Implementing Your Sales System With In-Person Sales with Jeff & Lori Poole
Putting Your Sales System into Action
For the past several months in The Business Corner, we’ve been building your sales system from the ground up in order to get you to your target sales average (see The Business Corner from August 2018 for a discussion on determining your target average). We started with cost-based (October) and demand-based (November) pricing, and strategies for digital files (December). Next, we built your sales system using your a la carte list (January), your bundled options (February), and your upselling strategies (March). Last month, (April) we translated all that theory into your first encounter with your clients: the inquiry and consultation. This month represents the culmination of all this work—selling profitable products to your client at an in-person sales appointment after the shoot. It’s time to cash in.
Suggestive Selling During the Shoot
If your pre-session consultation has been done correctly, you should have an idea of the products your clients are interested in. With practice, you’ll also begin to intuit upsales to offer your client (see March’s column for upselling ideas and strategies.) During the shoot, you should be cementing these ideas and upsells, underscored by certain images you’re shooting.
For example, if you’ve just captured a series of different expressions in the same pose, show the back of your client while exclaiming, “Check these out! These images would look great tiled across an album spread…almost like a filmstrip!”
Or, when you’ve gotten that one great scenic epic shot, show it to your client and suggest, “Man, this would look killer as a big metal over your fireplace mantel.” Keep it conversational, and then get back to shooting. Plant the seeds.
Location of the Sales Appointment
In-person sales are best performed in an environment you can control. The ideal location would be your private retail space, in a room set up specifically for sales. The following elements help your sale; the more of these elements you have, the better.
Branded Space. Your sales location should be an extension of your brand. Décor, color scheme and “mood” all affect how your clients view your brand.
Walls displaying LARGE wall art. Show what you want to sell. If you want to sell 20- to 30-inch prints, do not show 8x10s and 11x14s on your wall.
Wall art arranged how you would like to sell it. Don’t merely show random pictures all over your walls. You are not a gallery. Don’t mix photos from different sessions into one grouping. It doesn’t translate. Show your client exactly what you want them to buy.
A table for albums and other products that do not hang. Clients need to see, touch and hold these items. Keep them accessible.
A large-screen TV or projector screen. The larger you show the images digitally, the better they will translate to wall portrait sales. Using a tablet or laptop keeps the customer thinking small.
Comfortable seating. Controlled ambient noise, temperature, lighting and smells. This sounds obvious, but people are more willing to stay, think and buy when they are comfortable.
Refreshments. Hunger kills sales. Plus, there’s a certain positive effect to clients feeling spoiled and well-cared for.
Should I meet with my clients in their homes? For the average client, I would suggest avoiding an in-home meeting. When clients are in their own homes, they have the home-field advantage. It’s harder to control your brand message and position yourself as an authority when you’re on their turf. Further, clients tend to be distracted by kids, dogs, phone calls, the laundry, etc. They have a hard time focusing 100% on the sales experience, and sales suffer. There are exceptions to this rule with extremely high-end clients, but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Does a successful sale require a retail location? Is that my only option? No. But again, the more elements you can control, the better. Think outside the coffee shop. A dedicated space in your home, a local community studio like The Shoot Space, a business incubator, and executive suites are all worth researching. Just remember your goal is to have a controlled environment in which you can establish your expertise and guide the sale to its intended outcome.
What Happens at the Sales Appointment
Your sales appointments should have the same process and flow every time. Here is the flow I like best with my clients:
Greeting & Agenda. Greet your clients at the door. Make small talk. Seat them in the sales area, within arm’s reach of your tabletop samples, and within sight of your wall samples and TV/projection screen. Offer refreshments. Give your clients an agenda for this meeting: that you’ll start with a slideshow of the images for first impressions; then you’ll review product options and pricing; and finally they will be choosing the images for their products and (yes) placing their order.
Slideshow. The slideshow allows the client to see all the images for the first time. Your slideshow can be the basic feature built into Lightroom or your sales software, or it can be an elaborate display with animations set to music. The elaborate slideshows don’t seem to help my sales, so I keep mine simple to save time.
Explain to the client whether images have been retouched already or will be retouched once the order has been placed. This circumvents concerns about minor flaws and helps them to focus on pose and expression. During the slideshow, take mental note of favorites or relevant commentary such as, “Ooh Grandma will love that one!” At the end of the slideshow, ask them in an excited tone, “So what did you think?” Allow them to gush.
Sales System Review. You will have already presented your products and pricing at the consultation. Tell them that you’d like to take a moment to refresh their memories on your product options. Then, explain the whole system as though they’ve forgotten all of it. Start with the a la carte products, and explain (again) how your bundled options provide the best value and are “what most clients get.” Answer questions, then ask which option they are most interested in. At this point, many clients will be leaning toward one particular bundle, but they may want to review the images to see how many favorites they have. This is fine, and it makes a good segue to image selection.
Image Selection. During the selection process, the client chooses their favorite images for purchase. My preferred method of selection is to pull up between one and four images on the screen together to allow the client to compare them. Encourage the client to be liberal in their selections, only narrowing out the images they don’t totally love in the first round. It takes the pressure off of a “final answer” for indecisive types.
Images you display for comparison should be from the same concept—perhaps subtle variations in pose or expression, wide/middle/tight framing, or angle. If there are more than four images from a given concept, I will split them into two groups. Clients keep more images and feel less overwhelmed if they are only shown a few at a time. As a general rule, we see the best sales and least decision fatigue when showing 40-70 images total.
As with the slideshow, there are many options and tools for the image selection process. If you’re just starting out, Lightroom will work just fine. If you want something a little fancier, there are numerous IPS softwares available. You simply need something that will show the images side by side while allowing you to track yeses and no’s (usually with flags, hearts or stars).
After the first round of culling, hide the rejected images. Clients will usually want to run through the images one more time to narrow further. They often end up realizing they kept images that were too similar, and they’ll be more decisive in the second round. This is good—you want them to feel like they chose the best images and were not pressured to keep quantity for the sake of a higher sale. Clients must trust you to have their best interests in mind if you are to become the “trusted advisor” (as Sal calls it).
Your clients will begin to jump back and forth between the price list and the images they’ve chosen. This is good! They are translating desired images into a product purchase.
Product Selection. At this point in the sales process, certain products or bundles should naturally suggest themselves as a good fit, based on the client’s inclinations and the number of images they’ve chosen. A good sales system will have a combination of quantity products (like albums and image boxes) and showpiece products (such as large wall art). Simply guide your client using your knowledge of the products, your attentiveness to their needs, and your opinions as an artist. Now is the time to remind them about that print that Grandma would love.
Notice that at this point, there shouldn’t be a huge amount of decision-making effort about products. These questions and objections will have been handled primarily at the consultation, and secondarily after the slideshow. This is by design. Your client already has a lot of mental energy devoted to image selection. It’s better to get the numbers questions out of the way early.
Take their payment. Review the products they have chosen so far. Check in as to whether they have forgotten any important family members to shop for, or if there are any favorite images they haven’t yet put into a product. Once they have finalized their decisions, take their payment. Do not get awkward. Whatever that final number is, state it matter-of-factly and then simply ask how they would like to pay.
Confirm their decisions. When the client has chosen their favorite images and products and the sale is complete, validate their choices. Regardless of whether they chose your favorite images (I’m side-eyeing YOU, Jeff), tell them that they made a great choice. Emphasize how much they are going to love having these products. Use emotional storytelling, not jargon. Say, “You are going to love seeing this big portrait on your wall every day.” Or, “Gosh, your album is going to be so beautiful. I love the cover option you chose. Can you imagine seeing this album years from now? So great.” Remind them of the reason they chose to have portraits made in the first place. This affirmation is crucial to crushing any buyer’s remorse they may experience when they leave. But also, it just plain feels good to be complimented on a decision well made.
Send Them Away Smiling.
If everything is done correctly, your clients will leave happy. The image selection process went smoothly, you guided them in making the best decisions, and they’ve chosen the products that fit their needs the best. You then reminded them of the long-term value of the products they’ll be receiving soon. They’ve had a great experience with you and are excited to receive their products. If it fits your brand, hug them on the way out the door—and remind them how much you love referrals.