Last week I wrote about the often forgotten,cardinal rule of sales: You must ASK for the SALE. This week is the equally important follow up: once you’ve asked, SHUT UP!
Good sales people who have talked themselves right out of their own sale probably outnumber the stars in the sky. They’ve asked all the right questions, checked for understanding, and built value in their offering. They do all the right things up to that point. Then they get up the nerve to ask that question, but are seemingly afraid of the answer or their own chances of success, so they torpedo the sale by continuing to talk. They start blathering, “you don’t have to let me know right now, just think it over and give me a call in a day or two. I know you guys will want to talk it over and that’s cool. Just shoot me text if you have any questions…”
That’s all folks! You’ve just escorted your sale is right out the door. You might just as well have given them directions to your competitor while you were at it. It’s the Hollywood equivalent of three teenage girls who sneak out to meet their boyfriends at the old abandoned Wallace house on the edge of town on Halloween night. Nobody gets out of that movie alive and your sale dies a miserable death too.
When you ask for the sale, just shut up! Awkward silence is way better than you gabbering away, slicing and dicing your sale into oblivion. Instead, listen very closely to everything your prospect says after you’ve asked them outright to do business with you. You’ll either get a yes or a no or you’ll get more questions, which signals you’ve got more work to do and that you’re still in the game! If they just want to “think about it”, ask them what specifically has them feeling unsure–and then shut up again being careful to listen very closely for the answer. If the decision is no decision, let them know that their event is important to you and that you’ll be following up with them in a couple days after they’ve had some time to sleep on it, and then do it!
In the end, sales is truly about solving problems for your clients and meeting their needs. If by the end of your consultation, you don’t know what those things are (or you wrongly assumed the prospect was just like every other bride-to-be), it may be that you were too busy waxing eloquently about your f/2.8 glass and not listening. As the old saying goes, it’s why we have two ears and only one mouth.
So you just wrapped up a great wedding consultation with a sweet couple who came to you on a referral. They’re planning a fairly big wedding next spring. They seem to have a reasonable budget and best of all, photography is important to them. They seemed excited by everything they saw and heard. They didn’t wince at your prices and in fact they seemed to be leaning toward your larger Diamond package. You let them know that when they’re ready to lock up the date, you can get a contract out to them right away. You sent them on their way with a hug, confident they’d be back in touch in the next day or two.
Two days turns into a week, and then another week goes by and you’ve heard nothing from the couple. You start replaying the pitch over in your head wondering where you might have gone wrong. Were you too pushy with the Diamond package? Should you maybe have offered them a discount? Maybe they just didn’t need two photographers afterall. You’re tempted to call them, but you don’t want to come off all salesy…
After I talk to or meet a professional photographer for the first time, I go straight to their website and click on the “About Me” page.
It tells a lot – I either learn about their personality: “I’m first in line at Starbucks every morning at 5:30 AM and can’t start the day until I do an hour of Zumba”.
This is SO much more interesting then: “our studio’s commitment to photographic excellence is as strong as our commitment to the city of…..” This is guaranteed to send your future client in search of another photographer.
As small businesses, your clients visit your “About” page more than you think. It’s a qualifier, and also builds trust. Clients want to know that you’re committed to your craft, but also have a life outside of it – plus the more interests you list (pet lover, love the color orange, obsessed with country music), the more chances you have of connecting with people.
Rule #1 for any business owner: never run out of cash
Rule #2: don’t forget rule #1
Photographers often get deposits months (and years) in advance, which is a blessing and a curse. While it’s always great to have extra cash in your account, if part of the deposit is not put in escrow for future deliverables like professional wedding albums, the danger lies in spending money that isn’t yours. This is especially true for Mitzvah’s which can give deposits up to 3 years in advance.
When you take stock of your photography business, are you happy with your results? Are you booking enough work at prices that will support you and your family? Are sales trends moving in the right direction? If the answer to these questions is no, it’s time to take a look at where you can make changes. What you can count on is that if you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.
It’s easy to fall into a rut, especially for small business owners who feel they must do it all themselves without help from anyone else. Once you’ve built your website, created your price list, and locked in your bridal show schedule, it becomes easy to do all the same things again next year regardless of the results. If expectations fall short, blaming the economy or the state of the industry won’t help you much. Instead, recognize that it’s time for change and look for ways to innovate or reach new potential customers.