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Sales Do Not Have To Be Painful – Here’s Why

Most of us are not born salespeople.  

In fact, if you’re anything like me, the very word “sales” makes you shudder.  You don’t want to feel like you’re taking people’s money.  You don’t want to pressure anyone to do anything they don’t want to do.  You just love your craft and want to share it.

That’s all great – but it makes it hard to stand by your own policies.  You’re so bent on providing people with what they want, it’s easy to forget that you need to be profitable to stay in business.

You are paralyzed by your own good intentions.

Let me offer a different way of thinking about sales:

1) If you genuinely believe that what you have to offer would be valuable to someone else, then

2) The sales process is simply about finding and meeting their needs, while

3) Avoiding common psychological hangups that will prevent them from getting what they need.

That’s it.  Really.  Notice how “taking people’s money” wasn’t even in there?  Whew.  We can do this.

What do I mean by ‘common psychological hangups’?  Well, admittedly, there are more than I could cover in one post.  But remember when we talked about knowing what business you’re actually in?  Well, knowing what business you’re actually in will help us non-salespeople have better sales.  First:

Imagine if Apple spent all their time promoting iTunes, and almost no time promoting iPods.  Would they sell as many iPods?

We spend an awful lot of time wrapping our clients in the emotions of photography and we display galleries of our best work on our websites, all in hopes that someone will hire us to create that work for them.  But if you’re only in the business of selling ‘photography,’ you aren’t going to be in business very long.

What you’re actually selling (digital files, prints, canvases, albums) needs to be sold to the client with as much emotion and imagination as your work itself.

I see many, many photographers spending an awful lot of energy promoting their photos on their websites, and almost no energy promoting what they’re actually selling.  

Your images are fantastically important, of course.  People need to hire you for your style and the experience you provide.  But if the first time they hear the word “canvas gallery wrap” is in a sales session, don’t be surprised if you’re met with hesitance and resistance.  You have presold them on your images, but not on the way they will display the photos.

They need to be just as excited about your canvases as they are about your images when they hire you.

Use your communication channels (website, facebook, blog, twitter) to show them how your products will solve their problems and make their lives better.  Showcase what you’re selling long before you arrive at a sales session.

You don’t have to put every option up, or include a whole price list (I’d discourage both).  But when it comes to products, I see too many websites with total radio silence.  *Krrsssshhh*…anyone there?  Over?

Make your web presence do some of the heavy lifting for you, and your sales sessions will be much more satisfying.

(UPDATE:  One reader sent in her success story after reading this post and applying its suggestions – you can read it here.)


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  1. Rayleigh Leavitt on January 25, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Hi! I recently ran a group coupon deal ( and the deal didn’t include any prints. My goal was to be able to upsale after they purchase the deal which included the shoot and hair and makeup by a professional. I put my discounted print/album packages on my website with prices. And I noted that items could be purchased a-la-carte but I didn’t put my a-la-carte pricing online. I thought the packages would give them a general idea. And I didn’t want to be too specific on my website, like it sounds you may reccommend. I’d rather not scare people off at first and allow them to fall in love with their photos before they consider exactly how much they want to spend. However, I’m finding that many of the customers who purchased the deal made an assumption about what the prices of my a-la-carte items would be and they assumed the a-la-carte items would be WAY cheaper than the packages which isn’t the case. So they thought my CD would be about $100 or so but it’s actually $500. This has caused a huge mess for me to clean up. I’d love some advice on how to avoid this problem in the future. 🙂

    • Jenika on January 25, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Hey there Rayleigh! UGH, I’m so sorry that you have to deal with this. I know you’ll handle it well though. Not to be all sales pitchy, but that is actually a perfect one-on-one mentoring session topic, because the exact solutions will depend on your business, brand, and clientele. I’d be happy to walk through specific site changes that would prevent these problems and generally be new-client-friendly. In short, you’re right – I don’t recommend putting up a whole price list because it just bogs people down on things that won’t matter before they’ve emotionally connected to you and your work through their images. It gets them all up in arms about things before they see how much work you’ve put in on their behalf, and encourages senseless price comparison to their usual photo haunts (aka drugstores). There are several ways you could solve this problem, including sharing a target range people can expect to spend to enjoy their images for years to come. But the key piece of advice I’d offer is this: Your pricing page shouldn’t be the only thing that communicates price & value – your whole website should be orchestrated to give the clients cues about your brand and how much they should expect to spend. Just like when you walk into Tiffany’s, you know you’re not walking outta there spending only a hundred bucks. There are many ways to achieve this on a website. But as they look through your site, their thought should not be “okay, where’s the pricing info?” but “whoa, this is not the kind of photographer I’m used to….” Use that frame of mind as you approach changes. Hope that helps!

  2. Kristi Kvenild on January 26, 2012 at 3:20 am

    So, I am TOTALLY the person you are talking about in this post, but how do I fix it. My lack of confidence is not so much in the selling, but in the convincing that a family NEEDS a gallery wrap. Especially in this day and age, when everything is digital, digital, digital. Eeeeek!

    • Jenika on January 26, 2012 at 5:49 pm

      Well, admittedly, no one NEEDS a gallery wrap any more than someone NEEDS an iPod. It’s not essential for survival, so ‘needs’ are more of the “I need my home to be beautiful so that I’m happier and my friends enjoy coming over” sort. There are a lot of emotions you can appeal to when selling image displays – not in a manipulative way, but simply to show how much this would add to the quality of their life. There’s no one right way to do it, but you do have to do it, and do it early in the client cycle, preferably before they even book!!

  3. Susan McKay on July 4, 2012 at 6:07 am

    Hi Jenika,
    Came across your website a few days ago and absolutely love your blog!!!
    I am starting to put a lot of the things you talk about in action and can’t wait to see the results!

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