The other day I had what has become a familiar conversation with a very talented wedding photographer who was lamenting that only a small percentage of his clients order his, more profitable collections that include a professional photo book. The rest end up with disk-only coverage. When asked why that number was so low he replied that he’s just not a good salesman and hates to push hard for the more expensive packages.
As wedding photographers who capture the most special day of your client’s lives, you’re not trying to sell them something they don’t want. Make no mistake couples want custom wedding albums, it’s just that they have more options available to them than ever before. Your job is to show them why getting a custom album from you is the best choice. It’s not, as some imagine, like pedaling timeshare condos in Florida!
With all due respect paid to the vacation rental industry, there is a well earned reputation for high pressure sales. If you’ve never been lured in by a free trip to Las Vegas just for attending a two hour presentation of fabulous vacation properties around the globe, you owe it to yourself to go–just to see what a highly polished sales pitch looks like. Now, I am not suggesting photographers treat their clients in this way, but there are many parts of these presentations we can learn from.
The first step is all about generating excitement for the properties before there is any mention of you and your hard earned cash parting ways. Usually this is the job of a well scripted and humorous salesman who’ll crack a few jokes about the brutal northern winters and how great it would be to get away from shovelling your driveway for a couple weeks every year. Once he’s got everyone revved up about a beach getaway, he’ll likely talk about the challenges and expense of booking resort hotels. The rates always seem to rise just when thermometers up north start to tank. Every meal has to be eaten out and there’s never as much privacy as you’d like. Next he’ll extoll the virtues of the timeshare plans. They of course have hundreds of properties, so availability is never a problem. They have private hot tubs and saunas. They have full kitchens with real refrigerators. They have separate bedrooms and on and on. Best of all it will cost you hundreds less than a resort hotel, yet there’s still no mention of the actual price.
Our smiling and friendly salesman is done talking now. Everyone will applaud him and then they’ll adjourn to another room with a bunch of desks where they’ll meet privately with a “closer”. Now here’s where they really turn up the heat. The closer’s job is to get you to agree that everything you’ve heard to this point sounds fantastic. Why then wouldn’t you sign right here for the best value (read most expensive package) which is really the most cost effective deal of the evening, when you break it down by the number of nights. A little too rich for you? Well, how about the next deal just below that? The closer is going make it very difficult for you to say no. He’s going to act completely mystified if you try to pass on the tier 2 offering. Meanwhile our friendly saleman from earlier in the evening will take a stroll through the room yukking it up with a couple of the attendees but being careful not to be sucked into any specific deal making. The closers will have third and fourth offers ready if you just can’t swing the more expensive ones and he’ll try to make you feel like he’s really doing you a big favor by seeing to it you don’t get locked out of any deals that night. Oh, and I should mention there’s no going home to think this over. You must sign on the dotted line that night as all offers are off the table if you walk out the door.
Again, I am NOT suggesting you subject your wedding photography prospects to this kind of carnival, but let’s consider the elements here that are part of a sound sales process. Friendly timeshare guy becomes our buddy when he gets us to fall in love with the idea of taking a beach vacation every winter. YOU, as a wedding photographer, can get your prospects to fall in love with, well, each other! All over again! “How did you two meet? How long have you been together? Let me see your ring! Tell me about your wedding plans.” The difference is that you don’t have to be disingenuous at all, because you likely DO CARE. You’ll show them samples of custom wedding photo albums with your best your work and some shots you’ve taken at the church where they plan to marry. Friendly timeshare guy is going to trash the competition as overpriced and underwhelming. You’ll merely put your prospects minds at ease letting them know that hiring you is not a risky move because of your experience and professionalism. Just like friendly timeshare guy, you’re going to want to make sure your prospects are comfortable with you and want what you are offering before you discuss the price (beyond what may have been a range or starting price you may have shared to qualify the prospect prior to your meeting).
Timeshare closer guy would lose his job on the first night if he started with the least expensive package first. Likewise, you should start with a recommendation of what you feel will best fit your prospect’s needs based on what you’ve discussed. Do your best to build value into what you are offering. If you need help with that, see archived blogs for some tips. Finally, timeshare closer guy knows he MUST ASK FOR THE SALE. So should you! While closer guy’s buy right now or forget it position might be harsh, you must let prospects know you want to work with them, and ask them directly to book their event with you. You can gently insert some urgency by suggesting that other couples you’ve spoken to are interested in the same date.
Stop and consider what your current sales consultations look like. Is it just a litany of what’s included in each collection starting from the least expensive and working your way up? Is price the first thing that’s discussed? If so, take a few pointers from people who’ve made closing sales a science: Take a real interest. Build a relationship. Address their needs and concerns. Pair your offerings with their dreams and desires. Get them to love it and they’ll find a way to afford it. Ask for the sale. To their recipe for success, don’t forget to add your own healthy dose of genuine caring!