In Person Sales... seriously, I should have done this post on Halloween, because if you are like me when I faced the decision on whether to do in person sales, you are probably shaking in your boots. Do not fear! I am going to share with you my FIVE tips to success while selling your products in person.
When I decided I wanted to make my business more boutique, more special, I realized that I needed to step up my service. That involved how I sell my product to my clients. I spoke recently to a few clients after I completed their IPS (In Person Sales) appointment, and I asked them how they felt about coming back to my studio and viewing their images with me. They said these things:
"It was awesome to see my images up on the big screen, then I could really SEE them, I wouldn't be able to see them so well on my tiny laptop screen."
"I really liked having you here to help me decide, you could read me well and seemed to know what I wanted almost before I did. When you had me compare between images to decide my favorite, you made it easier and less overwhelming."
"I felt no judgement or pressure from you, you really just guided me, but respected my decisions."
"I was amazed with how much of a show it all was. It made me cry and yes it made me want to buy more than I had planned but I am happy about it. I am really happy with the service."
Now it's not all sunshine and rainbows, I have had unhappy clients too, but it is always been due to my mishandling of the situation and a part of my learning curve. I would like to give you FIVE tips on how to be successful with IPS, so hopefully you can skip the lessons I had to learn the hard (and expensive) way.
1) Always be SUPER open about your pricing from the VERY beginning. If you client hires you but hasn't read a clear price list, you will get many clients who are "surprised" that the digitals are not included in the session fee price. This will lead to your clients feeling duped that you haven't been clear with them. Think about purchasing a car, and how it feels when you find out that the floor model is actually more than it says it is if you want the sunroof, the power windows, the four wheels, etc. Being clear about your pricing makes your client more informed and prepared to budget for the cost of their images.
2) Do not look at IPS as just a way to make more money. Although IPS can result in a higher sales average, if you just do that, and do not follow up with a higher level of service, your clients will turn on you. If your sales average is all of a sudden over $1000, then the products you deliver, the speed you deliver them at and the care with which you will deal with your client should reflect that price tag. Do not expect that you can make the high sales average without putting in the work to be worth it. This means always perfecting your craft, high end products, and most of all, swallowing your pride when your client gets upset.
3) Policies, have them, and stick to them, and make them VERY clear for your clients to understand. For example, my polices include but are not limited to:
- every client must come back to the studio (or I travel to them with an additional travel fee) for their proofing appointment. I do not do online galleries.
- clients must schedule their proofing appointment within the 7 days following their email notifying them that their images are ready.
- clients must be prepared to choose their order and purchase their package at this session (I do not let them take the online gallery home and think on it). If they would like to think on it that is totally fine, but they will need to schedule a second viewing appointment within a week, there is a fee for this.
- Once purchases have been made I discard all raws of images that were not ordered, and I archive ordered images for 12 months, there is an archival fee if I need to pull these images out of archive.
4) Follow up. Imagine this, you are my client - you have an amazing session, your kids behaved, I was charming and funny and you had a total blast. Then you come and see your images and you are blown away with how beautiful they are, you are in tears after the slideshow and the proofing appointment is easy going and you feel no pressure to buy more than you can afford. Then you leave the proofing appointment flying high. Two days pass and you haven't received your digital image download yet. You send a friendly email and I don't respond (I am very busy, you know). It takes a few more tries before you can get your download from me, and when you do its a one sentence email: "Here are your images..." Your wait a few weeks, and you have heard nothing from me on the album you purchased. Again it is a couple more emails before you get an exasperated reply that I am going as fast as I can. Finally it is FIVE weeks after your proofing appointment (so probably at this point almost two months since your session) before you see the proofs for the album design, you want to make a couple of changes and its another two weeks before you hear from me again.
By the time you have your album in your hands it's almost lost all of it's shine. You feel like you have been swindled and that feeling of this being a worthy investment is long gone. Do you think you will be coming back to me for another session? Do you think you will be telling all your friends to use me as their photographer? Probably not.
In contrast, imagine that when you arrive home you already have an email in your inbox with your digital downloads, and just two days later you have the proofs of your album design. For every change you have a timely and gracious response with changes made in at least 48 hours. Your album is in your hands three weeks after your proofing appointment and it is just as beautiful as the sample in studio was. I think you would be more than willing to boast about your amazing photographer and your beautiful images after service like that.
The service doesn't end folks. The second they pay you that gorgeous impressive number of dollar signs is when the REAL service starts. So follow up is key.
5) HAVE SAMPLES!! This is the biggest key to your success in doing IPS. Choose quality products and show them to your clients. Make sure your product is sturdy and professional looking and that it will stand the test of time. We are wanting products that will last decades. So this will mean you need to invest in your samples. As long as you have the cost of your product built into your price you will make your profit on it.
For instance, I brought this beautiful framed and matted print from CanvasPop to my last IPS appointment. My client LOVED it and purchased one for herself immediately. Having beautiful professional samples for your clients to feel and touch and especially see the size of does the speaking for you. With an online gallery a client may think oh I can fit this 8x10 over here, but when they see a beautiful 16x20 matted print, they can envision a statement piece, something to really showcase and display.
Here are some different perspectives on In Person Sales. These are some of my respected colleagues who have taken on IPS for their businesses, here is what they have to say about it:
"In Person Sales have allowed me to be more present in my family life. Before IPS I was over working myself, taking on too many clients in order to make enough profit. I was spending almost every night editing and always felt like I couldn't catch up. Since switching to IPS, I am able to take less clients while making more. I can now be selective in who I photograph and only take on those who fit my criteria for ideal clients. Taking on 4-5 sessions per month is allowing me to spend more time doing my most important job, which is being a mother. IPS has also allowed me to give my clients a truly professional experience. I can now stand out from the plethora of photographers in my city because I am able to provide tangible portraits. Now that I have finally settled into a groove with IPS, I can confidently say I will never go back to delivering online galleries and crossing my fingers in hope that they order something. While transitioning into the in person method does take time, it is absolutely worth it, not just for your sake but your clients as well." Anel Lestage - Tender Nest Portraits
"Before I started IPS, I was selling online galleries for $250, but almost always discounting that to $200. I set my product prices with the intention of averaging $250. [After IPS] Immediately, my average sale was over $400. The payout though, was far greater. Seeing my clients cry during their slide shows, hearing them gush when they picked up their photos, and getting messages months later about how much they still love having my work on their walls... It was so much more than money. Financially, I couldn't walk away from what my average sale has become, but the emotional draw for me is the biggest win of all." Crystal Phillips - Crystal Phillips Photography