The First Question You Should Ask Every Photography Client

Photographer and CameraPortrait photographer Lori Nordstrom knows a thing or two about running a profitable business. Starting out photographing her kids in her own backyard, over the last 10 years Lori has built a phenomenally successful portrait business — all in the tiny midwestern town of Winterset, Iowa. Lori, now known as a preeminent leader in the photography industry for her marketing and sales techniques, outlines the step-by-step process to success in 30 Days to Design Your Portrait Business.

In this clip from her creativeLIVE class, Lori reveals a crucial — and brilliant — customer service strategy. Lori asks all new clients the same question: “Have you thought about where you are going to hang your portrait?” Why is this question so effective? Because how the client’s response gives you a clear roadmap for ensuring their satisfaction and, in turn, sales. “If they tell me we don’t have any wallspace, I’m going to tell her, ‘I want you to walk through, take those snapshots for me, I love a challenge.’” By tackling initial objections head-on, Lori says, you are able to identify what the client actually wants and give them more information about what’s possible.

“All objections mean are ‘I need more information,’” Lori explains. “So give them more information. By telling her, ‘Walk through, take pictures, let me see your wall space,’ you are really saying, ‘Let me be of service for you. I am doing this for you. Let’s do something beautiful that you can enjoy every single day for your family and your home.’”

Photographers, in addition to taking beautiful photos, are providing an important emotional service to clients. “It becomes a different process now,” Lori says of her client relationships. “It’s not just ‘I’m calling to get my picture scheduled,’ it’s ‘My daughter is three years old.’ We’ve become an interior designer, we’ve become a planner — we’re talking about a whole different level of service.”

Not only does their answer to this question tell you more about the client’s hopes and expectations, Lori says, it also reveals what they perceive to be the possibilities. “When you ask them ‘Have you thought about where you’ll hang your portraits?’ they will say no,” Lori explains. “They can’t say yes if you don’t suggest. And that’s another big rule for me, whether it’s on the first phone call or on the consultation call — they can’t say yes if you don’t suggest. People honestly do not know what’s available to them — it doesn’t matter who they are.” Many new clients will be coming to you after having worked with photographers who only supplied digital files. “I have a lot of clients and potential clients who will call and they think when they call they will only get 4×6, 5×7, 8x10s — because that is all they know until I tell them what is available,” Lori says, underscoring the importance of discussing the range of products you offer.

By having a consistent plan for that first interaction, and saying the same thing as you lead customers through the process, you will increase both your sales and your customer loyalty, Lori explains. “I’m getting what I want by selling the wall grouping, but in the end they’re getting what they want and what they love.”

To learn the rest of Lori’s tried-and-true strategies, including a comprehensive 72-page workbook, check out 30 Days to Design Your Portrait Business.


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Whitney Ricketts is CreativeLive's Senior Communications Manager. Email her at whitney [dot] ricketts [at] creativelive [dot] com.