Selling for Photographers – Part 1

If anybody asks you what you do, and you say, “I’m a salesman” (or saleswoman) – is there a teeny, tiny bit of shame, embarrassment, or even shyness that creeps into your voice?

I know that a lot of people have very negative attitudes about selling. The fact of the matter is, nobody gets paid until something gets sold. So, if you’re addicted to getting paid, somebody has to get good at selling.

Everybody sells. Teachers sell ideas. Parents sell good behavior. Photographers sell prints, photographic services, albums, online pictures. There is nothing wrong with selling.

The important thing to remember is that selling must be a win/win situation. You have a service or product that meets the need of the customer. You offer this service at a mutually agreeable price. They get the satisfaction of the product or service, and you get the satisfaction of being able to afford the large bag of peanut M&Ms at the grocery store instead of scrounging through the free mints at Denny’s.

Many of us know photographers who can’t take a picture as well as us, but who are making more money than us. This is because they’ve learned how to sell what they have. The good news is that when you learn how to sell what YOU have (which you believe is better than what they have) then you will make more money than them.

My goal today is to help you become a better salesperson.

First, why do customers buy? Usually the decision to buy is an emotional one, which people then find logical justifications for. My wife buys a new pair of shoes – that she REALLY doesn’t need (sorry, hon) – but she justifies it by telling herself (and me) that these shoes go great with the new skirt she bought last week. (Most guys are happy with four pairs of shoes – old sneakers, new sneakers, black dress shoes, and brown dress shoes. Most women are not happy with less than 127 pairs of shoes. My point that her first mistake was to buy a skirt that she knew she did not have shoes for, was summarily discarded.)

Customers buy based on perception – perception of:

  • Convenience
  • Quality
  • Selection
  • Service
  • Price

(and price is last for a reason!)

You need to decide which perception you are catering to. Are you the low-cost provider? Do you provide exemplary service? Is your quality better than the competition? You might have to compete on more than one of the above.
Customers will pay more for:

  • knowledgeable salespeople
  • reputation of the product / service provider
  • partnership with the provider (rather than a cut-and-dried purchase of product)
  • consistency with deliverables
  • customization of product or deliverables

These are things you have to consider.

To help you sell, we’ll cover the following points:

  1. finding customers
  2. preparing for the sale
  3. talking to customers
  4. closing the sale
  5. maintaining the relationship

Finding Customers

Obviously, this is going to vary depending on your specific field of photography. If you are a real estate photographer, then your primary market is going to be real estate agents and homeowners. If you are a commercial photographer, then you want to be talking to Art Directors, Creative Directors and Directors of Photography.

The first thing is to sit down and actually WRITE a list of people you know. Write down everybody – it doesn’t matter if you haven’t seen them for 20 years. It doesn’t matter if they’re out of state. The only reason not to write down the name of someone you know is if you don’t like them, and would not want to do business with them. You should end up with approximately 250 names, maybe more. Do not leave anybody off the list – write down high school friends, college friends, former neighbors, co-workers, etc.

I remember reading somewhere that 80% of college graduates got their jobs through referrals. I have no idea if it’s true – but I believe it. What this tells me is that a referral (a warm contact) is far more powerful than a cold contact. You want to work your warm market.

The next step is to determine who on this list can actually help you. For some of the names, you have no idea what they do – so you are tempted to cross them off the list. Not so fast, there, pardner. You don’t want access to just them – you want access to who THEY know. Since the average person knows 250 people, your potential contact list (with just one degree of separation) is 250×250 = 62,500 people.

How do you get access to their list? The easiest way is to just ask. Perhaps send them a note:

Hi, John,

I know we haven’t been in touch much in the past couple of years, but I just wanted to let you know that I’m working now as a wedding photographer, and I’m interested in destination weddings. I thought you might know someone who’s looking for a good photographer – so if you could pass my information along to anybody who might be looking (and let me know who you talked to, so I can follow up), that’d be great.

My website is at

Yours truly,

With this letter, include several business cards. You want to make it easy for them to refer people to you. If you only give them one business card, they’re likely to hang onto it in case they need a photographer. If you give them several, they’re more likely to pass it out.

There’s an excellent book by Bob Burg titled “Endless Referrals”, where he talks about how to continually grow your warm market by using referrals. I highly recommend this book, it goes into far more detail than I can do here. Purchase the book here. (insert link)

[Next – Preparing for the Sale]

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Very practical article here, many thanks! The balance between photographer and salesman is delicate, especially where web site and blog comes in. I made the mistake I think of over-kill in my website and blog and am trying to edit and clarify material to make it more low key, also getting people to move off the Home Page onto other material!
    Best wishes.

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