Defeating the Dark Side of In-Person Sales with Alissa Zimmerman
In-person sales (IPS) offers the number-one way to make real money as a photographer in today’s digital world. But lots of photographers still resist this proven strategy.
Most people who refuse to implement IPS are terrified of it. That’s understandable. The idea of sales has such a negative connotation, especially for artists who already suffer from the “Am I good enough?” complex. Those photographers are expected to sit in front of their clients, confidently make eye contact and ask for thousands of dollars? Forget about it.
I started handling the sales process for our studio three years ago, and I’d be lying if I said it has been a smooth ride. But it has been one of the best learning experiences for me as I stumbled my way through my insecurities to make the cash register ring over and over again.
Let me break it down for anyone who has just transitioned into doing IPS or is thinking of taking the plunge.
It’s not always going to be fun.
Let’s not fool each other with this one. There is so much more that goes into selling than just sitting in a room, drinking wine and picking out pretty pictures to hang on a wall.
IPS is not easy. You have to commit a lot of time upfront to making sure you have everything you need to close a sale. Do you have the tools you need to run a smooth process with your clients face to face? Do you have your cost of goods figured out so you can create profitable packages? Have you invested in printing samples of everything you want to sell? This is only the beginning.
You’re going to run into walls repeatedly. Welcome to running a business. Don’t let these hiccups stop you from continuing down the path of in-person sales. Learn from your mistakes and understand that your internal process should always be evolving. Don’t jump ship the first time something goes wrong. Follow the 80/20 rule. Look at trends. Are there objections coming up in the sales room 80% of the time? Pivot. If it’s just a one-off thing, don’t panic and change your entire business plan. Take a deep breath and stick to the formula you have built.
It’ll make you uncomfortable.
I mean this mostly for those who do not consider themselves to be person people. I would put myself in this category of humans.
The act of interacting one on one with other human beings fills many of us with anxiety and awkwardness. Now just add a splash of uncertainty and a spoonful of “Would you like to pay with a credit card or check?” to the mix, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a painful experience.
This is where you will need to channel your inner strength and fake it a little. The best thing you can do is familiarize yourself with all the products and packages you offer so you won’t easily get blindsided with a million questions you can’t answer. Understand your cost of goods so well that you can make adjustments or concessions in real time without impacting your bottom line.
Spend the time upfront to educate yourself as best you can so you are able to take away most of the fears you have around selling. Most of the time, those fears are tied directly to a fear of looking or feeling stupid in front of strangers. You will find that by having a solid foundation about your costs and products, you’ll be well on your way to looking like the most confident person in the room. And remember, perception is always reality.
There will be plenty of times in the sales room when you will get caught off guard by a question you aren’t prepared for. That is totally normal. You’re never going to be able to predict the outcome of a sales session, but you can make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes by documenting objections as they occur. Don’t stop your sales session to jot down an objection that comes up, but take 10 to 15 minutes after your clients leave to write down the objection that stumped you and how you responded to it, then discuss with a teammate, boss or significant what you could have done differently. Make note of the best response possible, and practice that response repeatedly until it becomes second nature.
You have to stay organized.
The world of product sales has so many moving parts. If you’re not organized, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed.
A typical client cycle goes a little something like this:
- Client photo session
- Send images to Evolve to be edited
- Schedule client sales session
- Render images for sales session
- Prepare sales room (products set out, pricing printed, wine chilled, etc.)
- Upload images to N-Vu IPS (build slideshow, update settings)
During sales session:
- View images
- Narrow down images
- Walk through products in the packages
- Select package with client
- Finalize image selections for all large prints in the chosen package
- Collect payment
- Process payment
- Send client receipt with list of turnaround time expectations
- Create client image gallery and send link to client
- Order any images not requiring additional retouching that night
- Send any images requiring retouching to Evolve
- Export favorited images from N-Vu for client slideshow
- Set up client project in Asana to track deliverables with team
- Once products arrive, wrap everything and schedule pickup
- Follow up with client three days later to make sure everything is great
Can you imagine doing all of this without any sense of organization? I didn’t think so.
If you want to be a top-tier studio with a luxury brand and high-paying clients, you need to get your shit together, build an organized workflow and give your clients an unprecedented experience. That will keep them coming back.
Don’t expect to be able to easily fix a broken process later down the road. There’s nothing worse than a business workflow operating with Band-Aids covering the holes. Invest the time to make it right, or you will spend the rest of your time as an entrepreneur focusing on things that don’t make you money. That leads me to my final point.
Efficiency is the key to success.
Is the idea of in-person sales scaring you even more now that you’ve made it to the final topic? Good. This is where it all comes together and where I ease all of your fears.
You can’t ignore the online and software-based digital solutions that are built to help you run an efficient business. It’s time to ditch your paper order forms and sticky notes. It’s time to get rid of your giant whiteboards and dry-erase markers. The world operates online. It’s time to innovate or die.
The quickest way to get yourselves to a point of despising in-person sales is to run an operation with no efficiencies. There is no reason that you, the self-empowered creative business owner, should be sending out manual email reminders to your clients about their photo sessions. There is no reason you should be creating invoices from scratch every time you need to collect money. Use automation and templates. 17hats will be your very best friend.
Are you a “solo-preneur” doing everything on your own? It may be time to hire an assistant, or at least someone part time in the studio who can handle some of the daily mundane tasks so you can focus on shooting and marketing and bringing in the dollar bills in the sales room. If you can’t afford a real living human assistant, look into virtual assistants.
Are you tired of running your IPS sessions across 15 platforms? It’s time to wake up and smell the money N-Vu will save you by combining your online galleries, mobile apps, slideshows, note tracking, order forms and so much more into one place. We run our entire in-person sales program through N-Vu and 17hats, and have saved so much time, energy and, best of all, money. At the end of the day, that’s ultimately what it’s all about, right?