I am taking a professional selling class at a local community college. Why? Because as a professional photographer, I am selling a service. How well I sell my service has a lot to do with how many $$ I have in my name. Learning how to turn a qualified lead into an appointment into a paid assignment into a satisfied client over the long term who gives me referrals, is a skill that goes way beyond how great your photos are.
Last year, I made hundreds of cold calls to architects and interior designers and got very few appointments. It was a lot easier back in the film days. If clients wanted to see your work, you had to meet them in person. Now they just ask for your website address and tell you they will call when they need you. Well, you could be waiting a while. So now I am learning, among other things, how expert salesmen handle these types of situations. It's invaluable information. Getting face to face with clients increases the number of assignments significantly. For more info on how to handle phone calls to clients, stay tuned.
Today I am going to talk about negotiating. I just finished a classic on the subject, 'You Can Negotiate Anything,' by Herb Cohen. It was written in 1980 because, as you may know, selling and negotiating is THE oldest profession. Negotiating is a universal skill that is applied by all of us in the bedroom, kitchen, office, school, playground, stores... It's how we get what we want, how we get our needs met. Some of us are better at it than others. The good news is these are skills that we can all learn, which will in turn dramatically improve the quality of our lives.
I'll just give a brief summary of a few important things I learned in this book. There are 3 crucial variables in any negotiation: power, time and information.
- Power: whoever needs the outcome to go his way the most has the least power in the negotiation. For example, if you are an average looking guy and you approach a sexy woman in a needy way. Will she be interested? It's likely she won't be. She has options. You're acting like you don't. You have no power. Game over. If you think you have no power, then you have none. If you think you have power, you have it, even if you don't. It's a mental game. When you truly believe it, your behavior, what you say... will give off power and give you a definite advantage in a negotiation.
- Time: a friend of mine got a call from a photographer to see about assisting him for that very afternoon. My friend accepted, but he doubled his assisting fee. The photographer was in a crunch and had to bite the bullet. The deadline meant he had no time and therefore, no options. Finding out your client's deadline is crucial.
- Information: how much do you know about your client? How much do you know about your competition? Does your client know more than you do? The actual presentation or meeting with a client is part of a long process. Research as much as possible on clients beforehand. Find out what they really need, what their deadlines are... before the actual negotiation because it is much easier that way. Skillful negotiators usually don't give out that info during a meeting. So the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to counter objections, the easier it will be to reassure him you can satisfy all his needs, and the easier it will be to close the deal.