The greater the benefits the more they are motivated to buy and the more they will buy

He wanted those portraits so much, they offered such a significant benefit to him, that he was willing to part with the most cherished thing in his life. Money wasn't the issue, but the value of his portraits was. (Of course, if he'd come in and told me that, I probably would have let him take his order home for Christmas, then pay for it over time—but he beat me to the punch.)

An Emotional Process

Another important lesson you can learn from the previous story is this: In photography, the benefits are mainly emotional. The sale is emotionally driven, then justified logically. Believe it or not, though, the emotional benefits are what motivates most purchases (outside of necessities, like food).

Think back to the most recent big-ticket item you purchased for your family—whether it was a car, a new plasma TV, a boat, or something else that required some serious thought before making the decision to purchase it.

• Why did you make the purchase?

• What were you thinking before you made the purchase?

• What were you thinking about during the purchase?

• What was the deciding factor?

• How did it differ from your original concept?

• How did you feel after the purchase?

pull yourselves together.

pull yourselves together.

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This promotional piece from Sarah Petty Photography play to the reader's emotions, selling portrait photography as a way of increasing and celebrating family unity.

• What type of follow-up did you receive?

• What was your budget for this purchase beforehand?

• How much did you actually spend on the purchase?

• Did you end up buying additional features that you didn't figure on before making the initial decision?

• How did you feel once it was completed? Did you have feelings of guilt, or did you justify in your head all the reasons why it was okay to spend what you did?

If you are like most people, quality and price won't be listed among your top motivators. People don't buy for quality or price, they buy for benefits. They may make a purchase to gain the benefits of high quality (a luxury car may be more reliable and impress your friends), but once there are enough benefits established, price becomes secondary. People who are motivated enough (i.e., people who see sufficient benefits) will buy just about anything in this world. If you can keep that in the front of your mind as you spend some time immersed in the sales thought process, you will be miles ahead of the game.

Here's the trick, though: benefits are extremely personal and vary from customer to customer. That's where the job of a salesperson comes into play.

Start with the Right Atmosphere

There is a subtle difference the successful and the unsuccessful salesperson. The unsuccessful salesperson attempts to sell whatever it is they have. The successful salesperson creates an atmosphere that makes the customer want to buy whatever it is they have.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant with high expectations, only to have them crushed as soon as you walked in the door? If so, you probably didn't spend as much as you might have—you skipped dessert or didn't order the wine. Conversely, have you wandered into a restaurant without any particular expectations and walked away with a tremendous experience? Some of my most expensive dinners have been at places where I was pleasantly surprised by the tantalizing appetizers, delicious meals and desserts, an extensive wine list, relaxing ambience, and service that was second to none. At that point, it doesn't really matter what the price is, does it? The experience and the emotion become much more powerful than the price of a bottle of wine.

Remember this: People don't like to be sold to, but they love to buy! I don't know about you, but when I get in the car and head down to the local store to make some sort of purchase, I have an exciting feeling of exuberance and anticipation. Whether it's a new car, a pair of pants, or maybe just the makings for one of your world-famous barbecues, you probably have a little fun shopping for it, right? Often, we also spend more than we anticipated before we left home don't we? Why? Because something in the way the products were packaged, or displayed, or designed made us want to buy them—made us feel the benefit of owning them.

Why Should Customers Choose You?

Before we go any further, let's take a inventory of your sales tools and see where you currently are with your understanding of the sales process. To start, I want to ask you a very important question—and it's probably the most important question you can ever ask yourself about your business:

Why you?

The answer is not allowed to be, "Well, because I create beautiful images for my customers that they can enjoy for generations to come. I know how to pose them, I know how to light them, and I know how to take blemishes off their faces." That's not what we are looking for. Instead, we want to think about specific reasons a prospective customer would choose you to be their photographer instead of any other photographer in your market. Why do your customers buy from you? Why are you better than your competitors? What strengths and weaknesses do you have? What strengths and weaknesses do your competitors have? How is your business viewed in the eyes of your competitors?

Keep in mind, it's not enough to list why you are as good as your competitors, you must know why you are better. If you have to stumble around to come up with that answer, your customers or prospective client will interpret that as insecurity and doubt. In today's' fiercely compet itive marketplace there has to be something besides the quality of your work that gives people a compelling reason to spend their dough with you.

I want you to be specific with this exercise. Take just a couple of minutes right now and scratch out some thoughts on paper—and, remember, the reasons should not be tied to your creative skills or your technical expertise as a professional photographer. Dig deeper and come up with at least three reasons why people should spend a portion of their expendable income with you.

Here are the beginnings of a few sentences that may give you some direction for this exercise:

My prints are more expensive because . . .

We can offer better prices than our competitor because . . .

Okay kids, how did you do? You may have been able to write down ten reasons why someone should choose you, which is great. Or you may have sat there for most of the time thinking intently and coming up with next to nothing. Either way, that's okay. We will get you there—even-tually!

This question—why you?—must be answered before you will be ready to become a powerhouse sales dynamo in your business. Over the next couple of days, give it some more thought.

The Power Selling Self Test

While you are sitting their with a pen and paper, this would be a great time to dive into our next exercise, which is the Power Selling Self Test. For each of these questions,

Keep It Light

If everything you have to say is always stuffy and professional, you are likely to lose to someone whose talk is professional and friendly—with a touch of funny. Friendly and funny are a million times more engaging than professional. Laughter is universal across all social economic boundaries, across nations, and in all types of industries. If you don't consider yourself someone with a sense of humor, study it, read about it, and most importantly, lighten up! Life is good, and so is having a sense of humor!

Keeping an up-to-date blog can help all your clients feel like insiders. They'll enjoy checking in to see your latest sessions—and be more likely to book one of their own. Promoting your blog with a great-looking card, like this one from Sarah Petty Photography, can get the traffic moving on your site.

Keeping an up-to-date blog can help all your clients feel like insiders. They'll enjoy checking in to see your latest sessions—and be more likely to book one of their own. Promoting your blog with a great-looking card, like this one from Sarah Petty Photography, can get the traffic moving on your site.

I want you to grade yourself on a scale of one to ten, with one being the lowest and ten being the highest. There is no pass of fail for this test, and you will not be graded. It is simply information, and the more useful information you can have about yourself and your business, the more prepared you will be to tackle the challenges and obstacles that appear along the road to sales success. Here we go!

1. Do you have a comprehensive sales strategy for your studio—beginning with the first phone call and ending when the portraits are delivered? If so, what is it?

2. Do you feel you are maximizing each and every order that you write as far as the dollar amount?

3. What are your averages for weddings, families, children, seniors, etc.?

4. How do you feel about your sales skills on the telephone? Can you answer their questions effectively, overcome their objections, build a bond be tween you and the prospective customer, then get them to commit to an appointment time to come in and meet with you?

5. Do you have incentives built in to your price list that encourage your customers to invest more on their portraits? Have you reviewed them lately?

6. Do you have confidence in your price list, and do you communicate that confidence to your prospective and current customers? How?

7. Are you able to overcome objections easily and effectively? What words do you use?

8. Do you have a system for follow-up after your customers have received their portrait order? What is it?

9. Do you have a referral program in place that motivates your customers to send you new business during the year? What is your program?

10. Do you offer incentive-driven packages in your price list that act as a silent salesperson? What are your incentives?

Let's switch gears just a little bit and think about the following statements. These can all be answered with a simple yes or no.

• I feel good about myself and feel confident about my sales skills.

• I usually say the right thing at the right time.

• People seek out my company.

• I don't seem to get too discouraged, even if I fail repeatedly.

• I am an excellent listener.

• I can read people's body language with ease.

• I can see many ways to define a problem and understand its causes.

• I am skilled at drawing out other people's concerns and problems.

• I manage my time so well that I am able to accomplish everything that is important in a typical work day.

• I focus on the big picture goals for my business rather than always reacting to whatever the "crisis of the day" is.

• I keep looking for ways to be more efficient and productive.

• I don't care how long it takes to succeed at a task, because I know I'll succeed in the end.

And we are done. How did you do? This was only an exercise, but I do encourage you to take some time and expand on the answers that you came up with . . . especially when you note areas where you can make improvements. Even if you aren't a born salesperson—even if you sometimes feel like you were born to fail—if you can learn the basic principles of successful selling techniques, you can become a superstar salesperson.

The Secret is You

There is no quick fix or magic wand I can wave, no potion I can give you to create the success you are dreaming of in your life and in your business.

There is, however, a secret formula, which I am about to give you. Grab a pen and get ready for me to rock your world. Are you ready? Come a little closer . . . closer . . . Okay. Here it is: there isn't any secret. There's just you—

and that's exactly what successful salespeople are really selling.

Here is what the best salespeople sell—in order of importance:

1. Themselves

2. Their company

3. Their products and services

4. Their price

Average salespeople do things the opposite way:

1. Their price

2. Their products and services

3. Their company

4. Themselves

When it comes down to it, customers buy you first—way before they can buy your company or your product. If they like brand "you"—if they respect you, trust you, and enjoy interacting with you—then they will probably buy whatever you want to sell them.

Shared Traits

All successful salespeople have several traits in common. If these descriptions sound like you, great. If not, there may be areas where you can focus on strengthening your skills and boosting your confidence. The best salespeople:

1. Associate with other positive, encouraging, and successful people. They stay away from people who bring them down or constantly complain—people

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