I’ve been rewarded for it. You know that $20,000 extra a year I earned doing 25 weddings? Last year, I shot 19 weddings and took in an additional $88,919 in after-sales. This shit works. Go do it.
No photographer likes the idea of our beautiful images being hidden away on a flash drive. These once-in-a-lifetime images were created to be cherished for decades in prominent places in loving homes.