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.)


Ben riches

about 11 years ago

I was originally hired to regularly shoot events for a company by a third party promoter. When the promoter left the owner of the company for months tried to negotiat my price lower. I have always said no. My service and product is considerably better than your other 3 photographers. She later had me shoot the company's ad campaign and didn't even question the price. And asks my opinion on new directions and marketing for her company. Great advice, definatly works. Ben Riches

Charles E. Carstens

about 12 years ago

Amen to that. Sell yourself. Then, deliver the absolute best.

matthew blassey

about 12 years ago

i agree, your strategy is a simple yet powerful. it all starts with asking an empowering question. its those types of questions that i think a lot of us dodge in our day to day business and avoid really addressing them. its those types of questions that we should condition ourselves to having an almost immediate response too...great lesson

Blake Discher

about 13 years ago

That's a great idea TJ. Thanks for the suggestion.

TJ McDowell

about 13 years ago

I've got a mental list of about 10 things that makes us different from other photographers in the area.  I usually pull out one or 2 during a conversation based on what I think a potential customer is most interested in.  I'd have to think about it for a few minutes to boil it down to a single sentence.


about 13 years ago

let your product/service differenciation speak by itself instead of trying hard to explain it.

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