“I’m going to tell you right now that I’m not buying anything.” The Single Woman says as The Passer leads her back to the Sales Room.
“I won’t hold it against you if you change your mind.” The Passer says and smile. “So, how many kids do you have?”
“I have three children.” The woman says with a sigh. “But I don’t think any of them want a picture of me.”
“Do have a portrait of your mother?” The Passer says as they walk into the sales room. There are two tables setup with every portrait size and every style of frame that we sell.
“No.” The woman says and sits down in front of the monitor.
“Well, don’t you wish you did?”
She bought a small package, one for each of her kids and one for herself.
I am not good at being a Passer. I don’t have the natural flow and rhythm of a true salesperson. I don’t know when to lean in and speak softly or when to take over and tell them what they need to buy. I’ve worked with Passers who are masters of maximizing the sale. And more important to me, they don’t take all the credit for a good sale and place all the blame for a bad sell on the Photographer.
One Company I worked for decided to go with Shoot and Show-which is one person taking the portraits and then turning around and selling those portraits. As a Photographer, I live in a kind of happy bubble where I can take the portraits and seldom have to hear anyone say anything bad about them. When I started, I never even saw the Portraits, the Passers, or the Customers. Ah, those were the good old days.
Shoot and Show is what they do at Big Box Stores, Department Stores, and most Mall based Assembly Line Portrait Studios. The reason the Company does this is that they get to save money by not having to hire a second person to do the selling. After all, they know that The Photographer can spent a good deal of time just sitting around reading a book-and nothing bugs a Company more than an employee sitting around doing nothing. So why not train them to sell the portraits as well as take them?
Well, because most Photographers are not great salespersons.
Of course, the Companies that do this now just train their hourly wage employees to do both without mentioning that it used to be different. That in the dark ages it took two or three people to do the job now performed by one. It seems to be working for these Companies, and I have talked to Passers who used to do Shoot and Show and they loved it. They claim it made them better Photographers to hear what the Subject have to say about their portraits all day long. All I remember hearing was a lot of bitching and moaning.
Maybe Shoot and Show is better. I just know that overall Sales are down from the days when I had Two Passers and I can only guess that they would go down even further without any Passer. But then, that might just be my fear of change talking. After all, there is no guarantee that they would keep me and train me to be a Passer. The odds are better that they would train some of the Passers to be Photographers. In either case, I think it would be the last step before The Company closes the door on my part of the business.
I worked as a Passer for about three months. I never made any money. That was at a Company that paid straight commission on Sales-and then sent you to crappy Shoots with ten names on the Appointment Sheet. I remember being at one crappy Shoot where the Photographer was not happy with me, as he was also working for free. “They don’t want anything.” I told him. “You have to make them want something.” He said. I was never good at that bit.
That Company used what it called the Three Drop Method of Selling. As soon as you have finished showing the Subject the Portraits, you then show them a Portrait Package-a large one. Maybe a $900 package. Once they pick themselves off the floor, you offer a smaller package, say, $600. Once they refuse that you go for the Third Drop-the package you actually think they will want to buy-$350 and remind them of everything they will be getting and what a great value it is compared to the package that cost $900. I never had much luck with this approach. They were supposed to buy at the Third Drop, but someone forgot to tell them that.
Most of the Passers I work with use a modified version of the Three Drop Method-which works pretty well. The trick is that you must have an Interested Subject to start with. People who adamantly refuse to even look at their portraits are not going to buy no matter what method you use-and there are plenty of people who flatly refuse to take part in the Sales process and get up and walk out the door.
So the Modified Three Drop Method. You ask the Subject about kids, grand-kids, parents, siblings in other states, and anyone else you can think of that they might want to give a portrait to. You then start putting together a Custom Order giving everyone on their Gift List a Framed, Stretched Canvas, Retouched 8×10 and a set of wallets. You add a 16×20 Framed, Stretched Canvas, Retouched Portrait for their own home. You add a Framed, Stretched Canvas, Retouched 5×7 for the Husband’s desk and another for the Wife’s desk if she also works. You can now throw in the Proofs and a CD with digital copies of all the images taken during the Portraits Session with a Copyright Release so they can use them on Facebook or Twitter or whatever. You don’t tell them they can make their own prints from the CD, and you might not even mention that you have added the CD.
You then give them the total for this Custom Order, which is likely to be in the neighborhood of two thousand dollars. If they don’t hop up and run for the door, you ask them if they want to pay with Cash, Check, or Charge. When they say that is a bit more than they had in mind, you can start to remove things from the Package-you start by removing the Retouch, then go from Stretched Canvas to Regular Print, then you start to take off Wallets, and finally start to remove portraits for the people they really don’t want to give a portrait to. Each of these price drops brings the number closer to a figure the Subject is willing to pay. And each one looks a lot more affordable than the starting point of two grand.
Of course, when you find a package they are willing to pay for, you stop dropping and close the sale. Then you go out and get the next Subject and start all over again.
If only it worked that way every time. My own Passing experience was always more like:
“Who do you normal like to share portraits with?” I say.
“No one.” The woman says. “I’m not going to buy anything.”
“How about you kids?” I say.
“I’m just here for the Freebie.”
“Maybe you’d like a small package to share with your loved ones?” I say.
“I said I’m not going to buy thing. What’s wrong with you?”
“I’m just doing my job, Ma’am.” I say.
“Your just trying to pressure me into buying something I don’t want.”
And so on and so forth. At first I just want to slap them as they walk in the door, but after a while they just suck the life out of me and I don’t even bother asking if they want anything.
And that, Gentle Reader, is why I take portrait and don’t sell them.