As a newcomer to the business model of In-Person Sales, I’ve been excited to provide a high-end, boutique experience for my clients. I’ve also been excited to provide high-quality prints and a personal touch from start to finish.
For four months this year, I researched and prepared for a change to In-Person Sales. Finally, the day came: I had my first IPS client. The session came and went; I did my job as usual. After the session, though, I thought to myself, “I’ve never done a sales session. How in the world do I do that?”
As of this writing, that first sales session was about six weeks ago. I was nervous and perhaps over-prepared. I have a background in Education, not sales. I’m not a salesman. Well, I wasn’t a salesman until now. Here’s the good news: the session brought in over $900, which is almost four-times more than my previous shoot-and-burn sessions would bring in. IPS was more work, but it also brought in more money.
Here are the 17 Do’s and Don’ts I learned from my first sales session went.
6 Do’s: How to Prepare
1. Showcase products to plan the sale. The client saw my print products at the photo session. We didn’t do a consultation prior, so I brought prints and albums to the session. That way, they knew my product offerings ahead of time. In fact, even though we only spent five minutes or so looking at products, those five minutes gave all of us a rough idea of what would be purchased at the sales session. It's never too early to plan purchases, so make sure you know what your client might buy as early and as specifically as possible. You'll be able to plan what and how you photograph, and you'll know how best to complete the sale.
2. Email with a teaser. After the photo session, I emailed to schedule the sales session and included a one-photo teaser. I wanted them to see all of their photos with me at the session, so I only teased one of my favorite photos. I saved the real emotion for the sales session reveal, but they at least knew that there was something good to come.
3. Edit before sales. I culled and edited the photos prior to the sales session. I completed basic RAW processing and some spot editing with Lightroom adjustment brushes. I didn’t do any fine retouching or spot removal--I left that for the final sale images. At the sales session, the client would see photos that were about 90% edited. Not only would that leave little editing for after the sales session, but the client would also see high-quality photos.
4. Create example products and wall collages. I prepared a layout for an album and wall art collages using Fundy Designer. While I knew the client wasn’t initially interested in an album, it wouldn’t hurt to offer the album as a companion piece. In fact, since I knew the client wasn’t going to purchase every digital photo, the album would be a good way for them to at least have a copy of each photo. I knew that if I didn’t even ask if they wanted an album, then I’d never sell one. If I asked, there’d at least be a chance they’d purchase it.
5. Create a slideshow for the photo reveal. I prepared a slideshow with music for their first viewing of photos. The music would help tug at their heart strings a bit as they saw their gallery for the first. No discussion or hand-holding needed--just play the slideshow!
6. Send prices again. A few days before the sales session, I emailed a PDF of my pricing as a reminder. The client had this information long ago, but I wanted them to have a fresh reminder of the prices and products we’d be discussing at the sales session.
3 Sales Session Successes
7. Fundy Designer for the win: choosing photos. I can’t say enough about how amazing Fundy Designer made viewing and sorting images. Fundy allows you to use star ratings and a heart icon to favorite. You can sort by date, filename, star rating, and favorite status all with one click.
You can even filter by star rating, favorite, or whether or not you used certain images in certain wall art or album projects. With a logical interface that showcases the photos and robust options, my clients and I had an easy time reviewing photos and picking their favorites for purchases.
8. Fundy Designer for another win: wall art collages. Once we had favorites, Fundy Designer impressed again with custom wall art collages. I’d made three collages ahead of time for two reasons. First, I wanted to convey to them how small an 8x10 really is. Second, I wanted to show them how impressive a 20x30 (or something similar) would look compared to an 8x10.
Not only was the message received, but Fundy’s interface made it easy to swap photos and change the collages with a few clicks. I used Fundy’s stock living room photos to create the wall art collages. While I would have loved to use an actual photo of the room they’d be displaying their photos, the stock photos made one thing clear: they needed a big print. In the end, I sold a 20x30 print, thanks in part to Fundy’s beautiful, streamlined interface.
9. Preparation leads to more sales. Lastly, remember that album I designed? The one I created just to see if I could make the upsell? Well, it worked! Having the layout created (and a physical example to touch) made the upsell pretty easy. And to think: this session could have been a simple shoot-and-burn; instead, with a little foresight and a great In-Person Sales software suite, I quadrupled my usual session fee.
4 Sales Session Don’ts
10. Don’t use a desktop computer. I need a laptop and projector. I knew this one going in, but on-location In-Person Sales really needs a laptop and projector. At this sale, I dragged my desktop to their home and set it up. It worked just fine, but it wasn’t elegant, to say the least. A laptop would keep things portable, and a projector would allow me to use Fundy Designer’s ability to project photos and collages at actual size.
11. Don’t leave the sale without payment. I should have told the client to be prepared to pay at the sales session. That was my mistake--I just didn’t make that expectation clear. There was an uncomfortable moment when I had to tell them that I wouldn’t order their prints and album until the invoice was paid in full. With the holiday rush upon us, there was a slight moment of worry on their part. I stuck by what I said and didn’t submit a print order until the invoice was paid in full, which took a few more weeks. I wasn’t worried about finishing the sale, but it was one thing that remained on my to-do list.
12. Don’t forget your business interests or how to do math. Be ready to do math and to think on your feet. My clients worked their way through all three of my package bundles, which include different percentage discounts. I also had to remember to calculate sales tax since they were ordering a physical product. (In Ohio, the sale of a digital image doesn’t require sales tax.) My clients also tried to bargain a little bit. They wondered if they could have a small discount if they paid by cash or check instead of credit card. I had to keep in mind my desire to keep them happy while also doing what’s best for my business.
13. Don’t get attached to your photos. Your client might not like the same photos that you like. They aren’t looking for what you look for in a great photo. That means be prepared for them to like photos that you don’t like as much as others. This client did end up choosing my favorite photo for the 20x30 print, but they picked another so-so photo for several 8x12 prints. For them, their choice wasn’t about great light or amazing composition. They liked the photo for its sentimental backdrop of their home and for the way they looked in the photo.
4 Important Takeaways
14. Showcase products as a trusted adviser. Yes, this was my first piece of advice, but there's a little more. I can’t say enough how valuable it is to have physical products to share each time you see the client. There is such power in a tangible print. You won’t sell what your client hasn’t experienced in person, in their hands. What's more, though, is you need to give yourself the role of trusted adviser, as print expert. Not only do you need to have products on hand, but you need to show your clients why they are exceptional and worth buying. Your client doesn't know anything about printing compared to you, so guide them through the process of selecting and appreciating quality products.
15. Prepare EVERYTHING you need to sell as much as you can. Even if they don’t mention that they want an album, you might sell one if you’re prepared. Maybe they don’t think that they want a custom collage of metal wall art. You might sell one if you have some examples to show them. Prepare examples of every product you want to sell. You never know what might spark their interest.
16. Your client is ready to spend. If you're new to sales, you'll have the tendency to under-sell because you'll equate your spending preferences with your clients'. Don't project your financial constraints on your client. You are not your client. If they've seen your prices and booked a session, then they are ready to spend good money. I couldn't afford to spend $900 on photos, but my client could. Leave yourself out of the sale. Your client isn't you. Your client is ready to spend.
17. Smile and stay positive. Stay excited and happy about their photos and how much they’ll love their prints, albums, and wall art. By the end of a sales session, their heads might be spinning a bit, and the stress of a big purchase might be weighing on them. Stay positive and continue to tell them how much they’ll love their photos.
That’s it--17 Do’s and Don’ts, Successes and Failures, from my first In-Person Sales session. I’m ready for my next sale--are you?
Thank you to Fundy Software Inc. for providing a software sponsorship to make much of this article possible.
Aaron Taylor is a stay-at-home-dad and professional portrait and product photographer. Aaron is forever blessed to be in love and married to his best friend and partner in parenting. Most of his time is spent chasing his curious, energetic kids, a three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter. Aaron lives in Columbus, Ohio. Before moving to Columbus in the summer of 2016, Aaron was a high school English and Drama teacher in Montgomery County, Maryland. He spent ten years in the classroom and earned National Board Certification in English Language Arts. Give him his family, a good cup of coffee, and a homemade cookie or three, and all is right in Aaron’s world.