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Why Clients Always Want an 8×10: Because We Approach Sales Backwards | Part 2

In Part I, we talked about the power of familiarity, and the maddening result that clients tend to buy things that they are familiar with (an 8×10) rather than something that they might enjoy more (an eye-catching canvas or album).  We also talked about several ways to increase familiarity with what you sell, and thus create excitement for buying your favorite products – which is more effective than simply listing somewhere that oh yeah, you also sell canvases.

But let’s be real here – sometimes, even all that is not enough.  You might get that canvas into their hands, and they ooh and aah, but still stick with the ol’ 8×10.  There’s one more principle we have to remember, one that will come up over and over on this blog, so let’s get cozy with it:

People care more about potential losses than potential gains. 

The sooner you absorb that principle and put it into practice, the more successful you’ll be at sales.

People don’t really care that you offer them the world if there is a chance they might lose something they already have.  And there’s nothing to lose in buying an 8×10.  It’s among your cheapest options, so they’re not out much money if they end up not liking it.  If their kid shakes up a can of grape soda and sprays it all over the wall where it’s hung, it’s not much of a loss or an expense to replace.  

On the other hand, when holding your beautiful sample 20×30 canvas in their hands, potential losses readily spring to mind:  What if I change my mind about the image and it’s too late?  It’ll be on my wall, in all its four square feet of glory.  I won’t have the budget to replace it.  No, no, I’ll just go with an 8×10 and think about this later…..

Most of us approach sales backwards.  We try to talk up the advantages of our fancy products, when really – we need to be addressing and debunking the disadvantages. 

Here are three example strategies for doing this:

1)  Make them feel like they already own it.  The more concretely a client can imagine what something will look like in their own home, the less unknown and risky the idea seems.  There are a number of ways to do this.  One is to have something of the client’s physically printed out during an ordering session for them to hold and get excited about.  Some photographers print out mock-ups of galleries they designed with the client’s photos to put in the client’s hands.  We might not be able to print canvases to show them before they order (though I may try this sometime – because I bet they wouldn’t let me leave the house with it).  But it’s harder to let go of something if it’s already in your hands.

2)  Make the “loss” of an 8×10 perfectly clear.  You can have them sit across the room and really look at what an 8×10 adds to a room, then hold up a 20×30.  Suddenly, they see the smaller print as a loss.

3)  Don’t sell the canvas, sell the emotion they get from it.  Here’s the thing: people, particularly women, tend to equate financial security with happiness.  Spending money can put our happiness at risk, so we’re wary of it.  Thus, we have to honestly help clients see how they’re investing in happiness, not risking it, when placing a gallery or an album in their home.

When you’re blogging about your products, don’t just talk about how good they look.  Talk about how you feel when you walk around your own house and see big prints of your family on your walls.  How it reminds you of what is important, even during difficult times.  How bold photos of happy memories spark conversations when you have guests in your homes, and allow you to share stories about your life.  How giving grandma an album for Christmas isn’t just another trinket – it’s a way for her to feel closer to her grandkids when they are away.  Whatever you genuinely feel about photos, give it a voice, and make it a part of your conversation with clients.  When it becomes clear how these products are going to add to their happiness, spending the money seems less risky.

In sales, don’t just show people what they have to gain.  Address their nervousness and show them that what they thought they had to lose really isn’t much of a loss at all. 



Kahneman, D. , Knetsch J.L., & Thaler, R.H.  (1991).  Anomalies: The Endowment Effect, Loss Aversion, and Status Quo Bias.  The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 193-206

Miron-Shatz, T. (2009).  “Am I going to be happy and financially stable?”: How American women feel when they think about financial security.  Judgment and Decision Making, vol. 4, no. 1, February 2009, pp. 102-112

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  1. […] Why Clients Always Want an 8×10 And What To Do About It: Part 1 and Part 2 – From Psychology For Photographers, a new website that seems to have a ton of potential. […]

  2. Melanie Miriam on January 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I have been reading your blog sort of backwards for a while, and decided today to ready it from the oldest posts. I have to say that this is quite genious!

    God bless the psychology of sales! Thanks for sharing!

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