We'd been photographing weddings for a couple of years and it still amazed us that people would pay for it. We couldn't believe we could just show up, photograph the wedding, deliver a disc of images and get paid.
But the cracks began to show.
We were making more money than ever before, but we were also exhausted. Full-day wedding coverage will do that to you, it turns out. And when you charge what we were charging, you need to shoot a lot of weddings.
So yeah, we were tired. Maybe starting to burn out from all the hours we were working. And we started realizing there wasn't much money left over for us after all the time we were putting in.
But our clients loved what we were creating. They told us so themselves, all the time. "We just logged in to our online gallery and we're in tears! We can't believe how great these photos are, thank you so much!"
But if they loved them so much, then why did their galleries close with no orders or, at best $150 worth of orders?
Why didn't they have any photos printed when we'd visit them for dinner?
Didn't the images we created for them deserve more than a day or two of attention on Facebook? Was their "big day" just a flash in the pan to them?
It kind of snuck up on us, the realization that something needed to change. Either we needed to accept that the work our clients "loved" didn't actually mean as much to them as we believed, or we needed to change the way we do things.
If we didn't change something soon, we wouldn't be able to go on much longer.
There had to be a better way. A way that we could make more money without having to work more hours (the small business owner's unicorn, right?). A way to get our clients more than just a disc of images, so that they actually had something tangible to enjoy each time they saw it in their home.
After months of "research" (read: putting off the decision we knew we needed to make), we finally decide it was time.
It was time to stop playing business and start running a real business.
So we dove in to In-Person Sales headfirst.
And we freaked out. We were terrified.
But then something crazy happened.
Our first family session after switching to IPS ended up being a $5,000 sale.
We knew we were on to something.
I suspect you're in a similar place.
But it's not easy.
Yes, it's simple. It's straightforward.
But it's not easy.
You're going to have to work, to decide to stop playing business and commit to doing the hard work that others won't do.
But, I want to make that easier for you, right now.
We spent years of trial and error and thousands upon thousands of dollars learning how to do In-Person Sales in a way that served both our business and our clients. But you shouldn't have to make the same mistakes we did.
So here it is, everything we learned about switching from shooting and burning or shooting and selling online to In-Person Sales.
I hope this helps you see the same changes in your business and life that we saw in ours.
In-Person Sales is the single best way we've found to increase our revenue without having to equally increase our workload.
It is the vehicle we used to take our business from barely-scraping-by to $120,000 in a single year.
What I mean by that is, you can spend the same amount of time you were before, for about 10 times the pay. You're just spending your time differently.
On top of that, your clients will finally buy real products to enjoy every day and to hand down to their kids. And they'll love the process.
Rave about it, even.
So... more money, more work in more homes and happier clients. Seems like a good reason to look into In-Person Sales, right?
Let's dig in.
Before we dive in to how to switch to In-Person Sales, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about what In-Person Sales is.
When most people talk about In-Person Sales, they’re referring to a three-step sales process:
And that’s the gist of it. That said, I believe the best way to make those three steps work as effectively as possible is to add a Setting Expectations step right at the beginning. We’ll talk about that in detail, right… about… now.
The most common (and worst) mistake you can make when switching to In-Person Sales is to not properly set your clients’ expectations.
Without properly set expectations, In-Person Sales is just about worthless.
Worse, it feels bait-and-switch-y.
This is where most photographers feel “salesy”, because their clients are surprised by their prices or their process when it finally comes time to purchase some products.
On the other hand, properly set expectations turn what normally would feel like sales into you working together with your client to get them the perfect products for their needs.
... properly set expectations turn what normally would feel like sales into you working together with your client to get them the perfect products for their needs.
We need to set expectations for:
And we want to set these expectations in, at least, these places:
The gist of setting expectations for products is that, anywhere someone sees your work, you want them to also see the product you expect them to walk away from your session with. If this is wall art, they should see wall art galleries all over the place. Albums? Album designs and photos of physical albums.
Again, the main point here is, everywhere someone sees your work, they should see your end product. This is how you become known for providing those products you want to be known for.
You become the photographer to go to in your market for that product. “Oh, you want canvas galleries? You should go to Chris & Adrienne Scott, I always see them posting those! Go check them out over on their website!”
Oh, and when you do start posting this stuff everywhere, don't be surprised if someone wants to buy...
One of the worst things that can happen at a sales meeting is for your client to be blindsided by the prices they’re expected to pay. Thankfully, price is a really easy expectation to set.
So let’s do that right now…
We don’t need to show them everything, just let them know a rough estimate of what they should expect to spend.
The absolute best way to handle objections and confusion during your planning meeting (things like, “I can’t make this decision right now, not without my spouse here” or “can you just put my photos online so I can think about it and order stuff later?”) is by letting clients know your process right from the start, then reinforcing that, over and over.
You can do this on your website with a quick note (emphasis on “quick”… people are busy, they won’t read a novel) about how you walk your clients through the product picking process to help them come up with the absolute best products for their session. Mention a quick blurb about how you’ll have a pre-session planning meeting to help them decide what to get and what products will be best for them.
When you meet with the client, start talking about some of your other process points, things like, “At the sales meeting, we’ll make all your product choices and I’ll get those ordered that week, so be sure that any decision makers are present.”
Set these expectations up-front and they won’t come back to bite you during your sales meeting.
The Planning Meeting is an entire ginormous post in and of itself. There are so many reasons you should be doing them and, really, no legitimate reason you shouldn’t.
As far as return on time invested, the Planning Meeting is, by far, the best thing you can add to your process.
If you only change one thing in your business after reading this post, make it the Planning Meeting.
The main goals of the Planning Meeting are to:
Well, you could just dive in head-first and start doing them in-person in your meeting space or in your clients’ homes. But if you’re hesitant to do that, here’s how you can ease your way into them:
There are pros and cons for each approach.
The general structure of the In-Person Sales meeting is this:
So let’s talk about the different ways you can do this, without breaking the bank or going crazy.
I want to be really, really clear about this. Just because you start your IPS sales meetings like this doesn’t mean you have to do them like this forever. I like to keep this mantra in mind for situations like this:
Make it work. Then make it better.
In the case of doing Sales Meetings on the cheap, start this way.
Make it work. Make some money.
Then start buying things to make your sales meetings even better. Don’t go out and buy a bunch of new stuff. Don’t go into debt trying to switch to IPS.
Make it work by starting on the cheap with the things you already have. Then make it better by investing the money you make back into your sales process.
With that said, here’s how you can do Sales Meetings on the cheap:
Here’s the other end of the spectrum, the all-in bet on In-Person Sales. Don’t do this.
This is where you really want to end up. Nothing obscenely priced, but you’ve got some specialized tools in place to help you do your sales meetings more effectively and efficiently.
I know, you’re worried about a few things. Let’s tackle those now, shall we?
At face value, past clients seem like the hardest part about making this transition, after all, they know what your process was like before and they know how much you’re asking them to change now, right?
And with some of your past clients, this will be too much to ask. You will lose some past clients.
Fortunately, there’s another side to this coin. Your past clients are the easiest to show the benefits of your new In-Person Sales process.
Don’t believe me? Just ask them what they’ve done so far with the disc of images you sold them last year.
The vast majority of your past clients will not have done a single thing with the disc you sold them in the past. And this is great.
This opens the door (wide) for you to say, “and that’s why I’ve switched to this new process. It’s important for me to help you get real photos, photos you can enjoy around your home every day, photos you can hand down to your kids and their kids. I realized I wasn’t serving you as well as I could when I sold you the files. Now, I take the time to walk you hand-in-hand through the process of choosing the absolute best products for your photos and, I’ve found, this is why most of my new clients come to me. Of course you’ll love the photos, that’s a given. But you’ll absolutely love this personalized process I’m doing now.”
False. Your clients only think they want the digitals because every other photographer they’ve dealt with before you taught them that they want the digitals. Offer products and offer this process that helps them figure out exactly what to do with their images and listen to your clients say, “I didn’t even know that was something people offered before I met you. Everyone else just gives me the files and says ‘good luck figuring out what to do with these’”.
Worst case? Your client truly does only want digital files. Great, sell them digital files. At a premium price. Again, you’ve set expectations from the start, this is no surprise to them.
You’re just skimming aren’t you? Busted.
I mentioned this above, but I’ll say it again. Don’t go into debt switching to IPS. Don’t do it. Start small and let the sales you start with your basic In-Person Sales setup pay for the stuff you want to be using.
I call this Make it work, then make it better. Baby-step your way into the In-Person Sales tools you really want by letting your first IPS clients pay for those tools.
Ok, so we’ve hit a few of the major objections you might have to switching to In-Person Sales, let’s talk about how to handle the objections you might hear from your clients.
In-Person Sales, when done properly, is the best way to serve both your clients and your business. When done properly, it’s so much more a service process than it is a sales process.
We’ve never had a single person go through our IPS process and say, “I wish you would have just given me the files.”
Every single client has appreciated the one-on-one attention that they get through In-Person Sales.
Yeah, they spend much more money, but they’re much happier doing it.
So… now what? Here are just a few things I think you should do, other than the action steps we laid out above.
Whoa. You made it to the end! Leave a comment and let me know: what's been the main fear holding you back from starting In-Person Sales?