Business + Marketing

A Simple Approach for Photographers Who Don’t Like IPS

October 15, 2019

By Sandra Coan

© Sandra Coan

A sample of albums and prints that I offer my clients, made through Miller's Lab.

Early in my career, I believed that in order to be successful, I had to do what everyone else around me was doing. Back then, I would look to my peers for advice or follow trends that seemed to be working for everyone else. As a result, my business was constructed around things I thought I should be doing, not things that I wanted to be doing. And that led to problems, especially when it came to sales.

As a portrait photographer, the industry standard is an in-person sales approach. With in-person sales, people come in for a family photo session, then come back a few weeks later to view their images and order their prints and albums. And while this approach works really well for other photographers, it never really worked for me.

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The problem was, I just didn’t like doing it. Yes, I wanted to provide value for my clients by making sure they received beautiful heirloom products. And yes, I wanted my business to be as profitable as possible. But I didn’t like having to ask my clients to come back into the studio to sit through a sales session. And I didn’t like taking time away from my family to lead a sales session. If I was going to be up at my studio, I wanted to be taking photographs, not sitting through meetings.

After many failed attempts at in-person sales, I decided to come up with my own system, one that met the needs of my clients by giving them the opportunity to invest in products while also making it enjoyable for both of us.

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My Approach

I started by looking at what I know about my ideal clients: My people are busy, working parents. They appreciate quality and do not shy away from investing in products and services they love, but they also want something that is easy and convenient.  

With that in mind, I created a system that met those needs: Instead of offering all the things, I paired my product list down to albums (in three sizes), prints (in three sizes) and digital files (in two sizes).

I then stopped asking my clients to come back in for a separate sales session and started adding the sales session to the end of their shoot. 

This approach is both easy and convenient, which fits the needs of my clients. And it doesn’t require extra time for me, which I love. Just about every single person I work with adds something to their package. Since incorporating this simple approach, my average sale has increased by $1,250 (yes, I did the math). 

How It Works

At the end of a portrait session, I explain to my clients that they do not have to come back to order their products. I tell them that I know how busy they are and that I value their time. I then show them my samples, hand them an order form and ask, “What would you like to add to your session?”

It’s that easy.

That said, whenever I share my approach with other photographers, I get a lot of questions. Here are a few:

Q: Wouldn’t you make more in an in-person sales session because the clients come back specifically ready to open their wallets?
A: I actually make more now with my hybrid approach to sales than I did when I was attempting a strict in-person sales model. My clients always add something to their session. They appreciate the convenience of not having to come back in for another sales session, and so do I! We’re all happier.

Q: What do you sacrifice and what do you gain by adding this at the end of their session, versus hosting a dedicated meeting to sales?
A: What I gain is time. As a busy mom, wife and business owner, my time is a precious commodity. Tacking on a sales session to the end of my portrait shoots gives me time to take on more clients, and more time to spend with my family. What do I sacrifice? I’m not sure. I know some would argue that I’m leaving money on the table, and maybe I am. But I also know that I run a very profitable business. And I make profits while thoroughly enjoying every aspect of what I do. That feels like a win to me!

Q: How much time do you think you’ve saved from not holding meetings? Has that translated into more sessions or money that would have been earned in an in-person sales session anyway?
A: I save hours every week by not holding in-person sales meetings. As I mentioned, this approach to sales allows more time in my week to schedule more clients, which in the end, boosts my profits—especially when I host my mini sessions.

The Takeaway

What I’ve learned from creating a sales system that works for me is that when it comes to running your business, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one person may not work for you, and that’s okay.

When you’re your own boss, you get to write your own job description. So write one that you like! Figure out what works for you and your clients, and do that.

Sandra Coan is an industry educator and award-winning newborn and family photographer specializing in studio portraiture, artificial lighting and fine-art film photography.


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