Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Establishing Trust

I had a great learning experience the other day with a client. I had an portfolio appointment with an architect. He needed some shots done of a building he'd had built.

Well first off, the meeting was only to last 10-15min. so I was not able to do a full presentation as I had planned. I quickly showed him my portfolio and he quickly told me about this project he needed photographed.

All he needed were two shots of a fairly plain building. He knew exactly what camera angles he wanted. He just wanted a professional to do some 'quality' shots of it. This architect runs a one-man operation. He has no employees. I'm not sure he has ever hired photographers. I didn't think to ask. Anyhow, my gut feeling was he had no idea how much this was going to cost and it would probably be way above his budget.

I got the specs, taking into account the travel time to the shoot, the production costs, the per-shot fee... and I emailed him my estimate. As expected, he could not afford it. I had lowered my prices as much as I could and still didn't hook the client. I had a feeling that would happen.

So a much better to handle this potential client would have been to be straight-up with him from the beginning by saying something like:

"I understand you want some great shots of your building, and that it is really important to you. However, I feel that hiring me for this job is not in your best interest. You only need 2 shots and you know exactly what angles they should be. These are exteriors, so no special lighting equipment is needed.

"You could take fantastic photographs of this building yourself, with a decent digital camera and the sun in a good position. That would save you a lot of money. I don't think you need a professional photographer for this job. If I were you, I would wait for a more complex assignment to hire me."

You see, I knew this client would reject my estimate. It was obvious. Being honest with him and taking into account his best interest would have won him over. I am in the business of customer service. That is about building trust. Had I done that, there would have been a much greater chance he would hire me in the future or recommend me to his architect friends.

So now, I will consider if clients really do need my services. I am not going to go after every sale. That is foolish and bad business etiquette. I will be honest like the mechanic a few months back who told me my engine light was on just because I didn't close my gas cap all the way, and my oil leak was only due to a few screws not being tightened correctly. Well guess what? Now I trust that mechanic completely. He could have charged me a lot of money and I would not have known any better. Now he will have my business when something happens to my car again, big or small. That is building trust through honesty. That was the lesson I learned with that last client.

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