How to Book More Clients at Higher Rates as a Photographer

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One piece of equipment that photographers don’t learn how to use correctly is the telephone. This is where the money is. Learning how to speak to potential clients is crucial to the success of any photography business. Read on for some helpful tips to improve your rapport on the telephone and give your business a boost.

There are two types of phone calls:

“Untitled” by Alexei Jurchenko. (Click image to see more from Alexei Jurchenko.)

1. If you have your prices on your website then you’ll get some prospects interested in hiring you straight away as they feel they have all the information they need. Naturally, you might think this is a good thing – but it’s not. I’ll explain why later.

2. People who are interested in more information.

Let’s look at that first scenario a little closer. Why have they decided they want to hire you? 99 times out of 100 it will be because they like your photos and you’re at a price they’re prepared to pay. Great huh! Or is it? Most photographers have decent photos on their website so in the eyes of the prospect we’re all very similar. They don’t understand the problem with viewing products and packages on a website. One print, album or frame is much the same as another, right? Nope, but our clients don’t understand or appreciate the huge differences at this stage in the buying process.

So, they call you up because you’re one of the cheaper photographers whose work seems ‘good enough’. Great, you now have a long line of people who want a fairly cheap, half decent photographer who don’t particularly understand or appreciate what you do. Is that the niche you want?

You’ll always be struggling to make a decent living, your clients won’t respect you and you’ll be so busy trying to make enough money that you rush people through like they’re on a production line. To keep costs down you’ll have to use poor quality printing and paper which doesn’t do your work justice and that fades in a couple of years. Before long you start thinking that none of this is worth the effort because you feel like a worthless commodity, not the respected artist you always dreamed of being. Not a great result I think you’ll agree.

So, let’s look at scenario two – people calling you for more information. The first question we’re asked is nearly always the price because you’ve been smart enough to not put the price on your website. You’ve not put the price on your website because you’re charging a much more sensible and worthwhile amount. You realise you’re an artist, someone who’s spent years learning their craft and deserves to be paid handsomely for your skill and expertise. You’re going for the high end of the market. This is the right strategy for a photographer who wants to be successful, but it does mean you have to be much better at marketing and much better on the phone.

This article is about how you handle phone calls, improving your marketing is for another day. These are the five best tips for handling phone calls.

“First Came The Kiss” captured by Gagan Dhiman. (Click image to see more from Gagan Dhiman.)

Don’t do it on email!

What I mean by this is that if someone emails you then call them back, if they leave a number. If they don’t leave a number then don’t spend ages crafting an email back. Pre-write several suitable emails for all the usual types of enquiry you get. The task of each of these emails is to get the prospect to call you. Don’t give away prices, even if they ask for them. It’s way too early in the process to start talking about prices. You handle the question of price by saying that you can do a lot better than just sending them a price list. You’d like to get a deeper understanding of what they’re after and that it will be a lot quicker for them to give you a quick call to go through everything. All this is true since it’s hard to quote meaningfully without knowing exactly what they want and before you’ve had a chance to explain everything properly.

Don’t try and get the sale on the phone

The phone call is all about finding out if you’re a good fit for one another. If you are a good fit then your only objective is to arrange a chat to go through things in more detail and to show them some of your products. Many photographers work themselves into a frenzy because they feel they must get the sale over the phone. This turns off the prospect because they sense you’re not focused on what they want, only on what you want – the sale.

“Candace” captured by Rome Wilkerson. (Click image to see more from Rome Wilkerson.)

Ask lots of questions

One of the most crucial elements of the call is building rapport with the prospect. The best way of doing that is by asking lots of questions. This is because it shows you care. When a client has finished explaining one of their requirements or worries you then explain something about your service that addresses their need or concern.

Explain the benefits of meeting up

If you don’t explain why the prospect benefits by meeting you then they’ll either resist it or they’ll just not turn up. If they understand the value of meeting up then they’re much more likely to oblige.

Lead the prospect with confidence

The more confident you sound the more likely the prospect will follow your lead. If you ask them whether they’d like to meet up it sounds like you’re half expecting them to not want to. Instead, simply say “Let’s meet up for a chat, I’ve got next Tuesday at 4pm or this Saturday at 11am.” This sounds much more confident, like you expect them to say yes. Notice that you’re providing two dates; you’re not giving them the option of not bothering.

Don’t be specific on price

The phone call is still too early to get into specific pricing details. Explain that there are lots of options and that they can really invest as much or as little as they like depending on what they choose. Express that it’s best if they see the products first. However, you should always volunteer a ball park figure based on your more economical packages. This will give you and the prospect some frame of reference on price without being too specific. If your low end is way out of their budget then they may not be right for you, although don’t give up straight away.

Be emotional

Investing in photography is a deeply emotional decision, not a logical one. Don’t get caught up in packages and prices and sizes. Ask about their family. Ask them what the most important thing about the photos is. Get them thinking emotionally about what these images will mean to them. This takes practice if you’re not used to speaking like this, but it’s a crucial element in subtly demonstrating the value of your product.

“A Love Story” by Gagan Dhiman. (Click image to see more fromGagan Dhiman.)

Mention your guarantee

People don’t like parting with their money, particularly when they’re not certain what the end product will be like. Explain how much you care about creating something special for them and that if they’re not absolutely delighted then you’ll give them all their money back. It takes all the risk away from them. They start to feel they have nothing to lose.

The phone call is just one part of a much larger system, but it’s a crucial part that most photographers don’t execute well enough.

About the Author:
Dan Waters teaches photographers how to sell portrait and wedding photography and build a successful business. He shares lots of free information that he’s learned from the most renowned marketing and sales professionals like Drayton Bird, Jay Abrahams, Ari Galper, Clayton Makepeace and many others. He then translates their ideas into practical advice for photographers.

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3 Comments

  1. PatG says:

    The photograph of Candace is rather distracting – there seems to be some sort of light or bright leaf coming out of the top of her head? Am I seeing right?

  2. jeanne says:

    My daughter is getting married in a month. And in all our planning we never called a vendor who didn’t give us some idea of pricing online. We wanted to know we could at least afford the vendor if we were going to call or visit them. So all the vendors who didn’t put online pricing were not even considered by us. And to tell you the truth, in this busy time, I would only meet with the person I was actually hiring. I would be annoyed at someone who wanted me to meet with them to get the info. We ran into that in our planning and those vendors were crossed of the list. Maybe we are unusual, but I think you will miss a lot of calls by not including some form of pricing.

  3. Dan Waters says:

    Hi Jeanne,

    I totally understand how you feel, but investing in photography is a bit like investing in a car – you’d never do it without seeing what you were going to get. I give a ballpark figure over the phone so people know whether we’re in the same hemisphere, but there’s no point getting into details about packages because it’s pretty meaningless unless both parties meet face to face. I could describe a car, but it’s not the same as smelling the leather and taking it for a spin. The same goes for a baby sitter. You’d want to meet them before you let them look after your children. Similarly you don’t know if the photographer will be right for you until you’ve met them and seen the whites of their eyes. These days jobs are often not advertised with salaries next to them but lots of people apply because the salary isn’t the whole story. Same thing with photography and the price. Many people will invest much more than they originally planned and will be pleased to do so. This is because once they’ve understood more about what can be done (and perhaps what cheaper photographers aren’t doing) they realise the value in investing a little more. Price out of context is just a meaningless number. I don’t talk to a dentist about costs up front, I want to feel I like and trust them first. I don’t know anything about dentistry, so getting a price without all the other information isn’t much use. Hope that ramble made sense and sorry this is about 3 months late – I’ve now clicked on ‘notify me of followup comments’!

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