Make sure that every image you do show is pleasing to the eye and sellable

Now, set a time for them to come back to view the images and place their order—plus give them whatever paperwork you want to send home with them. Be sure to include a price list, along with a worksheet they can fill out that lists all of the possible gift recipients on one side (Mom, Dad, brother, sister, Grandma, Grandpa, aunts and uncles, boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, special family friends, etc.) and print sizes on the other. This will give them the opportunity to do a little bit of homework before they come back for their ordering session.

Scheduling the Viewing Session. Here's a good rule of thumb: if their session was 3:00pm on a Tuesday, then more than likely 3:00pm next Tuesday will work as well. Never set an appointment for later the same day or even the next day. Let the emotions they are feeling play around for a little bit. Anything good is worth waiting for! On the other hand, if you wait too long, the emotion will start to dissipate. I don't let it drag out much beyond one week.

During the next several days you will have time to edit, do some black & white conversions, tweak out a couple of images if that's what you want to do, and prepare the images for viewing. I suggest you at least do what is called "pretouching" on each image—removing any ob vious eyesore or embarrassing blemish. You don't have to completely retouch each image, but at least make sure that every image you do show is pleasing to the eye and sellable.

Step 4: The Sales and Ordering Session

Designing the Sales Area. There are some basic "must have" elements that go into a productive sales area. Again, it doesn't have to be big and expensive. There are solutions to every problem, and if you want it bad enough, you will find a way to make it work.

1. The feeling of home. The sales area must be tranquil, relaxing, and comfortable.

2. All the trappings. Provide beverages, candles, soft lighting, and homemade cookies or other snacks.

3. Visual enticements. Showcase properly lit prints, storyboards, wall folios, wall portraits, etc. Everything you want to sell (or, more importantly, everything you want your customers to buy) must be in clear sight. I call it the 45 degree "Cone of Money." Your customers should be able to sit in the comfortable chair and see everything you have within 45 degrees of where they sit.

When the Customer Arrives. Whether you call it a sales session, an ordering session, the premiere, the unveiling, or the preview, when your customer arrives, they should be welcomed with the same vigor and enthusiasm that you met them with the first time. Let them spend a couple of minutes relaxing and taking their minds off of their job, or their kids, or the traffic, or anything else that causes them stress in their lives. Your studio should be a safe place for

Prepare to Sell a Wall Portrait

One of the last things you can do is grab a tape measure, either your own or even an inexpensive giveaway, and go up to a blank spot on the wall—preferably right next to a very large wall portrait. Then, say, "Mrs. Jones, do me a favor. When you get home, I want you to measure the spots on the walls where a potential portrait might hang."

As you say those words, pull the tape out as if you were actually measuring the space on your wall. Even if you are a small person, you will be able to pull out at least 20 inches of tape for them to see. It's just another tiny little seed, but it will return very lucrative results. You will never have a person come back and say, "I measured the spot on my wall and I need one of those big 8x10s."

If you want to sell wall portraits, you have to show wall portraits. Photograph by Sarah Petty.

them to relax their mind and body for just a little while. Offer to take their coats, get them a refreshment, and invite them to take a seat in your sales room—which should have soft music playing and the lights dimmed. Usually, the excitement is so thick you can taste it in the air. ("Mrs. Jones I can't wait for you to see your images—they turned out fantastic!")

The Importance of Digital Projection. Even if you are a film shooter, you should still be using digital projection for your sales. For those of you that are still stuck back in the 20th century and are using proofs, I am going to convince you in the next few paragraphs to stop using proofs immediately and convert to a digital projection sys tem. Here are the top reasons why you want to sell via projection.

1. You get quicker cash flow. When your customer places their order, you get usually half (if not all) of the order amount paid up front. With proofs, you may have to wait several weeks, or months before you get your final order and any money. I talk to people all the time who have customers who never come back and order from their proofs.

2. You will get larger orders—guaranteed. You will at least double, if not triple. your order averages by projecting your images. You will sell more wall portraits, sell more multi-pose packages, and allow your customers to have more fun during the process as well.

3. Other people's opinions are kept out of the sale. When your proofs go home with a customer, you are leaving yourself open to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who looks at them to throw in their two cents. Then your customer begins to think about things—and you don't want them thinking, you want them feeling. The only opinions that matter are yours and your customer's.

4. You'll reduce copyright infringement. You won't have to worry about your customers making illegal copies with their $99 scanner. If you send proofs home with customers, you may as well start including a scanner as well—you know that's what they're doing, don't you? By projecting, your customer will only get what they order.

5. You can address any problems immediately. Any problem your customer may find with an image can be overcome immediately during their sales and ordering session. If, on the other hand, they take a set of proofs home with them, those objections will fester and grow to the point where they don't like the image . . . which means they won't like a certain series of poses . . . then that will lead to them not liking any of the images. Sale over. At a projection session, if Mrs. Jones says to you, "I don't like the blemish on my son's forehead, and I don't care for my wrinkles. They make me look old." You can say, "Well, Mrs. Jones, that's the great thing about com ing to a professional photographer. Before we make any prints at all, we make sure that each image is absolutely to your liking. We will make sure the colors are vibrant, we will remove any blemishes, we can even soften some of those character lines that we all seem to get as we get a little older. Basically, before we print anything, each image will be perfect." With those few words, the objection is handled effectively.

6. Only your best work is in the marketplace. The only prints that are made are ones that they enjoy and want to order, which means all of the ones they didn't want (I call those the rejects) will never see the light of day. Let's say you send a set of thirty proofs home with a customer. Realistically, how many of those will they order? Five? Six? Seven? Which means that twenty-three will be rejects. Do you really want to have your customers' rejects out in the marketplace representing your work? I sure hope not!

7. You won't have to chase proofs anymore. No more calling after twenty-one days and saying, "Mrs. Jones, it's been three weeks and you need to come in to place your order, or I'm going to have to charge you for the proofs." Do you think they care? They have already made copies of the ones they like! Having to make a call like certainly doesn't help the emotional sales process, either—in fact, it puts a big kibosh on it.

8. Customers absolutely love it. It's their family, and you make them feel like gold. You give them a wonderful experience. How could they not love it?

9. Your images have more impact. This is the biggest reason that you should project your images: a piece of paper can not evoke the kind of emotion that all of your hard work deserves and demands.

Now, some folks are still out there thinking, "Well that all sounds good, but . . ." I hear all kinds of excuses around the world why photographer feel they can't use digital projection. Here are some of the leaders (and some notes on why they really aren't good excuses at all).

1. I don't like to sell. Well then, then find someone who can or learn how to do it yourself. There are tons of resources out there for you. In fact, you are reading one right now! It's okay if you don't like to sell in the traditional sense, but don't let that keep you from the lifestyle and income you deserve.

2. I use my proofs as advertising. You sure do! And we already know that twenty-three out of thirty proofs are rejects. Why would you want your rejects to do your advertising?

3. I sell my proofs. Yeah right. And how much do you get if you sell them? Is it enough? Do you think you would have larger order averages if you got rid of your paper proofing?

4. I don't have the space. Okay, that's a legitimate concern, but you don't need to have a giant ballroom in order to make an effective sales room. Something as small as a 10x12-foot room will work out just fine. Don't let space stop you from making the switch.

5. I don't have the time. Let me ask you: if you could invest only one more hour with each customer and potentially double, triple, or quadruple your averages, would you be able to find the time? I think so.

6. I'm a wimp. The biggest reason I hear: I'm just a big baby and I don't really have any excuse! When even you yourself realize there's no excuse, it's definitely time to get moving and make the change.

Now, let's get back to the sales and ordering session. Your customer is relaxed, comfortable, and ready to view the images from their sessions.

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