You recently received an inquiry from someone who really likes your work, is interested in hiring you for a shoot, and wants to meet in person (or on the phone) to discuss more details. Naturally, you’re pretty excited. The thought of booking an event is something that thrills all of us. Then, as soon as the meeting starts, the two cardinal sins of salesmanship rear their ugly heads. What are they?
Talking too much and not listening enough.
Sure enough, once the prospect asks you a question, it’s as if you’ve suddenly been put in front of a classroom with the responsibility to lecture on photography for the next 25 minutes, flood gates thrown open. And because you want so badly to make the sale, you don’t leave anything out – linking your statements from one benefit to the next, emphasizing personal strengths, advantages, until you’ve suddenly dominated the conversation with what YOU wanted to say and talk about, not what THEY needed to hear.
This is the first massive mistake, and is actually the primary cause for the second mistake. Whether you are just starting to charge for your photography services, or wanting to increase and grow your existing photography business, you cannot allow yourself to command the conversation. When you do this, you miss uncovering the real concerns of the client, what they really want in the end, and ultimately it makes them feel as though they weren’t really heard. Remember, it’s not about YOU – it’s about THEM.
One way to turn this scenario around is to start asking them questions, turn the table. Get them talking about what their vision for the shoot is, what concerns they may have, how they view the end result. A great trick to get them to start talking is to say something like this, “____ (name), I’m fully prepared to discuss the event/project in detail with you, but first I want to get your perspective on it so that we can focus our time together on the things that interest you most.”
By announcing that you’re prepared, you demonstrate your competence and responsibility – and by demonstrating your preparation, you build immediate credibility. Furthermore, by inviting your customer to articulate what’s most important to them, you recognize and validate their importance. In other words, it shows that you care about their thoughts and concerns, and that you want to work together to provide a solution that works for both of you.
The next step is to keep them talking. Again, this is all about them, not you. An easy way to do this is to keep asking questions that are easy to answer such as:
- Tell me more about
- What else should I know about?
- Could you please expand on..?
It’s imperative that you uncover as many of their fears, concerns, wants, desires as you can. Consider asking questions like:
- What worries you most about this?
- I can tell that you are frustrated about that – how come?
- You mentioned that you tried that in the past. Why didn’t it work so well that time? What could have been done differently?
The primary benefit of asking all these questions is to uncover what’s really important to them. This is the treasure chest, what they are really after. Once you know what’s most important to them, you can then frame your offer according to the specific desires of that client, which will skyrocket your chance of booking the shoot.
But all of these questions are worth nothing – if you don’t listen to what they’re saying. There are four primary elements to Active Listening:
- Attentive body language (nod, make eye contact, smile, etc.)
- Verbal attends (uh-huh, okay, sure)
- Ask leading questions (open-ended questions that encourage them to talk more)
- Restating back to the person what they just said
Active Listening is not simply waiting for your turn to talk, and it’s certainly not interrupting them to demonstrate that you already know what they’re talking about. Active Listening is nothing more than allowing the customer to completely share their story with you, then playing back that story to them asking for confirmation and clarification. “Is that right? Did I miss anything?”
With any new skill, it takes time to get down pat. But this is something that will have an immediate effect on your ability to book more events because you are validating the concerns of your potential clients, and linking your services to their exact wants and goals.