The Art of Selling: A Guest Post by James Derbyshire of Julia Boggio Studios

February 24, 2012

Nearly 9 months ago Julia Boggio and I had a gorgeous little daughter. I thought that it might slow Julia down a little, but no. She still runs our business at 200 miles an hour. Julia and I own one of the fastest growing baby and bridal vintage boudoir photography studios in the UK, Julia looking after the creative side of the business and me looking after the sales. I adore running the sales side of what we do, but admit it: sales is often seen as the scary or evil part of the business or, more often than not, something to avoid because “my clients won’t like being sold to”. Now, the reality of the world is if no one sold anything to anyone, most business wouldn’t exist for very long at all.

I had a bit of a head start in sales. As a child I didn’t have pocket money; I had a commission plan. It was stuck to the fridge and re-negotiated on my birthday every year. It helped me understand quite early on that you get out of life what you put in. If I needed that extra boost of pocket money that month, then I had to contribute something quite significant to the household that would entitle me to some extra dosh.

So now that I have my own daughter, is this something that I will do with her? Well, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but the combination of mine and Julia’s genes has created a very feisty little girl indeed. I suspect that if I attempted to negotiate anything with her she’ll look at me like I’m a punter on Dragon’s Den and tell me “You don’t have what it takes, I’m out.”

She has me running around in circles already so I thought I’d give you a few lessons in sales according to my 9-month-old daughter.

Find out what your client wants to buy

Baby’s first word was “dada” which made me very proud (and slightly smug). Her second word was…”No!” Not the gentle, kind of “no” that is often accompanied with a cute little shake of the head and a smile. This is the kind of “no” that is said with a very determined expression and is often accompanied with a little shove on the spoon/toy/shoe/book/iPhone being offered to her. Sadly, because she can’t speak properly yet, it’s often next to impossible to find out exactly what she would like. “No dada” is starting to become quite a commonly used phrase. Sigh.

Now if you try to sell to your clients without actually knowing enough about what they want in the first place, you’re going to be met with a big resounding “no”. And a shove, if you’re really unlucky. Before you try to sell your wedding packages, albums, stationery, or seating plans printed on recycled bits of bark, you need to spend a good amount of time finding out exactly what they really want. It may seem obvious, but price aside, this is the most common reason that people fail to win business. Think about it this way: if you know enough about a newly engaged couple’s wedding requirements, you can tailor your products and services to suit them. All you’re doing is helping them buy from you rather then selling to them a wedding package that doesn’t quite fit what they need. Subtle difference, but very very effective. I made over $40,000,000 for my previous company when I was in IT and I never once sold anything to anyone. I helped everyone buy what they really needed. So how do you find out what they need? Ask them.

Have something amazing to sell in the first place

Since Baby arrived on the scene, I feel like my house has been taken over by a staggering amount of plastic baby tat. One person on Julia’s mummy blog likened having a baby to being assimilated by the borg from Star Trek. Every room in the house suddenly has endless plastic toys, most of which have motion sensors so they start playing nursery rhymes if you walk too near to them. My living room is a minefield of electronic versions of three blind stupid mice, kittens who’ve lost their damn mittens and row, row row your irritating boat. So the question is, why do we have all this stuff? All the parents reading this know the answers to this already: because you don’t know what they’re going to love playing with until you’ve bought it, taken it out of its packaging, had it chewed and dribbled on and then discarded for the packaging that always seems far more enticing. For Baby to love a toy enough to put it in her little Hall of Fame, it can’t be great; it has to be amazing! Another sigh.

So what will entice clients to buy your “toy” rather than anyone else’s, is having amazing products and services that in some way stand out from the crowd. Take wedding photographers, for example. Kat shows off some pretty amazing wedding photography here every day, but in the UK there are about a squillian wedding photographers all jostling for the 240,000 or so UK weddings. That means that the photographer either really needs to be exceptional or only charge £500 for clients to book them. Everyone has an award of some kind, everyone offers albums or disks of images, everyone will do a pre-wedding shoot, everyone will bring a second photographer and there is more genuine talent out there than ever before. So what are you going to do that is amazing that will set you apart? Is it a niche of weddings that you market to? Is it the complimentary services that you provide? Is it that no one else can do it as well as you? Whatever it is, make sure that you can think of one. Clients are increasingly getting pickier and the question of “why should I go with you?“ needs to have a pretty good answer.

If you eat your carrots, you can have a pony

I used to think I was pretty good at negotiating deals and contracts. That was until I met my match. Cute she may be, but Baby will not be moved unless there is something in it for her. Take this article for example. I’m sitting on the floor on the nursery typing this with one hand on Julia’s iPad, with Baby using me as a climbing frame. She WANTS the iPad more than anything in the world. Ever. After a bit of a tussle which resulted in her typing “uf’vuy’hgugcbhgdcjhv jhvhfe658”, she is now deliriously happy with my iPhone, which is being repeatedly banged against the side of the cot, and a Sophie the Giraffe squeaky toy. 1 x iPad = 1 x iPhone + 1 x Giraffe.  Thankfully. I’m due an upgrade on my phone soon.

These days everyone wants a deal, but that doesn’t mean that we have to give everything away. The trick to negotiating with a client is knowing what the minimum is that you’re happy to end up with and being prepared to walk away if there is not enough in it for you. One potential wedding client had £6,000 to spend with us, but wanted the equivalent of £14,000 worth of wedding photography and products. The negotiating went on for days until I told him that sadly we just couldn’t do his wedding. We walked away from £6,000. What we actually walked away from was several weeks of effort with no profit what so ever. His bargaining tool was that we could give flyers to all the wedding guests and he would give us their email addresses so that we could contact them all individually to drum up business! Yikes. Not really our style.

Wave bye bye

Baby could teach us an awful lot more about sales, but this would start being a very long article indeed. If you do want to know more about how to sell yourself or your work, come and join us at the Julia Boggio High Sales Bootcamp on the 16th of March at Hasselblad studios in London.

Now if you will excuse me, I have a Baby to haggle with.

♥  ♥  ♥

James Derbyshire is married to acclaimed wedding photographer Julia Boggio. From their Wimbledon studio they offer portrait sessions, baby shoots and vintage boudoir shoots. They also run Julia Boggio High, a workshop for wedding photographers. The next of which will be held on 16th March at the Hasselblad studios in London.