It’s not easy to be great at communication and negotiation. Often it takes years of practice to get good at the business part of the photography business. Communication feels fake and unnatural. You feel as if you are selling. Yikes. What can you do to get better?Just yesterday I was on the phone with a photographer client in the UK. He wanted to know how to bring the job home. He was uncertain as to how to ask for the close, how to steer the conversation in the right direction, and what do you do when the client wants to know how much it is going to cost them. After I hung up the phone I thought that this is a great idea for a blog post and started writing the seven essential things you need to know about communication and negotiation.
- Get clear about what the objective of your conversation is. What do you want to achieve? Do you want the client to confirm you as the photographer? Or get an idea of their budget? Do you want to walk away with shooting dates? Make sure that you keep going back to your objectives throughout the communication. Ask them point blank. What are good dates for you? I’d like to get this tentatively on the calendar because I tend to get booked up.
- Paint the picture. It is your job to create a visual picture that makes your potential client see what it’s like to shoot with you. Describe in great detail what you would do, the type of models, the location, the colors, etc. The more you can have your clients ‘see’ what you see the more likely you can close the deal. Ask them to add their details to this mental picture.
- Avoid using “F” words like features and facts and instead use “B” words like benefits and bonuses. When buying a Ferrari you don’t want to know about four tires, a steering wheel, and a rust free exterior. You want to know how driving this car makes you feel. You are in the business of selling being better, more attractive, more competitive and cutting edge. Ask what about their objective with this shoot.
- Be your clients buddy. Consider them your friends. You are here to help them to get what they want and help them to find out what they want. You instill confidence that you can and will deliver what they want. Most clients don’t know exactly what they want which is why they come to you. They need your guidance so give it to them. Ask about what they want to achieve? The CEO saying that this is the best shoot he has ever seen, the customer looking successful, happy, or accomplished? Based on what they want you recommend a course of action.
- Ask questions throughout. Avoid monopolizing the conversation. For example, if they ask you what it is going to cost you say, there is a no frills attached way to do it. We can do it inexpensively and get the job done. But, your competition doesn’t do that, they are doing x and x. We can also deck out this job with no expenses spared. Best locations, best models, best props, etc. But realistically it will be somewhere in the middle. What were you thinking? Ask them a lot of detailed questions. When, where, why, who, and what.
- Rehearse. If you are uncertain about your communication or negotiation skills you must practice. Record yourself, practice with your wife, husband, friends, etc. until you feel that you are talking naturally. It takes practice to get good at communicating.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate. If they want you they will find a way to make the numbers work.
Let me know if you have any tricks up your sleeve that you want to share. I’d love to hear how you communicate and what works for you.