Ten Ways to Rock the Client Consultation

How to more effectively nail down more family photography, portrait, and wedding assignments

When meeting with potential clients for the first time, it can be nerve-wracking. Will they like you? Will you like them?  Will they appreciate the value of what you have to offer as a photographer? And the most pressing question: Will you get the job? 

When you are considering meeting with family, portrait and wedding photography clients, keep in mind some of these top ten tips for success:

1.  Start with the end in mind: What is the final goal of a successful consultation?  If you go in with the end in mind, it will help with the entire process.  Your goal is to book the job, and in so doing, you want to earn their trust -- as well as price condition them to be willing and want to spend the amount of money that you charge for your products and services. The consultation helps you to determine whether you are a fit for each other, and whether they can even afford you.

2.  Set the scene: The reality is the client will make up his or her mind within the first five minutes of your consultation, so the first impression is the most critical. Don't make them wait, and be immediately engaged and ready to answer their questions. Be prepared with your price lists and samples and know the details of the products and collections you are offering. Consider all sounds, smells, and other distractions in the meeting space as well, and make sure these are all in your favor.

3. Have a conversation, not a presentation: Listening builds trust, When meeting with a potential client for the first time, make the conversation about them, not you. Rather than just pitching how great you are as a photographer, learn about them. Be receptive: Discover what it is that they want—not what you want to give them.



4.  Ask effective questions: The art of asking questions is the shortcut to effective listening. Ask open-ended questions that can't be answered with yes or no. You want to know why do they want pictures, what is it about their family/child at this stage that they don’t want to forget, what is something they like to do together as a family, as a couple, special details about the wedding etc.  Get them to tell you stories. You'll be surprised at how much they will give you to work with. As they talk you can discover how you can service their needs. Ask probing questions to discover more. Your objective is to get them to talk as much as possible.



5.  Listen between the lines: Body Language. Pay attention to Body language—both yours and theirs!  75% of all communication is non-verbal.  Relax and smile. Uncross your arms. Lean in and make eye contact. Beyond the words is a host of clues as to what the speaker is saying.


6. Visualize the shot and create bigger sales: The information you gain from listening to clients during the consultation is really important to visualizing your end product. The
more information you have from your clients the better you will be at visualizing what you want to create for them. Ask your clients open-ended questions about what attracted them to your style or what is unique to them about their wedding. Then visualize the end product in your mind before ever taking a single shot.



7.  Make it easy to buy. Take the guesswork out of pricing for clients. Make the price lists digestable, fun, and simple. Do not give them too many choices. No one wants to be overwhelmed. Making decisions causes anxiety in people, and your job is to take that anxiety away.

8.  Deal with sales obstacles before you ever reach the sales room. Make sure you deal with any potential obstacles at the consultation—things even as simple as making sure all decision makers will be there and that children should not.  They need to be aware of how much things will cost and what your procedure is for purchasing prints and products.  This way you will not have any surprises in the sales room later.



9.  Clients buy what they see—guide them to your products: You want to keep it simple, compelling, and unique. Create a desire for the products you want to sell, and price it so that it is easy for them to buy. Make sure your samples are exactly what you want your clients to buy, not small versions of those things. If you want to sell large prints, show large prints.



10.  Assume the Booking/Sale: Instead of asking for the sale, assume it by asking questions like "When would be a good time to schedule your portrait?" instead of, "Do you want to do a portrait?" Reiterate what it is they said they wanted, what they are hoping to get out of their photography, and show them you were paying attention to their needs. When assuming a sale, it's better to add value rather than dropping the price.  So you could throw in an extra print or page to an album rather than making that album cheaper.  It's a win-win for both you and your client.

Good luck with your client consultations, and happy selling!



Jules Bianchi and Joy Bianchi Brown will be Platform speakers at WPPI 2011 in February, giving tips on Sales and Marketing on Tuesday, Febraruy 22 at 3:30pm in Studio B.  They would love for you to join them and learn "How you can be a Rockstar in your Own Backyard".  If you'd like to get more information on their Essential Starter Consultation Kit and other helpful products, please check out www.julescafe.com/shop.

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