Key to Closing the Deal

So, let's get to the point of this blog.  In the end, you're in business to make money.  I mean, right?  Yes, we are all in it because we are passionate about photography; however, making money is what makes us stay in business.  And to make money, we need to close the deals or as we say... get the contracts signed and payments made because hey, we have bills to pay too! This blog explains how we have learned to get that done.

Here are the things that I know when our clients inquire us.  

1.  They love our style of photography.  If they took the time to look over our website and then send us an email, then yes, they definitely like it.  There's no doubt about that.  

2.  They like us.  Photography is not a product; it's a service.  Our photography and us go hand in hand.  You can't hire us for photography and not like us because we are going to be there!  This step however may come after the consultation when we meet our clients in person.  (We video chat with our out of town clients.)  But, we at least know that the first impression online or one of our social media sites was good or they like us because they trust the ones that referred them to us.

Now, we like to be straight forward with our clients when it comes to this part from the beginning... the MONEY part!  We value our clients' time as much as we value ours.  So, on our website, we clearly state that our collections begin at $3999.  Yes, we of course have had clients with lower budgets who still inquired and booked with us because we took the time to communicate with them and educate them on why you get what you pay for in photography just like anything else and they have signed with us!

That brings us to our next point... communication.  How many of you have heard that the KEY to success in ANYTHING is communication?  Isn't it true?  In this blog, let's just focus on communication with our clients; communication that doesn't make us sound like a "typical car salesman", but still having a strategy that will genuinely tell the clients that we care because we do and still make a sale. Please understand that there's no magic formula to make every person that inquires you to sign a contract.  Not everyone will... you will sometimes lose them unfortunately and that's just part of having a business.  Others and you may have different tactics as a salesperson, but for us, this has really revolutionized in the way we approach each client "our way" while still being who we are as people and not compromising the values we have by genuinely and authentically loving our clients and making them feel valued.

First, we must Learn and Understand Our Client's Personality. 

We attended a workshop at a marriage retreat and through Jenni and Nathan Oates, we have learned something that revolutionized our thinking and our understanding of our clients and how to approach each one.  

There are four different, main types of people.  Now, before you stop reading, this is NOT a blog about teaching you the different personality types.  I know that you know that. We will be talking about how to understand these personalities to know how to speak, message and interact with our clients and have them book you by categorizing them into different gems.  

Let's first figure out what which gem you are.  Once you understand yourself, you'll begin to understand and appreciate others.  So, instead of thinking what you're like... or how you would describe yourself... this strategy asks the questions, "What drives you?", "What makes your heart beat?", "What motivates you?", "What makes you get up in the morning and start your day?"

If you answered, COMPETITION, you're a RUBY.

If you answered, FUN, you're a SAPPHIRE.

If you answered, PLANNING, you're an EMERALD.  

If you answered, TO HELP, you're a PEARL.  

Now, what does this have anything to do with booking a client?  EVERYTHING!

1.  Let's begin with RUBIES... I'll begin with this because I'm a RUBY, and RUBIES like to be first.  :)  They are driven by competition and they're fulfilled by a "win".  That "win" may literally be winning a competition or even completing a project / accomplishing a goal or being the best in whatever they're participating in.  RUBIES think that they know everything and do not like to be told what to do.  Because they always have to "win", they only play games that they know how to win.  If they know that they will lose, they will not play that game.  They clearly know what they want.  They're great decision makers.  Their pet peeve is anyone or anything that wastes their time.  If they set out to do something and they fail, they're very hard on themselves.  It's hard for them to forgive themselves or anyone else who made them fail because to them, failure is not an option.  Everything is right or wrong, black or white, all or nothing.  They have a clear goal and they go for it no matter what.  They get things done!  You can always depend on a RUBY.  They're very focused and because of this reason, they can't multitask.  Recognition, public recognition in fact, means so much to RUBIES.  They like to know that their efforts and hard work was worthwhile and that someone noticed and appreciates it.  So, their number one love language is words of affirmation.  RUBIES may seem like they don't care, but it's not true.  They do!  They're just so direct that it seems their words are harsh, but their heart is not.  They just need to get things done so their minds are so focused on that.  In the end, you have to have a RUBY on your team to win.

Yes... that's me.  Every bit of it.  Before going any further, we also have to understand that we are all unique because we have a different combination of all of these gems.  Also, no gem is greater than another.  This whole concept is to learn that there are pros and cons to all the gems and that we all need each other and that none of us are perfect.  But, whatever your dominant one is, that's one you identify yourself as.  Now, I know that I'm an extreme RUBY.  So, when I meet a RUBY, I can easily and clearly identify these types of people and can relate to them very easily.  I know how to sell to these people the easiest, because I know how they think.  All I have to do is treat them like the way I want to be treated, say things the way I want to hear, and it's done. 

When you face a RUBY client... first, do not waste their time.  Remember, they don't like to waste anything because everything has a purpose and they have invested in winning their next game.  RUBIES' messages usually are VERY short and straight to the point.  If you've identified your client as this gem, spare the unnecessary details!  They don't want to know and they don't care.  They just need their questions to be answered and the info to be delivered in the most short and concise way.  If they ask you a question like, "In your packages, do you give print release?"  It's a yes or no question, right?  Then, just say yes or no.  Don't write them three long paragraphs of what you mean by yes or no.  They'll either not read it or get turned off by it.  Speaking of reading, these folks don't read things that are too long.  :)  Like me... yes, I grew up thinking something was wrong with me and whenever I had "stupid" moments that I was really stupid because I didn't like to read.  But now I know that I DO like to read.  I LOVE reading!!!  But, it has to be in the type of format that I like... So, I'll read short articles and get the meat of the story, but I can't sit there, relax and read a whole novel.  I'm the type of person that rather watch a movie that was made into one from a book because I'll get the basics of the story and it will be MUCH shorter.  Because as mentioned above, we don't like unnecessary details.  I just need to know what happened and I'm good!  They write cliff notes for people like me.  And bullet points were made for people like me.  :)  

Because RUBIES know exactly what they want, they're probably the easiest clients you'll book.  There's no way a RUBY will take time in their precious day to meet with you if they weren't going to book with you already.  They don't shop around because again, they know what they want!  I NEVER shop around... I hate shopping in fact!  You will never see me in a store unless I'm buying something.  I will not enter a store until there's a mission for me to find something specific and if I find it, I will buy it.  If it wasn't "on the list", no matter how great of a deal it is, I will not buy it.  So, this means that when they inquire you, they know that they want you as the photographer.  So, don't mess it up by talking too much or being a "salesperson" because you can't sell anything to these people.  They will buy it when they want to.  Just answer their questions straight forwardly and tell them where to sign and how to pay.  Give them just the highlight of what's to come.  Do what you say you're going to do and they're happy.  If you walked away thinking, "Wow, that was the easiest booking!", then I promise you, that was a RUBY.  :)

2.  Now, let's go to the other end of the spectrum to the SAPPHIRES.  This you guys, is my husband, Craig Obrist.  It is him to the "T.".  Yes, we are total opposites and especially after we learned about these gems, I truly believe in the saying that opposites attract.  Learning about this has made me understand my husband in ways I never thought was possible.  This was such a huge game changer for our marriage and our business.  Up until this revolutionary point, I thought something was wrong with my husband in some areas of life which I will explain.  :)  

So far, we know that SAPPHIRES are driven by FUN!  They are adventurous... fearless... funny and witty.  They are the "life of the party".  Without SAPPHIRES, your party will be pretty lame.  They love and thrive when they're around people.  It fuels them... yes, these are the extreme extroverts.  They're positive about everything!  To them, worry doesn't exist.  It's very difficult for them to get serious or very emotional about something because to them, life is FUN!  Because everything is upbeat for them, they're turned away by people who are too serious or ask them deep questions.  If your topic changes from surface level things into very intimate, emotional things, you'll notice them disengage and go to their next group of folks.  Because in their perspective, "What's the big deal?" or "Why do things have to be so complicated?"  JUST HAVE FUN!  They ask, "Why can't we all just get along?", "What's the problem?"   They can seem to not care because they don't go deep with you, but that's not their intention.  They just don't know how to handle that seriousness and they rather not unless they really have to.  And when they do, all the emotions that were piled up comes down hard.  

Because they're willing to do anything in life, they're very creative.  Their minds are always somewhere else thinking of the next idea.  They NEED to go outside, connect with nature and just try something new everyday.  It's very difficult for them to be locked down in an office and work 9-5.  It's nearly impossible... You can't expect a creative person to come up with an idea just from 9-5.  The idea comes when it does!  Because they can't focus, they are very good multi-taskers.  In fact, they need to be in a loud and 'distracting' environment for them to work on anything.  I know this is all true because I live with a SAPPHIRE.  :)   

No matter how tired my husband is, if you invite him to watch a movie, he will be there!  But, I'm there to balance him out by saying, "But babe, um... you got work to do." It's very hard for them to say, "NO", to anyone.  So, if you have ever seen us at a party, my husband is the one that talks, talks and talks, and I'm the one that has to tell him that we gotta go!  When we used to work together in the same office (do you notice that I said, "used to"?), I thought that either something was wrong with me or him.  Because when he works, he has the TV on, the music on, another computer monitor on YouTube all the while he's editing and singing and dancing at the same time.  As a RUBY, this environment is impossible for me to work in.  I literally can't hear myself think.  But, now... instead of criticizing his work environment need, I respect and understand that just like the way I need complete silence, he needs the opposite.  So, if I really have to be in the office with him for certain projects, we compromise by him putting head phones on.  This has worked very well!

So, how do you book a SAPPHIRE?  If you notice a VERY happy, energetic, positive individual, you're probably looking at a SAPPHIRE.  With them, do NOT get into the serious things first.  Lighten the mood up, lighten everything up... just have FUN with them by asking questions like, "What are some FUN things you have planned for your wedding?" or "Let me tell you how much fun we're going to have on your wedding day!" or "Here's what I was thinking we can do for your engagement shoot!"  To them, the experience and entertainment that you give them in person will mean everything.  When planning their engagement shoot, don't talk about logistics.  Just talk about the adventurous stuff you'll do with them to make their photos the most epic EVER!  They will respond by saying, "SIGN ME UP!"  Money isn't that big of a deal to these guys.  To a certain extent of course, but as long as they know that the FUN they will have is worth it, they'll buy it!  So, when the 'serious' part of the logistics come about, make it as simple and short as possible by beginning with, "Now, I know this isn't the fun part, but we have to get it done, so let's do this real quick!" and get the info that you need.  Because my husband is a SAPPHIRE, I let him take over the sale when we meet one because they can totally relate!

3.  EMERALDS are next.  These are the planners!  We love EMERALDS because they take care of the details for the rest of us in life.  They plan everything and they 'perfect' everything.  We all know that this part is very necessary, but many of us who are not EMERALDS dread this part of life.  That's why we need them to take care of it for us.  Everything has to be very specific with them.  They know exactly how much is in their bank account and have a designation for every penny that they make.  They have a spreadsheet for every expense for their wedding day.  They keep every receipt just in case... Their homes are very organized with labels that clearly identify every item in their home.  If you enter their closet, their clothes will be organized into colors, seasons, type and however else they can organize it.  Everything has its place... they're neat and tidy because they have to be or they can't function.  "Organized chaos" makes no sense to them.  EMERALDS know what they will do and become in 5 years, 10 years and yes, they're on their way to a perfect retirement when they're 59.5 years old.  They're never late to anything.  They're on the dot!  If you're in a meeting with an EMERALD, you may have felt like they were a Debbie Downer.  When a RUBY is dreaming about the next goal or the SAPPHIRE is trying to just have some FUN with the next project, these guys remind you that it ain't possible because it's not in the budget.  Oh, that dreaded word, "budget"....  They bring everyone to the "reality" of things.  

Because EMERALDS are very specific, they're not very flexible.  If they planned on eating at 6:32pm and that doesn't get done, they feel like complete failures.  And, if you caused problems for something planned to not happen, trust me, they will not trust you again.  They will not be happy with you and you will not be invited again.  

I love EMERALDS... I say that a bit sarcastically because to be honest, they stretch me.  :)  Although I have some EMERALD qualities, I only have them because I have to in order to "win", but I don't enjoy planning.  I just do it because it's a responsibility. I appreciate EMERALDS, but these brides are the hardest ones for me to sell to.  Why?  Because everything has to be perfectly aligned and I have to communicate a LOT with these brides which I'm happy to do, but because I'm naturally a RUBY, I can't just get to the point of things with them.  I have to communicate every single little detail and step with them.  But, that's my job.  I have to provide them with the info that they need.  Information, details, accuracy and specificality is what they need to trust me.  

EMERALDS ask a lot of questions.  Here's an interesting fact.  Did you know that the public school system is designed by EMERALDS for EMERALDS?  Yes, that is why statistically, EMERALDS are the ones that do the best in school.  It's designed for people who think like them so there's no real issue for them.  Put a SAPPHIRE in a school like my husband?  Nope... he can't do it.  And, he never did... He did terrible in school because he can't function in environments like that.  But, does that make him stupid?  NO!  He is truly the smartest guy I know.  My husband never went to school for photography... he taught himself.  It was so FUN that that's all he needed to fuel him, motivate him and make himself to who he is today!  So, next time you see someone who doesn't do well in school, it is probably because of the type of gem that they are.  Now, this doesn't mean that people who make bad grades, are lazy or just not responsible have an excuse to be that way.  Absolutely not... But, we do need to try to see it in their perspective and understand our differences.  

Now, let's bring this back to how to book an EMERALD.  Once during an in person consultation with a couple, the bride walked in with a notebook.  In that instant, I knew that she was an EMERALD.  I had to mentally prepare myself to give her every detail possible.  To go over every single detail in the contract and then still answer numerous questions after that.  She wrote everything I said down in her notebook.  After the consultation, she wrote me a detailed email with more questions.  I took another hour to answer all of them to her.  I did it promptly and with details, so she booked us.  These are the brides that you probably need to give a manual to.  They will LOVE that!  They will receive it just like a gift.  They will go home and really read it!  If you give me something like that, I'm sorry, but it's going to the trash because to someone like a RUBY, it's just a waste of time and unnecessary info.  SAPPHIRES surely won't read it because it's not fun.  

4.  My dear precious PEARLS... I saved this one for last because they don't mind that.  In fact, PEARLS like to be behind the scenes of it all.  That's what they prefer.  They're the thinkers...  They're the readers... They're the wise ones.  They teach you to stop and think about what you're doing and WHY you're doing it.  They are not motivated by money... they are motivated by one thing; to help others.  They have strong convictions for what they do... a mission that is bigger than them... they have a cause for their actions.  They give you meaning to what you do and what this life is all about.  Without them, we will all forget the WHY behind the WHAT.  

They are very patient people... forgiving, understanding.  They are highly sensitive to other people's needs and look out for them more than they ever will for themselves.  They're selfless!  They love to listen and try to figure out a way to help and do something about a need that you have.  They don't want to just make money, they want to make a difference.  At the end of the day, if they haven't helped someone, they feel useless. The bad thing is that because they help people so much, they get taken advantage of easily.  They can become pushovers.  They are NOT good decision makers because they want you to get what you want.  It's very hard for them to tell you what they want because they think that that's a bad thing.  They think that that's imposing on someone else's ideas or thoughts.  So, if you have a PEARL friend, please don't ask them things like, "Where do you want to eat?"  Questions like that are very overwhelming for them and you're only causing stress for them.  Make the decision yourself and ask if they would like to join along.  That would be a gift to them.  :)  

So, how do we book PEARLS?  Here's how I identify inquiries from a PEARL bride/groom.  Their emails are usually VERY long.  They sometimes begin with an apology by saying, "I know you're very busy and I hate to bother you, but I was wondering..."  They hate to be a bother.  They don't want to get in your way... Then they will tell me where they were born, how they grew up, how they met their fiancé, when and how he proposed, why they love their family so much and why it's important for us to capture many photos of their family members, why a certain location is very important to them for an e-session, and so forth... Does this sound familiar?  These are PEARLS!  They're sentimental about everything.  They have a deep connection with their emotions and are not afraid to be 'emotional'.  After their story, they may end the message with, "So... would you mind telling me what is all included in your packages and if you have time, ONLY if you have time, maybe we can meet and get to know one another?"  

So, if you get an inquiry like that and after you've identified them as a PEARL, be sure to respond to everything that they wrote.  DON'T just answer their question of how much you cost and leave it at that.  Trust me, if you do that, you've lost that sale with them.  Take the time, wholeheartedly and genuinely (this is key because they will know right away if you're fake) engage with them.  If you're responding to a message, make sure you tell them how sweet their love story is and why you love it so much and why it stands out to you.  If you're meeting them in person, always keep good eye contact with them and just talk to them as human to a human.  They need and want to know that you're going to be more than a photographer on their wedding day.  They want you to become their friend and that you will value everything about their wedding just like the way they do.  If you make this type of client feel like she's "just another bride," you're not going to book this couple.  Guaranteed.  With PEARLS, make sure that you have a LOT of time more than usual for meetings because they will want to talk, talk and talk.  Even though they're usually introverts, because it's a one-on-one, small setting, they feel very comfortable.  They thrive and come alive in these types of environments.  Meet PEARLS in a place that provides you with a nice, cozy, quiet atmosphere.  Not somewhere with LOUD music, tons of people everywhere... they will not enjoy that experience.  And, these are the types of clients whom you can sell lots of albums and enlarged prints to.  Why?  Because it's sentimental and products like albums hold a huge sentimental value!

So, what do you think?  Did reading this make you think of someone in your life or a particular bride or groom that you're currently working with?  Let me emphasize once more that we all have all four aspects of each gem, but each one of us have a dominant one and that is the lead characteristic in all of us.  It's doesn't mean that because you're a RUBY, that you don't like to have fun or that you don't care about people.  Of course you do!  But, that's not your priority.  You feel that getting things done in the end is what counts and when you get your things done, fun and helping others will surely follow.  

This took so much more time and organization than any other blog that I've written thus far for photographers.  All this info has been "dancing" in my head for so long and now that I've gotten it written down, I couldn't help but share with you guys because as mentioned, this has really helped me in such a practical way in our business, marriage and our relationship with our children.  Even friends!  Everyone!  Simply put, it has taught me a practical way to know how to love others better.  Hope you guys enjoyed it and found it helpful for you and your business!  Thank you for reading, and we'll connect again next time!

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