by Scott Bourne
I am sure most of you are reading this and thinking, “What could my state fair have to do with selling more photography?” Hang on and you’ll find out.
Many years ago, back when I was living in Minneapolis, I went to the Minnesota State Fair. This is one of the biggest, best-known, best-attended state fairs in the country. Minnesotans know how to throw a great fair. And like most state fairs, there are lots of concessions and even a “home improvement” pavilion.
The year I went I just happened to have purchased a home so I thought that I’d mosey on over to the “home improvement” pavilion after looking at the pigs, cows, horses and other various farm animals for several hours.
I was no more than 20 minutes into my tour when I stopped by a young man demonstrating a ladder. But this wasn’t just any old ladder. This was the Little Giant Ladder - 11-19 ft. Telescoping Multi-Purpose Aluminum Ladder!
There were three or four of them set up on the booth. The salesman had quite a patter. He was talking about all the ways you can use a ladder, and he wasn’t just talking - he was demonstrating. And the demonstration is the key thing to think about in this blog post.
Demonstration overcomes some of the primary reasons people don’t buy. Lack of trust, cynicism, etc. And lack of trust and cynicism are really just symptoms of not wanting to look or feel stupid.
Back to the ladder…
The young man demonstrating the ladder had done it lots of times because he was a natural. He had no script. He didn’t refer to notes. But he had a steady, on-going, friendly and informative patter than never stopped. While talking he always demonstrated what he was talking about. He showed all of us there how the ladder could be used as a saw horse, a 19-foot extension ladder, a step-ladder, etc. In fact, he said it was 24 ladders in one. Then he hit the home run. He claimed it was the sturdiest, safest ladder on the planet and to prove that point he scanned the crowd for the biggest guy he could find. And yes boys and girls, that would have been me. He asks me to “step right up” to the ladder and asks me if I own a ladder. I replied that I did not. Wasn’t sure I even needed a ladder. He scoffed, “Everyone needs a ladder, especially one this sturdy.” He said he’d give me $10 if I’d just stand on the ladder. I thought no problem - easy $10. I got on, and he asked me to climb up two or three rungs and handed me 10 bucks. But then he did something that astonished me. He jumped on the other side. Then he started BOUNCING! This got my attention for sure. But the ladder didn’t give an inch. He encouraged me to go all the way to the top. When I hesitated, he said he’d throw in another $10 so up I went. And so did he.
I should mention this guy was easily 6’3” and about 250 pounds. At the time I was 6’1” and also 250 pounds. Even though we exceeded the ladder’s rating, it didn’t flex, or move.
When the 100 or so people in the audience saw this they started interrupting him and asking how much the ladder cost. He kept demonstrating. He made the ladder into about a dozen different configurations and finally even I was ready to buy a ladder (that I had absolutely no need for - at least I didn’t think I needed a ladder.)
When the words “state fair special only $300” popped out of his mouth I expected the crowd to attack him. After all I’d seen a ladder at the hardware store the week before for $17. But that was an ordinary ladder. THIS was the Little Giant and no ordinary ladder for sure.
By the time his demonstration ended, about 30 minutes after I happened upon him, he had sold more than 25 of the ladders and yes I bought one. (But I got $20 off because I was the test subject!) I carried that ladder around the country through two moves, and found out it was very useful.
Now to tie this all to photography.
What happened to me was what Zig Ziglar would often describe as “running into a salesperson.” I can hear Zig’s voice in my head. “There are order takers and then there are salespeople. A salesperson is the one who can make you want to buy something you didn’t even know you needed!” And that’s what happened.
How can you apply this? When someone approaches you about licensing your photos or hiring you to shoot a wedding or buying one of your prints, you have a choice. You can be a passive order taker, waiting for them to tell you what they are willing to buy. Or you can be a salesperson and DEMONSTRATE all of your products. While you don’t have anything as dramatic as bouncing on a ladder to offer, you do have the chance to pull out your portfolio; show a wedding album, stage a wall portrait over the buyer’s couch; show a slideshow, etc.
The more products (albums, frames, etc.) you can DEMONSTRATE to your prospects, the more you will sell. The longer you can demonstrate to your prospects before they get bored, the more you will sell.
This requires you to take on the skills possessed by the ladder salesman I met at the Minnesota State Fair. You have to become a story teller. You have to know your product like the back of your hand. You have to be able to show how your product can improve lives. You have to show the benefits (not the features) of the products you sell. Remember back in the ladder story how I said the the salesman really zeroed in on me to demonstrate how safe the ladder was? That is when he had me and most of the audience. Because he was demonstrating a benefit not a feature. The ladder is made of aircraft strength aluminum. That is a feature. The benefit is that it is sturdy and safe.
If you can learn to think like that and talk like that you will need wheelbarrows for your money.
Demonstrate, demonstrate some more and then ask for the order. If the client says no or has an objection, the first thing - the very first thing you should do is re-demonstrate. It’s the most powerful thing you can do to capture your prospect’s attention and to help them get to yes.
Give it a try. As always, Skip and I are rooting for you.
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