Anatomy of the Sales Call (Part 1 of 4)

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There has recently been a lot of buzz around the subject of the business of photography.  A lot of folks have been talking about personal brand, how to stand out from the crowd, licensing, contracts, and the like.  And while all of that is very important, I have yet to read a whole lot about sales and what to do once you get your customer in front of you.

So in light of this, I’m going to break down the basic sales call over the next four days.  Sales and selling skills are imperative as a photographer because you aren’t always selling tangible goods, but rather concepts and services.  In other words, we are selling ourselves to our clients as well as our ideas.  It can be a much larger challenge than selling something like a car, house, or a boat.

Anatomy of the Sales Call (In Four Parts)
Now all the hard work and effort that you have put into your marketing has begun to pay off and you have a potential client in front of you.  What do you do next?  The person in front of you liked your work enough to agree to meet with you to discuss their needs.  So how are you going to convince them that you’re the photographer that can meet and exceed those needs?  That’s right – your work has stopped talking and now it’s time for you to step up to the mic.

The basic sales method that I use breaks down into four separate parts: opening, probing, supporting, and closing.  (Closing is my favorite part and you’ll see why when we cover it.)  Today were are going to discuss the Opening and over the next three days we will address the other three parts.

Building Rapport
Before you ever make the move to get down to business with your customer, you should spend some time talking with them about things that have nothing to do with why they are there.  This can be done over the phone or in person and it really doesn’t matter where it’s done as much as whether or not you do it.  Talk about where they live, what they do, their family, etc.  Just make sure that the focus is on THEM.  At the same time you can begin to blueprint to find out a little more about them.  This will come in very handy later on the in sales call.  Building rapport helps your client relax and it makes the sales call less impersonal.  Let’s face it, nobody really cares for the salesperson who goes right for the throat.  It makes the customer uncomfortable and sends the message that the only thing you care about is the sale.  Not a good message to send.

The Opening (Part One of Four)
The purpose of the opening is to state the agenda of the meeting and prepare to do business.  It helps you transition from small talk to brass tax and it ensures that both you and your customer agree on exactly what will be covered during the call.  The opening should aways be positive and productive.

An example of an opening might be:

“What I would like to do this morning is talk about the type of family portraits you were looking for, that way I can show you how ABC Photography can provide amazing portraits that you and your family will cherish for years to come.  How does that sound?”

Let’s break that down a bit:

– “What I would like to do this morning is…” – (Indicates that you and the customer are ready to conduct business)
– “…talk about the type of family portraits you were looking for…” – (Indicates you are aware of the product or services that the customer is seeking)
– “…that way I can show you how ABC Photography can provide amazing portraits that you and your family will cherish for years to come.” – (Indicates that you are going to support the customer’s need(s) with relevant features and benefits.)
– “How does that sound?” – (Checking for the acceptance of the customer)

Keep in mind that you don’t have to use the words above verbatim – you can customize this to fit your own personal style.  And you should.  Sales shouldn’t be ‘cookie cutter’.  It should fit who you are and if it doesn’t, the customer will see right through it.  You should be honest and genuine in your approach.  Never imply (or worse yet – promise) something to your customer that you cannot deliver for the sake of making a sale.  I’m starting to get ahead of myself here, but the point is that you tailor your sales to your own personality and style.

Being composed and confident in the delivery of your opening statement will help ensure that your sales call goes well and it will do a lot for the confidence that your client has in you.  It sets the tone for the meeting and you want that tone to be solid and smooth – not harsh and distorted.  Catching on?  Good.

Thanks for coming along on this ride about sales and be sure to join me here again tomorrow to talk about part two of four – Probing.  Don’t worry, it’s safe and I can assure you that there are no alien life forms involved.

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