Recorded: Welcome to The ReWork with Allison Tyler Jones, a podcast dedicated to inspiring portrait photographers, to uniquely brand, profitably price and confidently sell their best work.
Recorded: Allison has been doing just that for the last 15 years. And she’s proven that it’s possible to create unforgettable art and run a portrait business that supports your family and your dreams. All it takes is a little rework. Episodes will include interviews with experts from in and outside of the photo industry, many workshops and behind the scenes secrets that Allison uses in her portrait studio every single day. She will challenge your thinking and inspire your confidence to create a profitable, sustainable portrait business you love through continually refining and reworking your business. Let’s do the rework.
Allison Tyler Jones: Hi friends, and welcome back to The ReWork. This is episode number two of our sales sabotage series. And we are going to be talking about creating a sales process in your business, specifically about taking more control over the process itself and how to be incredibly clear with your clients in every possible communication on exactly what it is that you’re doing. These two areas will change your business in ways you could never imagine. So let’s get to it.
Allison Tyler Jones: Hi there and welcome to sales sabotage episode number two: process. Once you’ve defined your frequently asked difficult questions and have good answers for those, it’s time to insert them into your sales process. Do you have a defined sales process in your business? It might not be defined, but I promise you have a process. It might not be good, but you have one. That process actually be sabotaging your sales instead of serving you and your client. So I know all about that. There are two areas where I saw exponential improvement in my business, and that was when I focused more on control, controlling what I expressed to my clients, how it was going to work, taking control or responsibility and clarity. So control equals responsibility. When I took on the role of the expert and became a trusted guide for my clients, it changed everything. Even when you think you’re taking control, things can get away from you.
Allison Tyler Jones: I’ve done in-person sales from the very beginning of my business for 16, almost 17 years. I would do a consultation, talk to the client about what we were doing, I would photograph the session and the client would come into view. And it would go something like this. “I just can’t decide. Can you put up an online gallery so we can have time to look things over?” And I found myself backpedaling and thinking, well, the customer’s always right. You’ve got to do what they want. I don’t want to be pushy because then they’re going to tell other friends that we made them buy photos. And this eventually morphed into that I was putting up online galleries for some of my clients. And what happened is then they became used to that and I just trained them to want an online gallery. So when we would set up the appointment for them to come and look at the images, and they would look at them, enjoy it and say, “Okay, well, can you just put up the gallery and I’ll decide later?” So why did I do that?
Allison Tyler Jones: Well, you know, it was 2005, 6, and I thought this is going to be great. It’s going to take less time. It’s the latest technology. All I have to do is shoot the session and put it up online. And the big sales would just roll in. But any of you who have done this know that it actually took more time. Because even if you put a rule around that, I’m going to put the galleries up, it’s going to be up for a certain period time. They don’t have time to look at it, and then they’re calling, emailing and saying, “Can you please repost them? I promise my husband’s been traveling. We’ll get to it this weekend,” and having to repost the galleries again and again. Or just tons of back and forth with the clients. And they’re mad if we take the gallery down and enforce our rules. Ultimately when left with too many decisions, they made no decisions. It’s kind of like buying a dress and leaving the tags on for the event and returning it afterwards.
Allison Tyler Jones: With an online gallery, they only bought what they absolutely felt like they couldn’t live without. So it really made it not special for them. Think about that buying process. Rather than having the expert, the person that made the dress for them in the fitting room with them, fitting it to their body, showing them how great that it’s going to look and helping them imagine what they’re going to look like at their daughter’s wedding in that dress, they are looking at it online, trying to imagine how it’s going to look on them. And then when the cart gets filled up and there’s a total at the end of it, they’re like, ooh, I don’t like that. So then they think, well, how can I make it cheaper? How can I get a different dress? It’s just bad all the way around.
Allison Tyler Jones: So it’s bad for us because we’re not getting sustainable profitable sales for our business. It’s bad for our clients because they don’t have the support to make their decision. And ultimately they don’t really have the photos. All the work that the client put into that session, getting the clothing, the hair, dad off work, kids out of school was really for nothing because I wouldn’t take control and do my job. The client really was actually frustrated with me because it was an incomplete process. They might not think that they needed me to take more control, but that really is what they needed. It was bad for me because I didn’t get the sale. I have an unhappy client. It puts me in an adversarial position with my clients, shutting down their galleries if they don’t order. And I’m basically just letting fear determine my sales process.
Allison Tyler Jones: So my realization during this time was that people actually want to be sold. They might not say it in that way, but they want a solution. They have come to us saying, I want portraits of my family and that’s what we’re doing. I didn’t pull them off the street at gunpoint and tell them, you have to have family pictures. They came to me. But I realized very soon that I didn’t want to just be an order taker off of an online gallery or leave that process up to them. I wanted to collaborate with them on selecting art pieces for their home and brainstorming where those would go and showing them how that would happen.
Allison Tyler Jones: So the breaking point came when I did this huge extended family portrait. There was hours of clothing selection, shooting it, editing. And in the end they didn’t order anything because I had put it up online and everybody was arguing over which was the best one. And it just fell apart and they never ordered. And that was devastating to me because I had worked so hard to make that process great for them, that we had beautiful images, but it just fell apart. So once that happened, I thought, okay, this can never happen again. So overnight I decided I am never doing an online gallery ever for any reason. And so how I changed it was I started saying things like, I found that I wasn’t servicing my clients to the best of my ability by doing it that way. So these were for people that had had the galleries in the past. Luckily I didn’t do it for everybody. I did it just for a few, but when I had to make the change, they weren’t too happy about it because they kind of thought that it was easier.
Allison Tyler Jones: So then I just explained, “Look, you are so busy. You don’t need one more thing on your plate.” You’re left alone to decide, it’s like going for an x-ray and the doctor emails your x-ray and tells you to figure out what’s wrong and what course of treatment you need. There’s just too much at stake. You went to so much effort to select the clothes and you’re probably broken to tears at some point during the process. And we find that our clients have a much better result when we collaborate on the art selection together. It helps them to avoid the mistake of having images that are too small or not sized right for the walls that they’re put on. And they just prefer us to handle it, and help them, and guide them a little bit more. It takes way less time. We’ve found this to be the best way to make sure you’re thrilled with your portraits.
Allison Tyler Jones: So basically, we’re not asking, we’re just saying this is how we’re doing it now. We’ve changed the way that we’re working. We found that we weren’t serving our clients to the best of our ability, and this is how we’re going to do it now. And I find those two sentences are very powerful for any change I’m making in my business. Because they don’t care about the change that we’re making from our standpoint. Like they don’t care that we’re not making money on it, or that it’s not sustainable, or that we went through all the work for nothing. They really don’t care. But you have to put it in terms of how it is going to benefit them and how it’s better for my client to not have online galleries is they have a complete high end experience from beginning to end. I’m not expecting them to do my job. They get more than what they came for. And how it’s better for me is that I’m in control of the process instead of waiting and hoping or nagging, taking down galleries, republishing them, nagging, sending another reminder email, hoping that they’ll eventually order.
Allison Tyler Jones: The sales are wrapped up in the view and order session, like it’s done. By the time they leave the studio, after they view those images, the order is finalized and the sales averages are exponentially higher because we’re creating it when they’re seeing the images for the first time, we’re excited about it, and they can really see the vision of what’s going to be best in their home rather than letting it bleed off, coming back to that gallery again and again. And every time they look at it, they’re thinking, well, I don’t know that I really need that one. And they’re looking at little thumbnails on a tiny screen. They don’t realize how great it can possibly be.
Allison Tyler Jones: Are you sabotaging your sales and you don’t even know it? How are you supposed to know if you are? Well, we have created a sales sabotage evaluation tool, and it’s available to you free on a website at dotherework.com. Go to that website, download this tool and see if you’re making one of the seven deadly sales sabotage mistakes that might be just screwing it up for you. And you’ll be able to see how you can quickly flip the script, get out of your own way. It’s free. Go get it now, dotherework.com and look for the sales sabotage evaluation tool.
Allison Tyler Jones: Another way to create the process. So that was taking control. Now let’s talk about clarity, being very, very clear about what it is that you’re going to do. So like many photographers, I wasn’t being super clear about what I was in the business of doing. I had a website like every other photographer, pretty pictures, galleries, that sort of thing, little blog that I never wrote on or updated. That’s what everybody was doing. So I didn’t realize I wasn’t being clear, but what was happening is I was still getting so many calls asking for digital files, if I sold digital files. And I was being unclear because I had a website with pretty pictures and my consultation with the client. I was doing consultations, but all we were talking about was how to make pretty pictures. So I thought I was doing the right thing by allowing the clients to do what they want to serve them in the way they wanted to be served. I thought, or I hoped that they would just fall in love with everything and want to buy everything if I can just create beautiful enough images.
Allison Tyler Jones: So I wasn’t talking about what we were going to do with those images once we’d made them, I was just talking about creating those pretty images. And then that’s the same thing I was showing. So how that sabotaged my sales is there was a disconnect between the way I wanted to work and the way that I envisioned my sales going and what the client expected. Because there wasn’t a clear plan about what it is that I was selling. They walked in, the client walked in with incorrect expectations. I was thinking this, they were thinking that. They might actually fall in love with everything, but then it backfired because they weren’t planning on spending that much money. And then it stalled the process, they needed to walk away and think about it, or go measure, or go talk to their neighbor, or their cleaning lady or whoever, or they’d walk in, see everything, want it all, and then feel manipulated because it was more than what they thought. So all of those things became no win situations.
Allison Tyler Jones: So my breaking point came in Christmas season, 2013, still getting so many calls for digital files and too many sales sessions that were stalling out with, I need to think about it. So I realized that even though I didn’t know what it was that I was doing wrong, I couldn’t really identify it. But what was bad is that my clients were left to make assumptions about what was available to them or how much things were costing, because I wasn’t quoting the pricing. They had no guidance about what it is that they were doing. So the realization is that I hate spending all this time conceptualizing amazing images, consulting with the client, shooting the images, and then have the client freak out in the sales room because they didn’t know what things cost or couldn’t decide what they wanted to do. So obviously my message was not clear. So how did I change it?
Allison Tyler Jones: I kept just thinking, okay, how can I be as clear as humanly possible about what I do? So I changed my home slideshow on my website from just pretty picture, pretty picture, pretty picture in a slide show to a pretty picture. And then the next slide was that pretty picture in an interior. The next one would be a pretty picture. The next slide was that pretty picture in an album. So I was going from pretty picture to the application of how that pretty picture was used. And then the biggest change was how I was conducting my client consultations with just one little tweak, one little question that I interjected into our discussion about wardrobe and concepts, the how. I started to ask, what are we doing with that image? Because up until this point, all we’d been talking about is the how. How I’m going to light it, how we’re going to shoot it. What are we going to wear? All of those things like how the image is going to be created, how it’s going to look.
Allison Tyler Jones: But I started to ask, okay, as we’re brainstorming all of these concepts, dad with the girls, mom with the boys, the kids running away, kids running toward the camera, jumping, whatever. I would say, “Okay. So are we going to do with that image?” Or I might say, “Where’s that going to live?” And of course, you know what the client would say. “I don’t know. I just know I want the image.” Okay. If there’s no place for that image to live, there’s no reason to shoot it. Okay. So I would just say, “Okay, let’s think about it.” Most clients, they want the family portrait, the main family image. That is usually going into the most important place. And then the kids together. And then if you’re doing smaller breakout images, those might go into a gallery or into an album depending.
Allison Tyler Jones: Another thing they might say is, “Well, can’t we just shoot everything and then I’ll look at it, and then when I see it at the end, I can pick which one I like?” But that’s really not the best way to do it because you only have so much good energy in a session. And so you and I both know, like you’ve got to keep the energy going for a while to get the stuff that you need, but you don’t want to shoot all of that imagery if there’s not a place for it to go. So I’m being crystal clear to them that every image we are creating needs to have a place to live, whether it’s on the wall or in an album. So that way they’re leaving the consultation, knowing 80 to 90% of what they’re going to buy. And the sales presentation after we photograph the session is just populating that order.
Allison Tyler Jones: So this was better for me because there were no big shocks in the sales appointment. And no like, oh wow, I have to decide now. We already talked about that in the consultation. I’m letting them know that I’m going to have your walls laid out. You’ll be able to select the images. And so let’s figure out now before the shoot exactly what it is that we’re shooting for. So if we need something for over the fireplace, down the hallway, that’s what it is that we’re creating. And then it also got away from, I had no idea it was going to be so expensive because we’re quoting them those prices in the consultation. So that became my goal is to just be more and more and more and more clear all the time about what it is that I do and that I’m getting that message out there even before they call me. When they look at my website, when they’re looking at my Instagram feed, that I’m showing finished product, finished product, finished product.
Allison Tyler Jones: Now, if you look at my Instagram feed, you’ll see the feed itself has pretty pictures, but my stories will have installations. And then I’ll pin those to my highlights so that they can see, oh, this is what installations ATJ [inaudible 00:16:40]. I get it. So they get the idea of that is what we are doing. When you are marketing and you’re branding yourself, that marketing and branding will cast a wider net than the people that can afford you. So if you’re marketing is too general, it’s like everybody else’s. You’re going to spend most of your time trying to qualify people instead of letting your marketing actually qualify them for you. So your sales process should … So once your marketing has attracted someone, the best thing is that if your marketing is very, very clear that you’re specializing in finished product, then it makes it so much easier, the people that call you are generally way more qualified.
Allison Tyler Jones: And then once you start having, you institute a sales process, an effective sales process in your business, it should one, weed out the non-qualified with clarity. Because you’re very, very quickly letting them know this is what we do and this is what we don’t. Two, it will educate the uninitiated so it will let them know this is how we do it, these are the rules of engagement and set you up as the expert, the trusted advisor. Three, it’s going to guide ideal clients along the path to a great outcome. And then four, it’s just you’re saying those same words over and over and over. And if you’ve been listening to this podcast all the way through, and you’ve listened to all the episodes or even most of them, you’ve heard many of these words that I’m saying again and again and again and again. And the reason why is because we say them again and again and again. Like when people call our studio, these are the words that we are using.
Allison Tyler Jones: So in our world, that message is we are creating art that happens to be your family for your home. And then that process runs them through our business in the most clear, efficient way possible. But also giving them an amazing experience. And then they end up with gorgeous art for their home and we end up with a profitable, sustainable business. So control, taking control, and clarity are the words that we’re looking at. So we need to clearly, clearly send the message. So when a sales appointment doesn’t go the way you want it to, or you thought it would. Instead of just getting mad or feeling like a failure, evaluate, ask yourself the question. This is the question that you need to be asking yourself rather than, okay, why was that client a jerk? Or why were they so price sensitive? Or they were just cheap or whatever, or they didn’t like me or my work isn’t good enough or they would’ve bought it. There’s all kinds of ways that you can spin into crazy on that.
Allison Tyler Jones: But instead of that, just stop yourself and say, okay, where was I unclear? At what point did they think whatever it is, absurd request, did they think that was okay? Or at what point did I not clarify what type of business I’m running, what it is that’s expected, how it is that we work and what it is that we’re working toward? So my sales process starts with every single thing that I put out there, whether it’s an Instagram post, a marketing effort, a silent auction, my branding, my website, the first call and the language that we’re using, wording and language consistent across everything with one goal. And that is to achieve clarity. Because when your message is clear, you are going to attract the right people, the people that want what it is that you actually do.
Allison Tyler Jones: So we’re not saying attract the right people, meaning only the [inaudible 00:20:07] people. We’re just attracting the people that want art for their home and my style. We’re going to repel the wrong people. And so the first step in your sales process is going to be weeding people out that don’t want what it is that you do. So we don’t have to get mad and we don’t have to feel bad about it. And they actually, if you do it right, they will not go away mad. They will go away thinking that is really cool. I had no idea that that even existed. I didn’t need wall art right now. I just needed some cute pics for Facebook or my Instagram feed. But man, when I go to put something on my wall, I know who to call. So that’s what you want. That’s what clarity will do for you.
Allison Tyler Jones: I’m going to quote Tim Walden again. “It’s more important for them to understand what we do than for them to like what we do.” And I think many times we get way too caught up in wanting to be liked. So go away and change one thing. Do you need to take more control or do you need to be clearer and have more clarity about something in your business? What area of your sales process will you go deeper on or fix this year? So we’ve already in the first episode, we’ve learned how to predict the annoying questions and we have those answers, and now we’re going to take those answers and we’re baking them into our process. We’re going to take control, we’re leaving nothing chance, and we are going to be crystal, crystal clear about what it is that we’re doing in every conversation, in every single post that we’re putting out there.
Allison Tyler Jones: We’re going to take things off of our website that we don’t do or don’t want to do anymore. We’re going to read the wording, everything, just look at it with such a critical eye. Is this clear? Every email that you’re sending to a client or text as you dash something off, is it clear what it is that I’m saying here? Can there be no doubt about my message? When someone buys a huge wall portrait or a gallery, it’s not because they came in asking for it. It’s because that’s what I showed them. And that is what my process is set up to sell. That is how I believe my work should be presented and everything that I create that I put out into the world, every message is clear with that in mind.
Allison Tyler Jones: So that is our process episode, and we are headed into episode number three of our sales sabotage series will be all about answering questions and talking about the product itself. Prints, art, albums, all sorts of things. So take a minute after you’ve turned this podcast off and think about where are you abdicating control or responsibility in your business and where can you be more clear? So just make two columns on a piece of paper: clarity and control. Where are you going to take more control? Where have things been slipping through the cracks? And how can you be more and more clear about what it is that you do? I’m excited for you to do this because these two things are going to change your business in ways that you could not even imagine. Have a great week and we’ll see you next week, same time, same place.
Allison Tyler Jones: Do you know someone who would really benefit from this episode of The ReWork? Maybe a fellow photographer who’s in the trenches with you and always looking to level up their biz, or perhaps you have a friend who is struggling to make their business work? I would be so grateful if you would share this episode with them. All you have to do is head to the platform where you are listening, click the share icon and text it or email it to the person that you think could need it most. Thank you so much for doing that. And while you’re there, if you have a chance and can give us a review, it would mean the world. We are a micro, tiny podcast, and we’re trying to get the word out to as many portrait photographers as possible to help them build better businesses and better lives for their family. And if you would help us do that, it would mean the world. Thank you so much. And we’ll see it next time on The ReWork.
Recorded: You can find more great resources from Allison at dotherework.com and on Instagram at do.the.rework.