Thursday, August 28, 2008

[B]Business Day Thursday: Secrets To Salesroom Success - Part 1

Good afternoon everybody,
Boy, I hope you got a chance to here my conversation with Master Photographer, Frank Cricchio yesterday. Frank is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. His insights and reflections on this wonderful profession of ours is an eye opening peek into the history of our craft. Thanks again Frank.

On with Business Day Thursday....
What kind of operation do you run? Does your business plan include a full time store front studio? Or a nicely appointed residential studio? Or a the dining room/spare bedroom/office (or any other room for that matter) somewhere in your home? The fact of the matter is that it really doesn't matter much as long as the client has a nice customer experience. Previously in a blog, I posted an article entitled, "20 Pointers For Running Your Business Out Of Your Home - What You Need To Know." But today, let's discuss what I call the "Salesflow Process" in your studio set up.

A good customer experience is more than just having pretty pictures on display, although that surely is part of the customer experience. But today let's discuss the client's sales experience as it pertains to your operation.

First of all, let's remember, "Selling is not a dirty word. Selling is simply finding out what the client wants and then helping them get it and having them be thrilled with the result." Selling takes patience, honesty, trust, and practice.

Having the "proper tools" for the process is a good idea, too. Those "tools" include studio (sales room) layout, software to assist in enhancing the client experience in the selection process, and a diversified set of products that are exciting to your client. We have also discussed that in the post, "24 More Ways To Add To Your Bottom Line."

But let's get back to your sales/presentation room. In my case it's a nicely appointed room in my residential studio dedicated solely to that client experience. Please watch the video - it walks you completely through my sales room.

I use certain pieces of software and hardware to do just that. Up to just recently, my software of choice was ProShots, but Kodak no longer supports the product so it was time for me to move on. My current software of choice are Lightroom and ProSelect. Neither is perfect, but I am making them work.

Here is what I like about Lightroom.
1. I can move through the images quickly with the clients and note their favorites with the ratings method - first pass; 1-star, fine tune selection; 2-stars, final album choices; 3-stars. This works pretty well except when there are several clients in my studio at one sitting. I simply run out of stars to keep track of which image was selected by which person. With this exception, it still works 95% of the time.
2. I really like the "second monitor" feature of Lightroom 2.0. I can do the "mousing" on my computer while the client only sees the image projected - see video.
3. I love the fact that I easily show the client how an image looks with a certain crop. They instantly see the improvement and that certainly helps with their decision making process.
4. I love the Presets so I can easy show them variations on any image - again, it helps in the client's decision making process.
5. I like Lightroom's easy ability to print out the client selections from it's print module. It helps us keep track of who ordered what and is essential to our smooth workflow.

What I don't like about Lightroom as a sales tool:
1. I wish I could show a slide show on the second monitor. Even when I use mirroring software like UltraMon, Lightroom's slide show fails to show up. This is a real bummer as it worked great in ProShots.
2. It's not real easy to keep tract of which individual ordered which images. Sure I can keep making up new Collections, but I need to be able to keep tract of how many 8x10's, 5x7's, etc were ordered. I played around with key-wording and the like, but the solution is not very elegant. The jury's still out to find a solution and my work around on that point.

My Wish List for perfect studio sales software.
1. It must work in a two monitor set-up. Lightroom and Proselect both do - ProSelect does a much better job of it.
2. It must have the ability to present the images easily with the added ability to zoom into a hi-res close-up. Lightroom and Proselect both get high marks here.
3. It must let me present a slide show of the images to my clients. Lightroom and Proselect both do, but ProSelect does a much better job.
4. It must be able to keep tract of who ordered what easily, smoothly, and with as few mouse clicks as possible. ProShots was the best at that. Lightroom is not elegant, ProSelect, while good, takes too many mouse clicks.
5. It must be able to show me simultaneously what others have ordered because so many client choices depend on what other family members have selected. Neither Lightroom or ProSelect allows us to do that. ProShots did by the way. Actually Lightroom does, but it's difficult. ProSelect does not - this needs to be addressed.
6. It must talk to Photoshop so I can easily show the client how the image can be enhanced with retouching efets. This again helps with the decision making process. My clients still like to see "Liquefy" work it's magic. Lightroom and Proselect both do.
7. It must be able to print out which individual ordered their selection of images - this is essential to our workflow. ProSelect does a great here.
8. It must save on each mouse click. Lightroom (and ProShots) do, ProSelect does not. That means a system crash after 2 hours meeting with a client loses all your work - this needs to be fixed ASAP.
9. It must be able to show other product lines we have available. We sell lmulti-image frames, the ability to show their selected images in frames, to show the client how the finished image will appear in the client's livingroom, hallway, over their mantle.....or any home setting. ProSelect has available all these options and does it all very well. Lightroom does not have this feature available.
10. It must help with invoicing. Again, ProSelect works well here.

Let me say at this point that both programs have features I love. ProSelect, with just a little tweaking would be the clear choice. That said, ProSelect is still the best out there even with it's slight shortcomings. ProSelect does need to resolve the "save on each mouse click" ASAP.

Well gang, that gives you a little peek into our sales flow. To have real success with your sales you need to be actively involved with the clients decision making. The bottom line is that it must be professional, effortless, practiced, and an enjoyable experience for the client. This experience depends on you and your knowledge and expertise with your sales tools.

I know I've only touched the surface here, but I spend 8 hours on sales in my Digital Master Class. This is the Cliff's notes short, short version. Next week, I've invited Michael Jonas to be my guest on Podcast Wednesday. He is a successful studio owner, ProSelect beta tester and expert on the software. He's going to give us some insights on how to use the best features of the software - be sure to tune in.

This post went way longer than I expected it, but I hope it was helpful. I'm calling it a wrap today. We are packing up for Photoshop World Las Vegas next week - I hope to see you there.
See you tomorrow for Inspiration Friday. Adios, David


  1. David, I am a sales professional and a serious photography amateur and I enjoy your posts immensely. You mention: "Selling is simply finding out what the client wants and then helping them get it and having them be thrilled with the result."
    This statement is true but may I suggest a twist? In sales we need to discover the client's needs which may not always equal what they want. By discovering those needs, together with the client, we build a vision of what they need and what they will eventually want to buy from the seller. OK so I'm picking on words here but the nuance is important when you think of it. By sticking only with what the client wants, we can be missing on what they really need. My 2 cents. Claude

  2. Nice vid David. I like your setup. It's great to get all the products in from of then in an attractive way.

    I do mostly digital disks, and my studio is small, but I have a new studio in the works that I'm pretty excited about. I want to start getting more clients into the studio and doing product upsells.


  3. David,
    I have no idea if this will work, but can we use the Keywords part of Lightroom to add the persons name to the photo. Have a number or letter for each person that wants a photo. Again, this might be something will not work.

  4. David, Lightroom 2 has an SDK that allows custom metadata fields to be added. This would be perfect for that.

    As to showing what an image might look like in the home, you can create borders and frames for the images by cheating and using the ID plate in Slideshow.

    Also I'm not sure why you can run the slideshow on a second monitor, it's designed to so just that. Even version 1 did it, albeit with the other monitor blacked out..


  5. I just checked and the Mac's mirroring does work for showing Lightroom 2 slide shows on both monitors at the same time.

    But I agree, both ProSelect and Lightroom have some big advantages, one over the other. Could we put 'em both in a bag, shake 'em up, and come up with one super-fabulous program?

  6. Thank you for sharing with us your studio presentation. It was very helpful...