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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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Repeating my mantra “photographers are salespeople first, image creators second”, I thought I’d share two of my favorite blogs on the topic of sales.

The first, written by S. Anthony Iannarino of Columbus, Ohio, offers straightforward suggestions and tips to help you with just about every aspect of the sales process including cold calling to closing to asking for referrals. Check it out at www.thesalesblog.com.

Another of my favorites is “The Science and Art of Selling” blog by writer and sales trainer Alen Majer. I like his blog because most of his posts are quick tips that can help to get you back on track after you’ve just lost that job you were trying hard to get. Here’s a guy who’s latest book is titled, “Selling Is Better Than Sex”. I mean, this guy takes sales very seriously!

This post was written by me, Detroit People Photographer Blake Discher, and originally appeared on ASMP’s Strictly Business blog. Illustration by Mister Kha, licensed under a Creative Commons license.

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OK, I admit it, I have a Kindle and I’ll probably buy I bought an iPad. I’ve been a voracious reader ever since I can remember. Here’s a list of books I’ve read that have really made an impression on me, some new, some older, but all still available. I’ve listed them below in no particular order.

Please let me know what you’re reading in the comments, I’m always looking for a few suggestions!

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (Hardcover)
by Seth Godin
A linchpin, as Seth describes it, is somebody in an organization who is indispensable, who cannot be replaced—her role is just far too unique and valuable. They are, after all, the essential building blocks of great companies. To not be one is economic and career suicide. Learn about your “lizard brain”. Seth’s on the A-list of speakers for business and he’s the only speaker I know of that has his own action figure! You read his daily blog don’t you?

Negotiating For Dummies (Paperback)
by Michael C. Donaldson
Yes, it one of the yellow “For Dummies” books we’ve all seen, but this quick read will get you from “zero to sixty” in no time at all. Read it and put the concepts into practice, you’ll amaze yourself at how well they work and help you to get what you want in a negotiation!

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Paperback)
by Stephen R. Covey
One of the must-haves for anyone in business. It’s one of those I go back to from time to time for a quick re-focus of what I need to do to be successful. Enough said.

Value-Added Selling : How to Sell More Profitably, Confidently, and Professionally by Competing on Value, Not Price (Hardcover)
by Tom Reilly
Hands down, the book that’s helped me the most in my business. Adding perceived and actual value to the product we sell, photography, is the key to being able to increase your fee on a per job basis. I’ve just ordered Tom’s new book, Crush Price Objections: Sales Tactics for Holding Your Ground and Protecting Your Profit but haven’t started it yet. I’ll probably get started on it this weekend on my flight to WPPI in Las Vegas.

The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence (Hardcover)
by Tom Peters
We’re in a people business. Next to your creative eye, your “people skills” are the most important asset you own. I managed to secure a pre-publication copy of this fantastic book. You can pick it up, read a few tips, leave it and come back to it any time. Tom is one of the best writers around on business management, his real-world examples are worth the look, I guarantee you’ll learn something.

Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness (Hardcover)
by Jeffrey Gitomer
No matter what you do for a living, you’re a salesperson first. You’re selling every day, whether it to potential clients or your spouse and children. This is a book that you can pick up and read for five minutes between calls or read from cover to cover in a few hours. It’s a treasure trove of inspiration for every photographer out there who has lost a bid for whatever reason.

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