Creating Your Ideal Photography Business

 

Lesson Info

Sales Strategy for Portrait Sales

So at the planning consultation, we talk about every possibility, and this is the dreaming session. It's where I get to talk to them about what they like to do with their family for fun. Where they like to spend their time. I get to learn about what kind of decor they have in their home, I get to really defer the idea of I want an eight by ten or a digital file and say, oh my gosh we have these beautiful canvas groups that we can make for your wall, we have these beautiful custom albums that we offer. Do you prefer something for the wall, or do you prefer book art? And then I stop talking. This is som critical in sales. Because we have a tendency to rattle on and on and on and keep talking about what we like and asking questions, but when you get to the really important question, shut your mouth. And I have a tendency to keep talking, and I actually have to give myself a physical cue to shut my mouth in the sales session and so I say, so do you prefer book art or wall art? And it's kin...

d of funny but it makes me close my mouth, and I don't move my finger until they answer. Okay? I have to do that because otherwise something will come out of my mouth that I don't want to happen. And so we talk about and that's really important when we get to the dollar part at the end. This is the easy part. So at that session, what I try to determine is if they want something for the wall, or if they want a book, I try to select the location where we're gonna photograph, and it gives me an opportunity to show them my price lists without any pressure. So once they say I prefer wall art, then I pull out my price list that's a la carte for portrait collections, and I have another, we have canvas groups that we created and that's what we do for our really high end clients, and I pull out that price list. So I ask them do you prefer bright pieces or do you prefer canvases, so it's this or this, until I get down to exactly what they want. And once I hear what they really like, canvases or framed pieces, I pull out the particular price board that relates to that product. I don't inundate them with all the things that I offer, we do that casually throughout conversation. And then when we get to the essence of what they really want then I pull out the price board and start talking about money, because my goal is to keep them in that dreamy state of mind, imagining what the possibilities are as long as I can, and as soon as I pull out the prices that shuts down and all of a sudden it's about money. I don't want that to happen very often or for very long. So, planning consultation we talk about all the possibilities, I walk them through the price list when there's no pressure to commit, and we hone in on where the session's gonna be, and I give them the details of what to expect. Oh by the way, you should consider wearing these clothes or these clothing ideas for this particular location. Here's the time, often we're up in the mountains, I have to remind people, these are mountains, they get cold in the evening time, please bring a jacket to put on between shoots. All those logistical things that happen before the session, that's my opportunity to get them ready. So if it all works that way, that would be amazing, but here's how it really goes down in the planning consultation. They come in with the idea of getting images created for them but they really have no idea what they're gonna do with them, and I have given them a ton of information to dream about and they get a little bit overwhelmed. I want them to get overwhelmed up front, and then have time to settle in and come up with an idea. So if I can get the answers to those questions that I talked about it's great. But oftentimes they're like, oh I don't know. I'm gonna have to talk to my husband, I don't know where we're gonna meet, I love this product but that's a little bit beyond the budget that I was planning to invest, so I need to talk to my husband about that and see if that works. That's the best case scenario. If I can get to that point, where they're like, oh my gosh I really love this, I need to think about it. I would much rather them do that before the session, than during the sales session at the end where they're like oh sorry that doesn't work for me, after I've spent all this time. So I use our website as a tool now to get these same answers to those questions, so however works best for your business, in person I think is always better, but if you need to do it remotely that's definitely an option as well. I've talked periodically about our client theater that we have in our home, and I want to share with you how we had it set up because it worked really really well. This is it, when you came to our home in Colorado, our clients came in the front door, and this is what they saw. And there wasn't a single thing hanging on the wall that was smaller than 30 inches, period. Remember I told you about that 11 by 14? Well this is a 16 by 20 here sitting on an easel. It didn't even make the wall. Okay? That's the message I want to send to people, it's very intentional. This is a 60 inch portrait. That one's a 40 inch portrait. This one's a 60 inch portrait. Showing people how to create decor for their homes with photography was my goal. We also had a projector that came down. Our clients sat on the sofa together. This was my sales chair. We had albums laid out on the coffee table. It was a very comfortable, homey environment. I modeled what I wanted our clients to do in their home. So flipping around as you look at the room here's the same sofa here, the 16 by 20 on the easel. This is a 70 inch canvas group. And this is actually what I want our clients to buy. They're really neat they have different depths of canvases and so they're dimensional, they're all different shapes and they're custom designed to go together as a single piece. Here's another 20 by 20 that's on an easel. Didn't even make the wall. Our screen pulled down over the windows so that when we weren't showing images it felt like a home. When we were showing images we pulled it down and made it dark like a theater. And then flipping around a little more you can see the front door here, you can see the screen that came down over the windows, and this is our frame wall. We offered custom framing for a lot of our products. I had a row right here, this was what was included in our portrait collections, everything else was an additional charge. Very simple to understand. This is a 40 inch portrait. So everything that we did in this room was very intentional. The distance from where the client sat to where the images were projected was about 20 feet. So when we projected, we projected at 90 inches. The software that I used would scale the images down, so when the client told me what size they were thinking I could go from that 90 inch display down to an eight by ten that looked like a postage stamp on the wall, and they were like, oh, well that won't work. I mean it was visually very powerful, okay? And then this is the last wall. There's a little bathroom going through and you can see the 60 inch portrait and the 30 inch and the 40 inch there. Big, bold, beautiful images and how to decorate them in your home. It was a powerful selling tool. So you can imagine when I told Peter we were gonna move into an RV that I thought it would be a great idea he was like but how do we live without this? This is not gonna work. And so our new studio, this is it. We have actually had clients come into our RV, they've sat around our tiny little dinette table, we went through the same selling process on a laptop, and we've seen no change in our sales. In fact they've actually gone up. Our sales averages have. So the message here is, it's great if you have a big beautiful sales theater, if you don't, just go through this process I promise it'll work. It'll work in a coffee shop, it'll work at an RV dinette table, and it'll work in an incredible retail location or a home studio. Alright, so we're at this planning consultation again, the three things that you need to know are, what products are they interested in, where is the session, and if they're comfortable investing in what you need them to spend. They're not gonna answer those right off the bat probably. Unless they're a past client that has experience with that. But they are going to walk away, and that gives you an opportunity to call in a couple days and say, hey did you get a chance to talk to John about what we discussed at your planning consultation? Are you still thinking that you would like to do the canvas group for the wall and an album? And that gives them an opportunity to ask any questions that they didn't think of before, and it gives them an opportunity to throw any objections your way that they have so that you can address them. They can say oh my gosh that is so far out of our budget, maybe we should look at the portrait collections. Great, okay, let's look at those, and see what you're thinking there. Because then that really knows what we need to shoot for. Right? Am I shooting for multiple images, one big strong image, an album? And I tell them that. I've got to know the answers to these question so that we can do our best job for you, okay? So they walk away from that. Oh and here's what our portrait location guide looks like. It says, it has pictures of our images, it has where the locations are, and it has just lots of samples of where to go. It gives people an idea of what kind of clothing they like, what kind of clothing they don't like, we put good and bad examples in there, and so it gives us a great opportunity to talk about that without clients as well. Okay, the waiting game. So we've done the planning consultation, we got the answers to the questions of is the money okay, what are they going to purchase, and address any concerns that they have, and then they go home, and I try to get them to send me pictures of the walls where they're thinking of placing this art, and when they send those to me I'm like oh my gosh this product is gonna be perfect, we could lay it out like this, gives me time to interact with them and say, yeah you made a really good decision. They leave the consultation with a few different ideas of what they want, I reach back out to them and clarify anything, it just keeps the lines of communication open. And it gives them time to place those products that we talked about on that wall, that's so important. And then the session. A session with Peter is a big experience. It usually involves a four by four road, a near death experience, and an incredible view. I think back to a client in a sales session. It was a mom that had a college age daughter, and they all went out to this incredible peak. She's like, Cathy, whenever we went to a location with Peter he had us stand on the edge of a rock I thought we were gonna die. And I was like oh my gosh I hope you were okay. And she's like it was crazy I can't wait to see that image. And that's the one she bought. Now were they really on the edge of a cliff, where they would die, absolutely not. But her impression of that experience was memorable, and extraordinary, and Peter is super fun at a session. And when they get there he confirms once again, now you guys are thinking about, a canvas group, or wall art, or framed piece, or book art, he's like I just want to make sure, I have the right idea of what we're aiming for. And then they confirm and they say yes, that is what I want. The sale's done, right there. When they say, yes, that is what I want, my job is easy in the sales room. All these little pieces coming together. So they have fun, and then, at the end of the session, Peter gets all wound up and he's excited and he's the artist and he comes in and at the end he's like okay, I never show anybody this, but you've got to see this image. I never show people the back of my camera but look. And that image that they walk away in their head, becomes the one that goes on the wall. Almost every time. They remember that and that is the essence of their experience. So in actuality Peter does the sales. (laughs) Without ever stepping into the sales room. So they have fun, he gives them a sneak peek, and he confirms what it is that they're going to order. And then they wait. And they remember that fun experience, they have that one picture that they see, and that goes on the wall every time they walk by that empty space. So right after the session I write to them and I say oh my gosh, Peter had such a great time with you guys, I can't believe you stood on the edge of a cliff that's crazy, oh my gosh I just was looking over Peter's shoulder you are not gonna believe the images he captured they're amazing. I can't wait to see you next week. And they're like, we did it, he got them, they're great, yay, everybody feels good. And it also gives me an opportunity to remind our clients that when they come in for their unveiling, it's what we call it, their sales session, is the only time they get to see the images. I've told them that on the phone when I first talked to them I confirmed it again in the planning consultation, and I'm saying it one more time. This is your chance to pick out the images, make sure everybody's here to make that decision. We always recommend leaving the kids at home if they're little guys because that just muddies and they can't focus on trying to choose the images, and I just tell them this is a really intense process, this is a big investment, I want to make sure that you have everything you need to be able to make this decision. And of course, they bring them anyway, but (laughs). Okay so then here we are at the sale. Imagine walking into the sales session, knowing exactly what the clients gonna buy. That's pretty cool, right? So here's how we do the sales session. At the unveiling we show 30 to 60 images, if they are interested in wall art. If they are interested in book art we show about 50 to images and there's two different strategies there. If I think that they are interested in both, we go ahead and go with the book art option. And I'm gonna go ahead and walk you through how I do it exactly but here's the overview. You show it as a slideshow at first. And you tell them that just sit back, take it in, see these images, enjoy them. We'll worry about picking the best ones in a little bit. Then, the next step is you go through the images one by one and get rid of all of the images that they don't like. There's an expression or body position or something, whatever it is if they don't like it pull it out of the mix if it's a maybe or a yes keep it in there. And then we start looking at similar images, and comparing those back and forth, and getting to the best of each group. And then all we have to do is say okay, you are interested in a wall group, you are interested in a frame group, out of these six images, which one do you like? Done. It's easy. Or you're interested in a book, let's make sure there aren't any redundancies in here and then I'm gonna let Peter go to town designing for you. We'll have a design going up really soon. Easy. They already know what it costs, they already have confirmed that they wanted it. All we have to do is pick the images. And then, this is where the, comes back in. After you pick all of the images, they may add on things that you didn't even talk about. And so if there are still images in their favorites, that don't fit the products that you talked about before, you can pull those up and say hey, oh my gosh I love this image and I love this image and I love this image, what if we did a group of three canvases out of those three for your daughters birthday, or what if we made this product out of these images and they're like yeah let's do that. And then all of a sudden you've added on another $1,000 or $500 or whatever it is. And sometimes that keeps going, if Peter has done his job right, there should be 40 images left. And that's when I say to the client that has wall art, have you ever, we talked about albums right off the bat and you said you weren't really interested but we've got so many amazing images here, this would make a great album. What do you think? Like, oh yeah that would be great let's do that. Another couple thousand dollars. Just keep adding, and I told you earlier. Remember the sales session that I was in, where the client kept adding, and kept adding, and kept adding, and as the dollars added up in front of my eyes I got incredibly nervous, my hand was like this over my mouth the whole time, so I didn't say anything. And then all I had to do was turn the computer and say here's your total, would you like to pay by cash or credit card. Check or credit card. It's powerful. Check will be fine. Right? Okay so let's look at how this works. Oh the last minute this is really important. So the way that our life is, and the way that we travel, sometimes I can't be there to do the in person sales session in the room with them. But I have used Go To meeting or other softwares where I can do the same steps virtually with my clients. It's not as good as in person, but it still allows me to control the images, so that they only get to see them once. I can be there in person walking them through, helping them select the best images, and then take their order for them. It still allows me to give them the same service that I would if I was able to be there in person. So really there's no excuses for not doing an in person sales session. You can do it in a coffee shop, you can do it virtually on the web, or you can do it in you location. So let's look at the details. Now I'm gonna pull up the software that we use. Kenna? Which is awesome, thank you Cathy cause that was some of the questions coming in, about the software that you use. But I wanted to see if people had questions at this point about this, about the selling process as well, before we head into that. We had a couple online. Absolutely. Alright cool. So Henry had asked, if the budget seems to be a problem for people, do you ever suggest a payment plan at that point, and at what point in the sales cycle would you have done that? Absolutely, the first moment that there's an objection about price, that's the next thing that I say is oh my gosh did you know that we offer interest free payment plans, we spread it out as long as you need to, you tell us how much you can do each month, I take two credit cards, I run the first one first, if there's ever a problem I run the second one, if I have to call you there is a small fee but I'm sure that's not gonna be an issue. And just let us know how this works for you. We want to make it easy for you to be able to have the art that you want for your home. Absolutely. It's a great thing, and we have had both wedding and portrait clients take a couple of years at times to be able to invest with us. It was that important to them, and so we want to make it easy and doable for them. Thank you. Let's see one more quickly. Question from Sattire who said, do you have something like the average client spends, or portraits start at blank on the website in terms of that sales process too, I know we touched on that a little bit earlier. Absolutely let me grab these. We went over this earlier. These are out pricing menus. They are, and they have different options. This is our a la carte menu and the only reason that I actually have this menu is right here at the bottom where it says additional portraits, eight by tens, are $99, and so when somebody asks me that I tell them that our portraits start at $99, and everything that we do is custom, whey don't you come on in for a planning consultation, and I can walk you through all of the options. And then if they still have questions, if it's obviously a very strict budget, then we can walk through that on the phone and make sure we don't waste their time or out time with a planning consultation.

"If you're struggling to figure out the business process of photography, this class is one of the clearest and most concise I've ever seen. If you're experienced but the business side and pricing are eluding you, you will find clarity here. I own at least twenty CreativeLive courses and hands down, this one explains pricing and strategy better than any others I've purchased or watched live." - Julie, CreativeLive Student 
 
Join Kathy Holcombe as she shares techniques and strategies to develop the photography business you desire. Whether you’re making the leap from part-time to full-time or starting your very first business, the amount of work can be overwhelming. From what products to offer, how much to charge, how to pay yourself or the legal considerations - start ups often sink before clients are even booked. Kathy will show you the ways to grow your business from the start. This class will cover: 

  • Defining what product you are selling and how much you should charge to make a living 
  • Photography business basics and how to track your income compared to other businesses 
  • How to write and create your business plan 
Kathy Holcombe and her husband Peter built one of the top wedding portrait studios in Colorado, then jumped in an RV with the entire family and began traveling the country full-time, and added a successful commercial division. Together they have built multiple successful businesses and have honed in on the important factors that every photographer should consider when building a business. 

 
 
 
 

Reviews

  • I started my business a year ago with little formal technical photography education. It's hard to admit but I've been winging it, figuring out each small task that goes with photographing a session, editing one, and working with clients as I go. I may be doing things backwards, but now that I feel like I'm more comfortable in those small, specific parts of business, I need to figure out how to make this business sustainable and profitable. Kathy's class felt perfect for this time in my business to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what I want to focus on and where I want to go (and how much I want to pay myself!). She uses realistic, specific numbers: something that's SO helpful and I feel like I rarely see in the photography community. And she breaks everything down in an organized and easy to understand way. The classes were easy to follow along with and Kathy's positivity and patient manner is inspiring and motivating. The fact that she used to be a school teacher is clear. Thank you so much Kathy (and the rest of the Holcombes)!
  • I am so glad I was able to attend this course in person and receive all the wonderful and practical information Kathy shared with us. I also really enjoyed the connections with other audience members and side conversations with Creative Live peeps as well as the Holcombe family. What an inspiration this family is--lots of practical info, but also a great pep talk to not sell yourself short and get out there and do what you love, but use sound business practice while doing it. Thanks so much for these incredible two days.
  • Fantastic course! Very helpful instruction and how-to guide for anyone considering starting up a photography business. Kathy was an excellent instructor, with a wealth of knowledge and experience. I gained a good understanding of the practical everyday aspects of running this kind of business, and how to create my own vision.