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This post is an excerpt from my book, “Stop Your Grumbling. Get Out There! (The essential guide to networking to improve your bottom line.)” If you want to get your hands on a copy, it’s available from Amazon in paper or Kindle editions.

If you quit, you’ve failed… so don’t quit!

You remember Mr. Potato Head? The toy was almost dead after its market debut. In the beginning, the toy was given away for free, as a prize in cereal boxes. But it required a real potato – not included, as you might suspect. The toy didn’t gain traction when they introduced just the parts to the marketplace, some think because it required a real potato. Instead of giving up (quitting!), the manufacturer decided to include a plastic body in the kit, Hasbro took over, and the rest is history. If you have kids, you know how important Mr. And Mrs. Potato Head were in rescuing Woody from the toy collector in Toy Story!

Failure is a necessary component of success. I started my sales career selling franchises for American Speedy Printing, a Michigan quick-print franchise. Any professional salesperson knows that sales is nothing more than a numbers game. Most say that out of 20 sales presentations you make, you’ll successfully close, or sell, just one prospect.

Each franchise I sold garnered me a $3,000 commission. I was talking to one of the more successful salesman there and explained I was very frustrated that I was hearing “no” again and again and hadn’t received commission money for some time. He told me I was thinking about sales entirely wrong. Instead of just regarding the close as a success, I had to think of each “no” as a success.

I must have looked puzzled, he went on to explain: the commission is $3,000 and statistically, you know you need to make 20 calls to sell one. And then he changed how I thought about hearing “no.” He said that every time he makes a call, he makes $150, or 1/20th of $3,000! Amazing. It’s just a different way of wrapping your head around failure. Each failure gets you closer to a success, so each failure is indeed worth something!

When you fail, learn from it, figure out what went wrong in your presentation. Perhaps you need to better demonstrate your value to your prospective clients. Perhaps you need to send samples specific to the job they’re calling about. Something in your presentation needs to be tweaked.

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Written by People Photographer Blake J. Discher

ASMP’s hot-off-the-presses book helps photographers understand photo markets in the digital age. “The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography”, consists of chapters written by individuals having different areas of expertise including including Tom Kennedy, Peter Krogh, Judy Herrmann, Richard Kelly and Colleen Wainwright. My chapter discusses selling in the new economy, what follows is an excerpt:

Testimonials Are Gold

Testimonials on websites are fast becoming popular. In today’s rushed world however, merely sending an email asking for a testimonial will likely not yield positive results. Your request will likely drop to the bottom of your client’s to-do list. Because of staff cutbacks, most of our clients are doing the work of several people and might not have the time to get to your request.

Make it easy for them. Instead, write the testimonial yourself and then email it to your client with a paragraph letting them know you’ve enjoyed working with them in the past and you’ve attached a testimonial about the photography you provided for their approval. Don’t go overboard in your review of yourself, keep it humble and let them embellish if they care to.

Keep in mind that some corporations forbid vendors from trading on their name. Check any contracts or other written agreements you may have signed before posting any testimonials on your site. Don’t assume your company contact knows the corporate policy.

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Susan Carr is the Education Director of ASMP, the American Society of Media Photographers. Her latest book, The Art and Business of Photography, has received critical praise from both photographers and scholars for its candid look at the changing photography industry. It’s quickly become required reading in many university photography curriculums and I consider it an essential read for both emerging and established photographers.

Susan spoke yesterday to a standing-room only crowd at B&H in New York and answered questions from the audience. If you want to purchase a copy for yourself, it’s available at Amazon. I have it on my Kindle and I refer to it frequently. Her publisher, Allworth Press, has graciously permitted me to publish an excerpt from the book. I’ve chosen a few paragraphs from chapter four, “Where Are the Clients?”

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Chris Anderson’s controversial book Free: The Future of a Radical Price created quite a buzz in the professional photographic community when it was released in 2009. The gut reaction by many photographers was negativesurmising that Anderson was pitting free against paid to the detriment of the professional in any field. Anderson actually does a masterful job of outlining a history of how businesses have used the “free economy” to build products and services people will pay for. Anderson writes, “The way to compete with Free is to move past the abundance to find the adjacent scarcity. If software is free, sell support. If phone calls are free, sell distant labor and talent that can be reached by those free calls (the Indian outsourcing model in a nutshell). If your skills are being turned into a commodity that can be done by software (hello, travel agents, stockbrokers, and realtors), then move upstream to more complicated problems that still require the human touch. Not only can you compete with free in that instance, but the people who need these custom solutions are often the ones most willing to pay highly for them.”

Like it or not, the photographs licensed every day and, in many cases, even the service of photography are now commodities. Generic photographic subject matter will no longer produce substantial financial rewards nor will it be possible to build a career taking corporate headshots. I return to [Seth] Godin who always seems to concisely hit the nail on the head. “Your organization is based on exploiting scarcity. Create and sell something scarce and you can earn a profit. But when scarce things become common, and common things become scarce, you need to alter what you do all day.” Godin further offers that spare time, trust, and attention are things that used to be abundant and are now scarce. Remember these when formulating your business strategy; potential clients do not have extra time, have trouble giving things attention, and are skeptical as a default. Turn those challenges into assets by saving clients time, being easy to do business with and building trust through quality and professionalism.

Photographs in general are definitely not scarce. We cannot compete on price when seemingly endless images are available for free or nearly free. We cannot compete with mediocre imagery when there are loads of one-click options for obtaining mediocre photographs. Photographers must define what they can bring to the table that is rare and that brings us back to creativity. A specific vision, style, or point of view directed towards a particular passion or interest is our one true unique offering. As a photographer, you need to develop a vision in your imagery, but that same creative thinking needs to be applied to how you run your business. Make it a package, so that all components speak to the same
core message of genuine quality and value.

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