Be true to yourself and you will find that likeminded people will flock to you

The Walk-Around. Once your customer is comfortable, they will automatically do what I call the walk-around, meaning that they will gravitate towards the imagery you have around the room. They will look intently at wall portraits, browse through albums, sit in your chairs, and basically absorb everything that you have to offer.

Let them know that if they have any questions at all, you will be more than happy to assist them. You want them to feel like they are in their own home. This will relax their bodies and their minds, which will help you throughout the remainder of the selling process.

The Planning Session. Next, it's time for the sit-down—or what I like to call the "Planting The Seeds of Money" chat. Basically, this is a planning session. If your customer has specific ideas about poses, clothing, style, mood, etc., this is their opportunity to tell about their vision. It's also a chance for you to get to know them a little better. Many times, the conversation may end up being about where they went on their family vacation, or how their team did over the weekend, or what the kids did last summer. Wherever it leads, just be willing to go with the flow—it's part of the relationship building that will make a huge difference in the long run.

The planning session is also an opportunity for you to continue to "plant money seeds" by talking about the

People are more inclined to buy things they can see and touch. So if you want to sell albums, make sure you have a selection of them displayed attractively. Photograph by Christa Hoffarth.

things they can see around the room. Anything that you want to sell should be on display in your showroom—and nothing smaller than a 16x20-inch print should be visible. If they want to see what one of those big ol' 8x10s looks like, you can direct them to an album. People are more inclined to purchase items that they can see and touch than products that they are only told about. So make sure you display the products and sizes that you want to sell. Wall collections, digital composites, wall folios, family lifestyle albums—whatever products generate good profits for you and give them a memory they can cherish.

This is a great time to begin fishing for what types of products your customer might be thinking about— allowing you to add some water to the money-seeds that have been planted. To take this metaphor a little farther, it's almost as if you are a gardener—fertilizing the ground, planting seeds, watering those seeds, making sure there aren't any weeds growing anywhere. Ultimately, it means that you are maintaining control of the entire process, even though your customer really doesn't notice anything.

Obviously, nothing has to be decided at this point in the process, but you want to at least get them thinking about all the different options that are available to them. If they want to talk about budget, that's okay—just make sure that you maintain that high level of excitement during this step. Talk about what you plan to do during the session, what combinations you would like try, and what look you feel would be great in black & white, and how great their clothing choices are—get them ecstatic about what is going to happen—and of course, let them know that the session won't really hurt too much; the bruises should heal in a couple of weeks!

The Session. During the session, there are even more opportunities to plant some seeds. Whether you are photographing a family, a senior, a child, or an engagement session you can easily keep the buying engine revved up by making a couple of simple statements during the session:

Mrs. Jones, this is absolutely stunning, I can't wait to see this image big on the wall!

Mrs. Jones, this image is so wonderful that I may even consider using it as one of the large prints in my gallery.

These simple statements yield powerful results. Of course, they aren't going to come out and immediately say, "Yes, I agree, let's just go ahead and order up one of your 30x40 canvas prints," but it will get them thinking big.

You can even take it as far as this, "Mrs. Jones, come here. I want you to see this! Then have her look through the viewfinder on your camera. This may sound a little unnerving to you, but when Mrs. Jones looks through that viewfinder, she is seeing the results of all your experience, your understanding of lighting control, and posing, and composition, and background, and mood, and color harmony. This is not some simple snapshot that Uncle Bob took in the backyard, this is a very special image that you have created just for them. I absolutely guarantee you will get tears. You will get a few, "Oh my word, my little baby is growing up." And you also will get a couple, "That is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen." Emotion, emotion, emotion.

The Wrap-Up. The session is now done and everybody gathers all their stuff. Then it's time for the wrap-up. At this point, it's advisable that you sit back down at the table so you can have a short chat about how the session went and how they are feeling. If you are doing your job correctly, they should be so excited that they are nearly jumping out of their skins.

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