Sunday, February 22, 2009

Be Prepared When the Telephone Rings

How you answer the telephone may be the single most important factor in successfully booking sessions in your studio. You need to realize the phone ringing is not an interruption in your day. Instead understand it is your lifeline. When the phone rings it is an opportunity for your business. So, take a deep breath, relax and answer the phone pleasantly.

How do you react to that inevitable question, “How much is an 8x10?” Your response can make the difference between booking a session or hearing an immediate “thank you” and click of the receiver in your ear. People ask this question because they do not know what they really need to ask. It becomes your responsibility to lead the conversation to booking the session.

One of the most effective ways to deal with phone requests for information about your services is to answer a question with a question.

By using this method you will begin to get to know your client. Be enthusiastic. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm. If you are excited about making the customers portrait, they will become excited about having you do it for them.

It’s important to get the name and phone number of the person calling. Get this information early in the conversation. This way you will be able to call them by name. And more importantly, you will be able to follow up on the lead later.

A good method for tracking this information is the use of a pre-portrait questionnaire. This type of form allows you to record the needed information and assures that you don’t leave anything out. (Please contact us if you would like a sample.)

Show genuine interest in their portrait. Ask who will be photographed and where they would like to have them made. Do they want to come to the studio or would they prefer the comfort of their own home. You may also want to suggest an alternative location. Many people have probably not even considered the possibility of having their portrait done somewhere other than the studio. This gives you the opportunity to point out the advantages especially if it is children or a family that you will be photographing. People are generally more comfortable in an environment they are familiar with.

Ask if they are considering a formal or casual portrait. This will have some bearing on location and background selection.

Find out when they would like to have the portrait made. Is this being done as a gift or for a special occasion? You will want to be sure that you can produce the final images in the time frame they need.

This might be as much information as you will be able to get from the first phone conversation. Be honest with the client. By taking this approach you have taken the emphasis off of price and put it on creating something of lasting value. At some point you will need to discuss price. Now it is a secondary consideration and may not be nearly as important to them.

A clothing consultation is essential. There are a number of issues you will want to discuss at this time. You will want to coordinate clothing and props with the type of portrait being done. Nothing is worse than to photograph a family group where half the family is formally attired and half is in casual clothing. Find out if there are any special hobbies that can be included in the portrait session. This helps personalize the portrait. When this is done the subject(s) will be more inclined to buy more and larger portraits.

When planning a group portrait you will want to discuss coordinating colors. Be sure that subjects are in the same color tones and keys. Avoid loud patterns etc… You need to discuss this with the client. They will not necessarily know to do this. Poor clothing selections can kill additional sales because the images will not be visually appealing. You may want to have the subjects come in to the studio prior to the session to discuss clothing and show you what they plan to wear. It will be much easier to make these decisions early instead of the day of the session.

Find out the last time they had a portrait made, where they were photographed if it was not by you. This allows you to learn more about their experiences and expectations in having a portrait made.

Discover where the portrait is to be displayed. This will have some bearing on the type of photography you may want to do. It is also a good time to plant the seeds for wall portraits. Most people have not considered where they will place the portrait. By discussing these options they begin thinking in terms of a wall portrait.

Find out who the portrait is for. This will help in the selection of backgrounds, props and mood of the portrait.

Good preparation is essential to successful portrait sessions. Communication on the key items outlined here can help make the session work more smoothly and improve the final results of the portrait.

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