When does a sale take place? If you said when money exchanges hands, you are only partially correct. The sales process is actually much longer, and in theory, goes on for the life of your business. How so? Read on, and you’ll learn how to expand your own business by taking control over your sales process.

Vision
What type of photographer are you? Do you photograph weddings, or commercial portfolios? Do you meet with clients every day, or is it just you, your camera, and the great outdoors? No matter what your niche, you are in the process of building up your reputation.

How do you want that reputation to be vocalized to the world? When a client from your past comes in contact with a friend who asks about photography, do they know how to talk about you? What do they say? That is your vision.

It’s the mental picture you paint for the world. It’s the way others talk about you. And if you do a good enough job, the “sale” can occur right here. If a new mom shows off her images of her baby to a group of new moms and says, “I found the best baby photographer in the world”, that’s your vision at work.

Initial Contact
Now that the picture is painted, what does the prospect think when they contact you for the first time? Do you answer their emails right away? Do you start building a relationship, or do you give short, choppy phrases? Does your voice mail sound friendly? Do you return calls immediately?

This is how a new prospect begins forming an impression of you. They may have heard great things about your work, but if they conclude you are difficult to work with because of attitude or how you handle your business, the sale can quickly fade away.

Follow Through
In some cases a person will book on the spot. Some times a sale can take weeks or even months to close. How do you treat a person during this time frame? Do you place a phone call or two just to check in? Do you put them on a mailing list to receive postcards?

Keeping in touch shows you are interested, and care about them enough to help them make the decision in their timeframe. You won’t rush them if they need time, yet they need to know consequences. If it’s a wedding, you only book one wedding per day. For fall portraits, you only meet three weeks of the year. Whatever your policy, be clear and let them know the details.

Sale
Yep, this is the fun part. This is where they write the check, or hand over their credit card.

Make the process fun and exciting. I knew one wedding photographer years ago who popped the cork on a great bottle of champagne and toasted the bride and groom when the contract was signed. While you don’t have to go that extravagant, you can send them away with a folder of information and helpful hints on how to make their wedding or portrait experience even better. Use your imagination, and be creative.

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Satisfaction
The last thing you want to do as a business owner is drop the ball when the money exchanges hands. Take the extra step, and show off your customer service skills. How about a personalized greeting card saying thanks for the business? Or mail out a packet of info describing your service in more detail (great for weddings, commercial shoots – anything that takes place on a later date).

Do you handle warranty work? Guarantees? Do you check back for customer satisfaction? All of this shows your care for the customer, and the quality of your product.

Marketing
How do you stay in touch months or even years beyond the sale to keep a client actively engaged and wanting to do business with you, or wanting to refer you? This involves everything you do with your business. It could include an email or snail mail newsletter, postcards, ads in local magazines and newspapers, a display at the mall, or participating in a charity event. It could also involve more personal items, like birthday or anniversary cards, holiday gifts, or donations to schools or non-profits your clients are heavily involved with.

How well are you doing at the 6 phases of a sale?

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