Your “artistic” persona actually helps you reveal more of your authentic self to prospective customers. When you project an image of creative integrity and high standards of professionalism and craftsmanship, potential clients will be more receptive to developing a relationship that goes beyond seller and buyer. They are more likely to reveal what they want from a photography session, so you can accurately target that need with the exact services you provide.
Give prospects ample opportunities to ask all their questions because without a complete understanding of their concerns and expectations, you can’t expect to satisfy them successfully. Don’t hesitate to ask prospects directly if they have any additional questions. Even be so emphatic as to ask, “What other information can I provide to help you be 100 percent comfortable with my services?”
Follow-up is a critical component of the sales process. Instead of using a follow-up phone call or email as simply another tactic to continue to pursue prospects, phrase your communications in very truthful terms. This helps to build your image of integrity. Don’t ask why they are not buying or when the contract will be signed. Explain that you respect their careful consideration of the photography services you’ve discussed and understand why they haven’t called you. Most prospective customers will interpret this as a very professional approach on your part, as it reveals you have no desire to pressure them into a sale. Magically, this step back on your part often results in customers moving forward because it creates a more open and trusting relationship.
As part of all your conversations with prospects, emphasize that your primary goal is to help them make the best choice, even if it means they don’t choose you. Again, this is a strategy that relieves much of any traditional sales pressure prospects may be feeling. If they know you have the professional attitude to be less concerned with a sale and more concerned with their needs, then they are apt to want to trust you more.
Another method to reveal your professional integrity and build trust with prospective customers who have been hesitant to sign your contract is to ask them for suggestions about what you could have done better to present your services and their benefits. Again, it’s all about attitude. Explain that it is important to your professional growth to understand what you might have said or done wrong. Genuine humbleness strikes a chord in people to be equally genuine and truthful, which is a stronger basis on which to build relationships with customers than any hard sales pitch.
Never appear to be trying to “close” a sale. This is the hardball tactic that prospective customers of any product or service expect to occur at the end of the sales process. If you don’t think your meetings and communications with prospects are building trusting relationships, then you may not want to invest any more time in the effort. You certainly don’t want to appear to be wasting prospects’ time, either. Don’t be afraid to ask prospects what they think is the next step in the process. If they genuinely feel that you are not a good fit for their photography needs, then it’s better for everyone to be truthful and seek that better fit with others. This strategy can also save a sale. Many prospects will judge that you do fit their needs because of your honesty and integrity instead of a much less critical photographic concern they might have.
Whenever you’re communicating with prospects, always schedule a specific day and time to talk again. By doing so, you won’t appear to be chasing them or interrupting them with an unexpected follow-up call at an inconvenient time. It’s important to explain that the purpose of the future discussion is not to pressure them into a sale, but to answer any new questions that may have arisen during the interim and to help them reach the best decision, regardless of whether it includes you.
Commercial photographers are one of a number of categories of small business owners who don’t view themselves as “salespeople,” although they must sell themselves and their services to acquire customers. “Sales” has a negative connotation that doesn’t fit with the image of an “artist” creating with a camera. If this describes you, then there are a number of strategies to help you “sell” without “selling.”
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