Tag Archives: salesmanship

Success is not the goal…..

…improvement is the goal. It seems to me  that all the coaching, selling, negotiating and business tips, (mine included) that we dispense with great abandon are usually about achieving success. I think that what we really should be doing is giving advice on how to improve on whatever shoot, negotiation, sales call, etc. we engaged in previously as the preferred and less threatening method for developing a path to success. For me, this process has been going on for years.

Improving oneself leads to success, growth, power, clarity and confidence. The goal is improvement. Success will follow. Guaranteed. Gradual, steady, persistent and consistent improvement leads to success. The equation is that simple. I think a lot of people wrongly believe that success is paramount and that they have been lead down this garden path by the cottage  industry of life and business coaches prowling around online, in workshops and seminars. They’ve been putting the cart before the horse, generated huge profits for themselves and have saddled up customers to take their advice. I wonder what the success rate is for these do-gooders?

I’m all for your success but I think about it differently. I take the gloss off the sales pitches, solutions and the like. My philosophy about what makes a successful photograph (small steps made correctly) carries over to my idea about how my daily routines and processes can help move me in the direction of success by enabling me to improve slightly every day. Think about what this approach means? 5-7 days of slight improvement times 4 weeks time 12 months. That’s a lot of success!!!! Put you in the previous paragraph and see how it feels.

Even the inevitable setbacks won’t negate a years worth of incremental improvement. Too slow you say? I say enjoy the ride and along the way have a cup of joe and smell the roses, spend time with family or whatever it is you want and need to do as your reward for the incremental improvements and inevitable successes that form the heart of your career.

Good luck!

Michael

P.I.E.

Getting 140 different personalities to buy into my vision using my P.I.E. experience.

As I’m waiting around for several thousand RAW files to convert to JPEG so I can edit chapter two of the eight chapter sequences of the time-lapse project I wrote about here, I thought I’d write about my personal approach to improving my sales techniques. I call this process P.I.E., or Practice Interpersonal Exchanges. What does this mean exactly? That is the purpose of this post.

I know a lot of SECP’s are loath to sell, ask for what they are worth or even manage their cash flow. (assuming they have one) I know that my profession is commercial photography but my business is selling. To that end I take every opportunity I can to practice interpersonal exchanges with store clerks, gas station cashiers, waitresses, students, executives, parents, kids, photographers, the list is by no means limited to what I’ve identified here and of course it also includes my clients. I practice speaking, during phone calls, emails and letters. I practice, practice, practice.

I’m good at what I do because I practice. A lot. I have a temper and it can project me in negative ways if I’m not careful. So I continue to practice and see every interaction as a way for me to work through my issues and in turn get closer to my goal of developing better patience and understanding of the other party’s point of view. A good thing to be able to do when it comes to selling oneself is the ability to look at oneself from a holistic reference point to see the entire whole and not just the task directly in front. Basically everything connects and deserves to be respectfully supported so that the foundation is strong.

By putting my P.I.E. into practice I remind myself of who I am and where I’m trying to go. This is a good thing.

Some of the areas I practice are: saying hello to a stranger and asking their name, listening appropriately after asking a question, listening appropriately while the person is speaking (it’s important to them don’t forget), saying their name back to them ASAP, thanking them for their time, speaking clearly and slowly when leaving any type of number in a voicemail.

One of the things I particularly like to do is to call attention to a job well done. A customer service rep on the phone, a waitress, a student, even clients get this treatment. I’ve even go so far as to call back a company to say thanks when something that has been promised to me comes through. The person is surprised and grateful for the recognition. Apparently this type of P.I.E. doesn’t happen to them very often. I am glad to oblige, it makes them feel good and I get better at speaking to others. And that is what selling is for me.

Are you ready for some PIE?

 

Be Selfish and Volunteer Your Way to Success

A sampling of the days session

September 8, 2011 I volunteered once again to photograph those less fortunate than myself. I did the same thing back in 2009, when I was not getting enough photography assignments (or other work of any substance) and my monthly cash flow was shall we say….inadequate. Thank goodness for my other income streams: investments and real estate.

Volunteering is a way for me to give rather than receive, it feeds my soul. I receive many benefits from volunteering: I meet new people, I get to practice my interpersonal portraiture schtick, lighting ratios, RAW processing, color management, retouching, JPEG compression and emailing skills.

The sum total is that I become enriched. When paying projects do come my way, because I’m prepared, I know exactly how to handle anything that comes up. With personal style and professional confidence.

Over time the good people I help, help spread the good word about me. I’ve received recommendations on my LinkedIn profile and many heartfelt emails. It feels good. Over time the sum total of my efforts drives my credibility to ever higher levels. This in turn leads to more business and art opportunities that allow me live life on my terms.

Isn’t that what we’re all after?

Be selfish and volunteer.

It will do us all good.

Michael

Related Images:

My Competition is My Past

Knock Yourself Out

As part of my daily duties as a professional photographer and self-employed businessperson, I evaluate multiple aspects of running my business: finances, investments creative mojo, technical understanding/practical application, sales, marketing, interpersonal skills, pricing, vendor relationships, likeability factors and more.

It never ends. I’m not complaining. Just explaining what I do to keep my oarsmen in the correct rhythm so I head in the direction of my business and career plans. No easy task. I’m distracted and bore easily. How do I do it then? For 30 years I’ve worked on these duties a little bit at a time, just a few at a time, slowly. I learn and absorb the process, knowledge and practical applications on my time frame: slow and steady wins the race. For example: as a professional photographer I feel it’s my responsibility to look critically at my work on a regular basis and ask myself what can I do better than I’m doing now? More thoughtful approach to my lighting angles? More awareness of my contrast ratios? More competent lens/aperture/shutter speed selection criteria? I want to keep pushing my quality until there isn’t a single location lighting situation I can’t handle. Lit or not I want to conquer all  technical and creative situations. This is my goal. It’s beyond my grasp. I may never arrive at the level my sights are set on. But my constant evaluation process will move me in that direction. And I will always improve. You see, I’m competing with myself, not anyone else. This flys in the face of the conventional wisdom that states you compete against like-minded small businesses.

If photographers are different and offer different levels of quality, creativity and customer service, then how can I be in competition with anyone but me? I am aware of who’s in my market. Sure. I’m aware of what others charge and what issues others have regarding running their careers and lives profitably. This isn’t to say I don’t learn from the success and mistakes of others. I do. Frequently.

But I compete with my past. With my performance from yesterday. From last week. Last Month. Last Year. My competition is my past. This logic keeps me focused on the goals I’ve identified, sane and relatively stress-free.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

Michael

Self-Employment Society

I’ll be teaching one of three classes at my local community college this coming August. It’s an adjunct (contract) faculty position and I’m pleased at being selected. I’ve been teaching at a variety of educational institutions since 1987 and like photography, teaching is a calling. I’ve made a living at both for years but I wanted to call your attention to a trend that’s been building for years. The three classes are being divided up amongst new adjuncts. A full time person has left and the vacancy is being filled by adjuncts. No benefits, no sick days. No long-term commitment on the part of the school. I date the start of this trend to the beginning of business globalization back in the 80’s.

We’re becoming much more of a society of part-timers, double and triple jobbers, independent contractors and the self-employed. Gone are the days of full-time employment, full time benefits, a lifetime pension and straightforward and honest company executives. We have to make our own careers. This trend has been reported on by various media; The collective employment culture is evolving into one that uses non-traditional employment methods to get society’s work done. I say this because I’ve experienced it and continue to experience it: In addition to this adjunct position, I’m waiting to hear from a major player in our industry about an offer to work with them on a contract basis, filling a position that a full-time held previously. No benefits. No pension. No long-term commitments. Easy to get into. Easy to get out of. As long as the contract rate reflects my costs, (health care, taxes, overhead,etc)  I’m fine with these kinds of employment situations. I’ve been working this way for years, I’m an SECP.  I’m concerned for all of you who have not experienced being self-employed. On a good day it’s great. All the other days, it’s tough. You work hard every day and yet you don’t make money every day. Like I said. Tough. Yet it’s where we’re headed so you better warm up to the idea and get ready to play. I’ve been blogging about this since 2008. Go here. Here. Here. And here for a taste.

Business save money when they use contract people. Businesses save in salary and benefits. Part-timers don’t get as much pay nor do they receive benefits. Contractors should and usually do get more per hour so they can contribute to their expenses. When negotiating such a contract, don’t forget to figure that when an employee works for a company, the hourly rate they “earn” is approximately 1/5 of what they actually cost their employer. In addition to the hourly rate there are payroll taxes, social security taxes, benefits, 401k plans, insurances, etc. that are factored in. You need to factor these in too or else you will not thrive let alone survive. I’ve been factoring in these costs from day one and 30 years later, my investments are five times higher than the average working stiff. Booyah!

Do yourselves and your families a favor and begin the process of figuring out how to monetize your expertise and creating opportunities for such expertise. Success is a process not an end result.

Good luck and let me know how I can help.

Michael

Two Camera Tea House Time-Lapse

Mobile camera rig for a 5D and 16-35 F2.8

As many of you know I’m working on a project to deliver a four month time-lapse photography sequence. After capturing the first 5,400 exposures I moved camera 1 to the other side of the construction site. With the exception of this camera inexplicably shutting down for 1/2 a day after it was relocated (and after it ran flawlessly for 300 exposures), the move was successful. I chose to relocate because a tarp covering the entire structure was obscuring the work being performed and I wanted to get an angle that included the front of the structure.

 

A close-up of my rig.

To increase the odds my client will be pleased with the entire body of work, I occasionally add a mobile second camera to capture the work inside. The camera is set up at a spot where the work will be done for that day and a handheld intervalometer is used to control the camera. I leave for several hours. The fellows from Japan who are working here have enjoyed being photographed and have hammed it up a few times during my absences. The relationship we’ve been establishing with each other has been building and will lead to more cooperation regarding the shots I want. I look forward to working with them throughout the remainder of the time they’re here.

Photography is a powerful and universal language. I’m thrilled when what I do connects to others. The power is fun. The power is friendly. The power is gracious. The power is photography.

As soon as I post sequences, I’ll let you know….

Cheers!

Michael

Keywords & SEO, Playing Well Together Part II

In the previous post with the same name I promised to let you know if I got the job….

It took a bit of negotiating (completely normal), but we came to an agreement on scope and budget. As a gesture of good will, I threw in a video interview. I’m sure this will go a long way in building the relationship with this client. Step two was to collect the deposit check, order the custom-built time-lapse housing and meet with the contractor who will set the pole into the ground and run power. As of this writing, I have the check ($$$$), ordered the housing, camera and lens but I’m waiting for the contractor to return my email…..

I’ve had a reality check with this new client: their priority scale is calibrated differently than mine. My business is dedicated to providing superior customer service. To that end I’ve sent emails, made phone calls and have generally tried try to get them to work with me in reaching their goal of beginning this project on their suggested start date. In order for me to help them reach their goal however, I require a deposit check. Without the deposit check I cannot order the time-lapse housing. This special housing requires ten days lead time (for fabrication, de-bugging, delivery, set-up and final testing). The check was delayed by two weeks, the housing was delayed by the same two weeks and that has pushed the start date back to who knows when.

I’m not as concerned anymore because I have the check and expect to pick up the housing early next week. The ball as they say is in their court.

Keywords & SEO, Playing Well Together

You are but a speck in the vast internet sea……

 

Keywording, meta tags and SEO work. I received an email last week. It was a request for a quote to produce several time-lapse videos. A four month (possibly longer) time-lapse project. Video inserts also requested. I was stoked. After setting up a meet and greet, I prepared my talking points and began research into weatherproof housings. We’re in the budgeting process. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I was told an online search was performed for professional time-lapse and that my name was the only name that showed as a professional photographer of time-lapse and it was at the top of the results page! Spot number one. It’s good to be the king. All the other results were for time-lapse gear and youtube time-lapse movies. I know this to be accurate because I checked out the results using the same keywords they told me they input. Very cool indeed. Take that traditional marketing. Zap! Pow! Not to say traditional marketing is useless, it isn’t. Being diligent however with my keywording, meta tags and SEO, definitely gave me a clear advantage in this unusual situation.

The takeaway here is to really think about your keywords, meta tags, SEO strategies, the text on your website (especially the landing page) and not using flash to run your information. Takes time to learn, apply, measure and refine. The effort is worth it. And if your competition is doing so and your not…guess who gets more opportunities?

Michael

Keep on Learning……

Learning to shoot out-of-critical focus images

I picked up two new tutoring students this week. Both of them are educated, successful, have resources and are ready to take in the information and expertise I have in photography, Photoshop, printing, computers and thinking creatively.

Why am I blogging about this? Because my pursuit of knowledge and my desire to provide others with knowledge has been the huge driving force in my life for ten years. Teaching at public and private schools was my first stop. In 2008 (when our great economy got pulled under by stupidity, greedy banks and flaccid politicians), I lost all of my teaching jobs and have had to be creative in pursuit of helping others.

That’s where tutoring comes in. It took some time to find a core group of like minded students with as strong a desire to learn as I have to impart information. I am humbled and grateful.

Keep on learning you all.

Demand Responsibility

They appear to be the responsible type......

I’ve worked for myself since 1980 and have learned several important things. My favorite is: Don’t give in or up when you’re in the right. In reality it’s a matter of balance, (time vs. results gained) but sometimes you have to fight the good fight whether you want to or not. Be responsible and demand responsibility. When I’m called on something I did or said that didn’t fly with someone else, (and they have a valid point) I own up to it straight away, take responsibility, make amends and move on. It’s much better to eat crow when it’s warm. Own it. Deal with it. Move on.

When this policy isn’t reciprocated back by companies or individuals, then I have a problem. Talk about tiger blood. I demand responsibility. What goes around comes around. I don’t like to be messed with and more often than not will pursue amends. In the process I get satisfaction many more times than not. My 30+ years working for myself has made me strong, savvy and relentless. I’m good at writing, speaking and arguing my points. I’m detail oriented. I’ve had misunderstandings in business. One way to create leverage is by keeping detailed notes: dates, times, names, discussion summaries and correspondence. I learned this technique by using a sales tickler system.

When I believe I’ve been wronged and have the facts to prove it, I’ll begin the process of getting the other party to do the right thing. Case in point: I signed up with a company that promised to generate “qualified” leads for my commercial photography business. I hesitated to sign with them but I need to delegate my sales efforts. The sales rep and intake counselor were so sweet. It wasn’t sugar it was BS. They read their contract over the phone and you have to agree orally. I knew this was funky, yet I went forward. I bear some responsibility here.

From the beginning this company sucked on multiple levels: issues getting their system to recognize my email address. I questioned how they qualified leads after one fellow who was looking for an out of state local photographer, filled in their online form and I got the call. I don’t travel and this was in my profile at the time. I received another lead that was “qualified” even though my profile at the time was incomplete and no photographs of my work had yet been posted. As part of the sales process I was offered one unconditional credit. They reneged. Their lack of response to my inquiries after I signed up. The incompetence of “senior” account people who said they would clear up the problem.

My experience with this company was AWFUL. I got one of their “senior” people to credit back the charges to my credit card but in actuality she did not. This is what fried my cookies. The systemic lack of integrity was not going to go unrewarded. They underestimated who they screwed with. I play the game better than most. (I may write about my Bank of America experience, are they sorry they took me on!) (:())

I called the credit card company to request a conditional credit. This got the attention of the company. Another senior level person got on the phone and she explained their side. After she blathered on, I informed her I would write to the FTC, the BBB and the attorney general in their home state to complain about their business practices. She relented and agreed to the credit.

Ten days later I received two emails from this company stating that my account is going to collections for lack of payment. Huh? I wrote back and their response was that since I had not released the conditional credit it was my fault for this continuing issue. Huh? I called the credit card company to inquire about the refund. I was told the conditional credit was dropped a week prior because the company had sent the refund as agreed. This meant the books were balanced but the bank for this company had not yet processed the paperwork. It was another problem on their end.

Are we surprised?

The company is Service Magic. I recommend staying away from them if you’re a commercial photographer. They don’t understand our business well enough and don’t seem interested in learning from their mistakes.

Michael