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September 2010 - Yep, it's groozi!

September 2010 Posts

Sweet Dreams: Are You Better Than Your Competition?

Suddenly you’re wide awake in the middle of the night. The nightmare was horrible, worse that that monster you thought was under your bed when you were six years old.

In the dream, you received a call from a potential client, all they said was, “Good morning, we need a photographer for a project. Please answer this one question: why should we hire you instead of one of your competitors?”

Still dreaming, you’re stammering a bit, your blood pressure rises, you’re scrambling to compose your thoughts, perspiring.  In a defensive attempt to slow the conversation and wrestle back control, you blurt out the question you always ask: “Tell me a bit more about the project so I can better answer that question.”

The person on the other end of the phone said: “No. All I want is that single question answered. Our decision on whether or not to hire you will be based solely on your response.”

That’s when the dream became unbearable and you force yourself awake.  But staring into the darkness, you’re asking yourself, “How would I answer that question?”

You’re not selling a commodity unless you want to be.  In what ways is doing business with you different?

We complain constantly about customers beating us up on price.  But imagine for a minute that they didn’t care about price.  Have we so conditioned ourselves into believing that every call will eventually become a negotiation on price that we are somewhat unprepared to demonstrate our value instead?

So what is your value?  How are you different?  Your value could perhaps be reputation, ease of doing business with you, or the speed at which you work, resulting in less interruption of the client’s business.  Maybe it’s your grasp of the latest technology, the ease of ordering prints from your studio, or your people skills, meaning you’re experience helps you to be comfortable with any CEO of any company.  Or perhaps even something as basic as talking about the awards you’ve received from high-end competitions that the client might be aware of.

Whatever your differentiation is, talk about it during the call.  Sell your value.  If you focus that sales conversation on price, the price will likely fall.  If instead you focus the conversation on value and how you are different (read: better) than your competitors, the price will likely rise.

There’s an old saying in sales:  Sell the sizzle, not the steak.  The reality in our changing industry is that the sizzle is your value.  Not your photography.

This essay, written by Detroit People Photographer Blake J. Discher, originally appeared in ASMP's "Strictly Business" blog. Blake does a lot of stuff, the most satisfying of which is being the father of a six year old who is quite convinced there is a monster under his bed.  To see what else Blake does, have a look at his lifestream at www.blakedischer.com. (Photo copyright 2010 Blake J. Discher.)

Are You Negotiating With The Right Person?

A sometimes overlooked, but very important factor in any negotiation is making sure the person with whom you are speaking is in fact the decision maker. If he or she isn’t, you ideally need to get the true decision maker involved in the negotiation.

One method I use to tactfully determine if the person I’m talking with is the decision maker is to ask him, “Is there anyone else I should email samples of my work to?” Or, perhaps, “Can you suggest any other persons in your company I should send a few samples of my work to?”

Your goal is to try to get the ultimate decision maker involved in the negotiation. If you still can’t get to that person, then it’s best to “empower” the person to whom you’re talking with “talking points” or “bullet points” so they can talk about your value and essentially sell you to the person hiring the photographer.

Remember, that initial phone conversation is the time when you have to talk about what it is that makes you different from your competitors. How do you differentiate yourself? What do you “bring to the party” that others may not? What I’m really saying is what value do you provide this potential client?

The inability to show your value will only put downward pressure on the total price of the job. Only with differentiation can you command higher fees, primarily because you will be providing a look, or style, or service that is not easily found elsewhere.

What methods do you use to get to the "right" person? Let us know in the comments!