How to Sell Digital Files Like Products with Christine Yodsukar
I hear photographers in every workshop, every one-on-one call, every Facebook group and every in-person meetup say their clients don’t want to spend money, don’t want products and just want to pay a couple hundred dollars for the digitals. I feel you. I used to say that. I have a bomb to drop. The problem is not your clients. The problem is you. That is a lie we tell ourselves so we don’t have to teach ourselves how to sell, so we don’t have to face our fears, so we can continue to think we could be successful “if only.”
There are two basic things I have learned in sales: Clients want what you tell them to want, and you can dictate what your clients want.
What your clients want is actually what your clients value, and what your clients value depends on how well you are serving them. If you do not serve your clients at all, they will value only what they know. They are not professional moment capturers, seasoned celebrators or expert documentarians. They know Shutterfly and Costco and buy-and-sell Facebook groups. They don’t know what magic is available to them through a professional photographer. It is our job to help them see the possibilities of working with a full-service professional photographer.
I wasn’t always able to sell digitals the way I sell products. In fact, the word digital scared me. I had put so much work into learning how to sell products and testing my approaches that I hadn’t even thought about how to sell digitals.
Through learning how to sell products, I learned how to build value for the products I was offering. The albums and wall galleries were family heirlooms that served as a valuable daily reminder of what is most important to people. Having something in your home you can look up at every day and feel better about the troubles you’re facing is priceless. I could sell that all day long to my clients because I understood the value of it. These products make your life better.
Once I understood the value of what I was able to deliver, I applied all of the sales techniques I’d learned through trial and error, countless books, private training (including with the amazing Steve Saporito) and through talking with colleagues. I learned that the first thing you must do is find out what is valuable to the client. Whether it is their toddler’s chunky cheeks or the unveiling of their brand-new business, there is always a reason they want photos taken by a professional. Once I know what is valuable, I can connect it to the deliverable, which in most cases is the artwork. Through the artwork, the client can celebrate the thing that is valuable to them.
The final piece is asking for the sale. Once they value the artwork, I have to use actual sales and negotiation techniques, like many I learned from Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss: to ask for the sale that I want and that I know will serve them when the artwork is being enjoyed in their home.
Using this same gameplan, let’s swap out the artwork for digitals. We first find out what our clients value. If we have a client coming to us for branding photos, why do they want branding photos now? What is different right now than the last time they had photos done? Next, I need to link that value to the digital product. To do this, I need to know where they want to use their digital files.
Are they putting these photos in a header banner on their website? That tells me that I should photograph them in a way that fits in a banner layout. And when I get to the sales meeting, I can say, “And this one right here is perfect for the header banner on your website.” If they also need a photo for an Instagram post with a text overlay telling people to sign up for their lead magnet, I need to know that so I can leave empty space in the frame for the text and so I can point out this photo in the sales meeting and say, “This photo will help you build your list on Instagram.”
Knowing your client’s needs and being able to deliver on those needs is the basis of sales. If I do this, I can sell them anything as long as it solves their problem and I believe in it. A great example of this was when a client who had just had a family session with me bought multiple collections of artwork. He loved how the artwork honored and celebrated his family. A few weeks after they received their artwork, this client reached out to me for headshots for a major rebrand of his business.
The only difference was that he did not want artwork of his branding photos. He just wanted the digitals to use on his website and promotional materials. At this point, I still didn’t want to hear the word digitals because it scared me. I believed that the digitals were the best product for him. I wasn’t about to sell him wall art of his branding photos. So I decided to use the same exact process he had already been through with his family session, but replace artwork with the digitals he wanted. For the sales session, I had priced the digitals so they at least paid for my time and the hair and makeup artist, and took it as a test run. At least I wouldn’t lose money.
It turns out that I had done a great job at building the value because my first branding session with digitals came out to just under $4,000. They got exactly what they wanted, they were over-the-moon happy and I met my sales average.
Sales techniques work whether you are selling artwork, digitals or a used car. I don’t have rich clients. I don’t live in a wealthy area. I don’t have rich friends. I learned how to sell.
Don’t let yourself believe the lies you see all over the Facebook groups that you can’t sell digitals and be profitable. You can sell them and be very profitable consistently as long as you learn sales strategies that work for photographers. Find out what they need it for and get specific. Shoot for what they need and overdeliver.
If you want to sell a lot, provide a lot. In the sales meeting, use techniques you learn from books, highly regarded coaches and peers. And the next time someone asks you, “How much for just the digitals?” just remember that if you want the big sale, you have to ask for it.