January 2010 Posts

Think You’re a Good Listener?

Somewhere I read this information and it has stuck with me through the years. I always think about it when someone calls about a photography job, but it applies to any sort of sales negotiation. Specifically, it’s the three pitfalls of listening.

1. Prior experience (read: baggage) prevents us from hearing what we don’t want to hear.
Speaking only for myself, that’s very, very true. It happens most often when someone, in response to my question asking how the images I create will be used, says, “that’s not important, we need a buyout.” That dreaded word: buyout. Your blood pressure rises, you start to shake (well, almost!), your ears shut down and you’re immediately thinking about how to respond. Or how about this… a potential client calls and gives you a list of eight shots she needs, and then tells you, it will take “only a half-day.” Yikes, those emotional filters are kicking in!

2. Bad listeners only pay attention to what they themselves are saying.Instead of listening closely to your counterpart as she tells her story, you might be thinking about what you’re going to say next. Remember when your dad told you to count to ten before you spoke when someone made you mad? In negotiating the rule of thumb is to count to two before you speak. It gives you time to digest what your counterpart just said, and time to compose your response. It helps to s-l-o-w down the conversation so you can remain composed and at your best. You’re also less likely to get off the phone saying to yourself, “If only I had said…”

3. In a negotiation, you think listening is passive.
Nope, it’s just the opposite. Listening is indeed active behavior. Your task in any negotiation is to gather information. There’s an old saying in negotiating, “the person with the most information wins.” If you must speak, ask open-ended questions with the intention of getting still more information from your counterpart in the negotiation. Ask about the details of the job; try to determine what her expectations are of you and your team.

Above my desk I have a small sign that reads:
1. Listen well.
2. Don’t get emotional.
3. Count to two.
4. Listen well.

Good luck!

Content Still King in SEO

Written by search engine optimization consultant Blake J. Discher.

In the world of search engine optimization, or SEO, content is king. What I’m talking about is human readable HTML text on your home page.

One of the major search engines has stopped considering the “Keyword” META tag because of keyword spamming by website owners in an attempt to manipulate their search rankings. For example, a photographer might have repeated the word “photographer” or “photography” many times in the tag in their effort to rank on the first page of the search engine results page, or SERP.

So what do search engines analyze to determine what a web site is all about, and in turn determine where it should rank? Human readable text. This puts a visual artist such as photographers in a sort of quandary: should I design my site for aesthetic appeal or search engine friendliness?

If you are a photographer, I think the answer depends on which segment of that industry you work in. If it’s editorial, PR, or corporate, I think internet search is a crucial piece of your overall marketing plan and your site should be designed with search in mind. And that means including body copy on the home page.

Your body copy should include your “keyword phrase” which is the search term you believe potential clients would use to find a photographer such as yourself. Keyword density refers to the frequency that a keyword phrase appears in the body text. Generally speaking, to avoid keyword spamming, your text should be naturally flowing and result in a keyword density of about two to seven percent. There are a number of keyword density checkers available online to assist you with determining the keyword density of a page.

I get about 60-percent of my new photography and SEO clients each year as a result of my SEO efforts. If you suspect your potential clients are using search to locate vendors such as yourself, you should consider optimizing your site to help them find you. Good luck!

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Pause Button? FedEx!

When you’re knee deep in a negotiation with a client, things sometimes can go astray. That’s when perhaps your counterpart in the conversation is hammering you for a price concession, more licensing for less of a fee, etc. Next thing you know, you’re perspiring profusely and your talking faster and faster, starting to sound like Mickey Mouse, all because your emotions are taking over your normally clear thinking.

Have you been in this situation and, after you’ve hung up the phone, thought to yourself, “If only I had said [insert words you wished you said here].” A friend of mine gave me a great tip: get off the phone to gather your thoughts, cool off, and perhaps seek advice, by blaming an interruption on the FedEx delivery person.

It’s brilliant because almost everyone will give you a break for a FedEx delivery. Why? Because everyone knows the FedEx person won’t wait too long for you to answer the door and they understand that if something is coming to you via FedEx, it must be important. Say something like, “Oh, you know, my buzzer just rang and I’m expecting a FedEx delivery, may I call you right back?” Then, after you’ve recomposed yourself, call the person back, thank them for allowing you to “get your delivery” and proceed intelligently. It may sound silly, but I’ve used this “excuse” successfully twice.

So next time you’re losing control in a negotiating and need time to pull yourself together, remember, at least at that instant, the FedEx delivery person just might be your best friend. Good luck!

Snail Mail Thank You Cards

mailboxBJDforblogIn your quest to differentiate yourself from your competition, regardless of which industry you’re in, don’t forget the US Mail.  Yep, the good old US Postal Service.  Of course you should be sending Thank You cards to your clients after each and every job, even if you’ve been working with them for many years.  But even more important, be sure to send a “Thank You” to those potential clients with whom you were unsuccessful in your negotiations to get the job.  That’s right, the jobs you lost!

Just jot a handwritten note inside the card. Something like, “Sorry we couldn’t work together this time, please keep me in mind for future projects and I’ll keep in touch.”  Then add the person to your email list so they’ll receive your periodic email campaigns. (You are using email as a marketing tool aren’t you?!) The card will make a super impression on the client you didn’t get, and perhaps a job more suited to your style, budget, etc. will come along in the future and you’ll get another opportunity to provide an estimate. Good luck!