Part Three: Shutting the Proverbial Pie Hole
A big blabbermouth, that's what you are
If you were a talk show host, you'd be the star
I said your mouth is big, size extra large
And when you open it, it's like my garage
You talk too much
And then you never shut up
I said, "You talk too much"
Homeboy you never shut up
I am the worst sales person that ever lived. The problem with a career in photography is that I only imagined myself doing the photography. I never imagined myself hocking albums and framing. Not that I don't believe in my products, I do. I'm just unbelievably awkward when it comes to asking my clients for money.
Over the years I've developed a major complex about the depth of my poor salesmanship. Terms like "asking for the sale" and "closing the sale" are sweat-inducing nightmares for me. In the interest of self preservation and under the depressing revelation that I am in fact never going to master the art of sales I decided I'd just be a good "chatter" instead. After all, I'm basically selling myself anyway, right?
Chatting is not high pressure. Chatting is casual, chatting is light. So, I chatted... and chatted... and chatted... and after a while I was really SICK of hearing myself tell the same stories over and over again, but I kept on talking anyway because I wasn't sure what else I should do. I talked to potential clients about what made us different than the other photographers and therefore the right choice for them... blah blah blah. I talked about how superior our products are... blah blah blah.
In the middle of one particularly long gab-o-rama I paused for breath and happened to notice a very familiar look on the faces of the people I was regurgitating my spiel on. It was a glassy-eyed, polite smile yet utter boredom kind of face. It was a face that I recognized all too well. It was the Yak-ity-Zack Attack face.
My husband has a childhood friend, Zack. Zack has a heart of gold. He's a true blue, loyal to a fault, shirt-off-his-back kind of guy. He's the life of every party. He's also a real yak-er. I do not risk offending Zack by writing this article and publishing it nationally because the only thing that actually offends Zack is silence. He has proclaimed himself "The Thing That Wouldn't Leave" because of his epically long hot-air bull sessions.
Zack is oblivious to my glassy-eyed stares and polite smiling and subtle yawning hints. No amount of "It's getting late, I should hit the hay," can deter the babbling prattle. More than once I have excused myself mid Zack-liloquy and gone to bed leaving my husband stranded alone at the kitchen table with the "Thing That Wouldn't Leave."
Zack is funny, although we have heard his stories about a gazillion times. Even if you say, "Zack I've heard this one," he is compelled to tell it again. When "The Thing that Wouldn't Leave" finally goes, you kind of feel like you got sucked up into a tornado, dropped in the middle of a highway and then promptly mowed down by a Mac truck. In other words, all the air is gone from the room and you are left feeling a little flattened. Zack can't help it, because unlike me he is actually a salesman. A pretty good one too, at least according to his stories. Zack once told me that he went to a seminar for salesmen that taught him that he should listen instead of talking all the time. The irony of that wasn't lost on me but I think the wisdom may have been lost on Zack.
However, that little jewel of advice from Zack stuck in the back of my brain somewhere and when I ran out of boring things to say to glassy-eyed people, I just shut up. A funny thing happens when you shut your face. People start to open their mouths to pick up the slack, and what do you think comes out? REALLY VALUABLE feedback, information, and advice! It turns out that no one knows more about what is right for my business than my clients. Go figure!
These are just a few of the priceless gems thrown our way from current clients in the last week or so:
"We are choosing all of our vendors based on who we'd like to sit at a bar and have a rum punch with."
*Note to self: Clients want to feel comfortable and make friends; less important is the superiority of your albums, dummy. Read anything about the Millennial Generation, duh.
"It really impressed us how you give to charity (Operation Smile) and it felt good to be a part of that."
*Note to self: Our clients are thoughtful and charitable and PPA charities rocks! Keep giving!
"We loved the gift you sent us, not one of our other vendors have done anything even remotely close to that for us."
*Note to self: Clients love to feel taken care of and appreciated. Who doesn't? More gifts!
And from dozens of potential clients...
"Our budget is $6,500."
*Note to self: Contrary to what you what you believe, the "sweet spot" for wedding budgets in this geographical area is $6,500. Create a new package for $6,200.
*Follow up note to self: The new package is flying off the shelves, and clients end up spending way over the "budgeted" $6,500 anyway.
The moral of the story? Shut up and listen. Then take it to the next level and actually process what you just heard. Pay attention and then take some action. Use all that gas for good instead of evil. Be less like a Mac truck mowing over your potential clients and more like a hot air balloon lifting them up into a kind of photo-nirvana.
About the author:
Mariah Ashley is co-owner of Snap! Photography in Rhode Island. She is blonde, loves to bake fruit pies, wears flip flops way past the summer season, should have been born in the 50s, paints and writes when the mood strikes her, is mother to Jacques and Vianne, vacations on Block Island, is vegan, never has proper or stylish outerwear, fears frogs and toads but loves turtles, has really skinny legs, personal Style- Bohemian Chic, wants to own a VW van, grew up on a cranberry farm and i
s happiest when snorkeling is happiest when sipping a rum punch under a palm tree.