The Sales Process Starts When You Pick Up The Phone

Selling is sometimes perceived as such a bad word. We think of the classic used car salesman yell out, “what can I do to sell you this car today”.  But in reality selling is nothing more than find out what people want and then helping them to get it. I own countless products that originally I did want to buy or should I say I Did want to buy, I just didn’t want to hand over the money.  I enjoy these products everyday and am thankful to the sales people who helped me get them.  I wouldn’t ever tell my wife this, but truly don’t “need” a Dodge Viper, a Harley or a large home, but I sure am happy I have them!  If you believe in what you sell and see the benefit of what you sell to your clients, then you really are not selling, you are just helping them to get it.

In the business of photography, your marketing plan gets a person interested enough to pick up the phone and call your studio.  Once the phone rings everything changes, your marketing is over and now it time for the selling (helping them to get what they want) to begin. There are four parts to a successful phone call or a call that turns a prospect into a client and they are #1 Ask Questions #2 Excite #3 Engage #4 Ask for the Sale.

Potential clients call your studio and most phone calls take two paths, how much is an 8×10 or we were thinking of having a portrait taken.  The first group is more assertive than the second.  The first thing you do is ask permission to ask a question, because truthfully you can’t answer or handle that phone call until you get some information.  At this point you ask questions to find out what type of portrait she is thinking of having done, the number of people, what ideas she has in mind, a possible budget, etc.  Once you get all the information you need from the caller to answer her questions intelligently you have two choices, either proceed and go to step #2 or refer them to someone else. You have to be honest, if the caller says her budget is $50 and your minimum order is $500 they don’t qualify as a potential client.  Now if her budget was $200 and minimum order is $500 at least she is in the ballpark (call me an optomist!)

Step #2 is excite.  As a phone sales person you have to start explaining the process of doing business with your studio with an explanation of the session(s).  While you don’t want to skirt the issue of cost or the number of clothing changes and images to choose from, these are mundane facts that don’t excite anyone, as you can tell in the typical studios phone salesperson’s voice.  In our studio we photograph seniors.  As a senior (or parent of a senior) which explanation of a session would excite you more?  Example 1  “In our “senior” session it comes with 2 clothing changes, 6 different backgrounds and about 80 images to choose from…”  or Example 2 “the most popular session is the senior session, you would be photographed in our main studio area, which has a Dodge Viper, a Harley, swings, bridges, New Yorks steps, spiral stair cases and a huge variety of background and sets to choose from, I think the only thing that isn’t in our main studio is the beach and a huge park, but don’t worry we can set up an appointment to go their as well!”

You need to remember that you only have words on the phone, so use them to paint pictures in the mind’s of your clients.  If you do outdoor, talk about the beautiful nature light, the flowing water of the stream;  in your mind right now you are picturing what I am talking about, that is what you must do with your clients.  Until my clients are excited enough to see themselves sitting on that Harley, leaning against the Viper or feeling of the water from the stream flowing over their feet they aren’t excited enough to move to step 3 or book a session.  Once they visualize themselves in what your are describing they are starting to sell themselves.

After you have explained what they will be doing in the session, so the person on the phone sees themselves doing it and have answered their first question of how much or how to, are you getting closer to continue to step three or refer them away.  Most loving parents or excited seniors in our situation will start asking more questions “does it cost more to include a friend” or “what do you think I should wear for the Viper” this isn’t a problem, this is a sign of excitement.  They are seeing themselves in the picture you have painted and now they are trying to make sure it is the right picture for them.  Answer their questions, but again paint more pictures with your words as you answer the questions they ask.  “Does it cost more to include a Friend?”  Don’t just say no or yes, explain how you will coordinate their clothing as well as the scenes or sets you might use for their portraits.

Do Not look at questions as problems, the lack of questions is a problem.  People ask questions when they are interested and getting ready to buy.  If the person on the phone wasn’t interested they would have said, “thank you and good bye” after you answered their first question.  Now that you have gone through Step 1, (ask questions), finding out the needed information and Step #2, exciting them painting pictures of their session in their mind, now it’s time to move to step #3, Engage.  The sales process is not,  ‘excite them and then ask them to buy’, you must “test the waters” because it is a process.

Step #3 is the transitional stage between prospect and client and between being interested and finalizing the buying process.  After you have excited the person on the phone and answered all of their questions it is time to engage them by giving them an option of session times that would work for the type of session they are doing.  Again, you will not get an immediate yes, they will say this or that time or day doesn’t work, or they have to check with their senior (or husband for other types of photography).  These objections are what sales people call stalls, which everyone does when they see they are getting close to buying something, so don’t look at them as problems, look at them as your have done you job well to this point.

If the stall has to do with day or times, give them other days and times.  A better stall (for them) is the “I have to check with someone else”, because most untrained sales people don’t know how to respond to that which is why it works so well most of the time.  A good response is to simply say, “what do you think he/she will say when you ask him”?  The women in almost every family are the schedulers/planners of everything.  Their husband might have a work schedules, but the wife knows every spare minute he has in every day of his week. The key to overcoming this stall is to ask more questions, “does he work on Saturdays” or “what time does he usually get off” or “is it possible that he might take a long lunch”.  Help them help themselves.  Chances are if you, as a salesperson, don’t book this call it will probably be put off and forgotten and this family won’t have beautiful portraits to enjoy.

If you persist, the prospect will slowly overcome their fears and agree to a time, but that is not the end, it is not a sale.  When they agree to a time, it is the first step in the transition to the final sale.  In business, a sale is made when their is an exchange of money, until then you got nothin’!  In this economy, the next time that potential client balances her check book or watches the news to see another 1000 workers were laid off in a nearby town, she will change her mind.  If she is nice, she will call and cancel, but because you were so nice she is embarrassed to call so they just won’t show up to avoid the guilt.

Step #4 is asking for the sale.  Asking for the sale is nothing more than, after the appointment time has been agreed upon,  saying,  “Our sessions our prepaid to reserve the time with the photographer and staff would you like to put the on a credit or debit card?”  Airlines, Hotels, Spas and even restaurants on special nights ask for a guarantee that you will show up at the time that is reserved for you, so most clients that are serious won’t even question you about it.  If the client felt that making the appointment was the easiest and kindest way to get off the phone, they will question why the session is prepaid or ask if they can pay when they show up.  Again this isn’t a problem, you can explain that the session lasts for a certain period of time which is a substantial part of your day and is reserved just for them.  You continue with Your reschuling policies to easy their concerns and they will agree, that is if they are serious about keeping the appointment.  You can’t run a profitable business with potential clients not showing up for their scheduled times, which is why they must prepay for their session and you must be given a notice of cancelation in enough time to reschedule that time for someone else.

These are 4 steps that will take your callers effectively from prospect to client, provided they qualify to be your client in the first place.  We use this four step method in training our staff, because it breaks down the process of booking an appointment into 4 short segments that employees don’t become overwhelmed with.  Sales, whether on the phone or in a viewing appointment is a step by step process, which once the steps become second nature you can lighten up and have some fun with your callers.  When you are at this point you will book the majority of phone calls you take.


~ by jeffsmithbooks on December 7, 2009.

One Response to “The Sales Process Starts When You Pick Up The Phone”

  1. […] sales process actually starts when you answer the phone, which you can read more about in my Post The Sales Process Starts When You Pick Up The Phone, but for the sake of saving time and space we are going to assume you have handled the client well […]

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