I had a problem. I wanted to find a low pressure way to “close the deal” without sounding like a greasy salesman.
I knew that if a potential client walked out that door without signing a contract, the likelihood they would book decreased dramatically. This had nothing to do with me personally, but that didn’t make it any easier.
You see, when consumers have all the time in the world to make a decision they often end up focusing on inconsequential items, and they use those to make their decision easier. When comparing photographers who are all talented, personable, and within their budget they start to look at silly things to help break the tie.
For example, I once lost a client to another photographer, and when I asked the event planner what the client’s deciding factor was, she told me, “Well, they really like both of you, and ultimately chose so-and-so because she includes 3 thumb drives instead of 1 and a bonus ‘brag book’ to use however they want.”
I was floored. This couple was comparing photography packages in the 5 digits and their deciding factor was extra thumb drives? A cheap, press-printed book from Millers Lab? Had I known they wanted that, I would have gladly thrown them in for free to seal the deal!
So, back to the dilemma:
How do I close the deal before they leave, without sounding high-pressure?
The Magic of Booking Incentives
For me the answer was a booking Incentive. Booking incentives should incorporate these key features:
1. The client is told about the booking incentive ahead of time.
When I send them the confirmation email for their consultation, I say something like, “Also, I have some great booking incentives for those clients who are able to make a decision at our meeting. If you think you’re close, please bring any important decision makers to our consultation so you can take advantage of this incentive!”
This gets them thinking about the possibly of booking on the spot, it lets them know that I will make a “time sensitive offer,” and it encourages them to bring mom and dad if they’re paying and want to be involved in the decision.
2. The incentive has to offer real value.
It can’t be a raffle ticket for a free iPad. It’s got to be something valuable and something they want.
I actually give 3 options (a framed 16×20 print, 20 extra album images, or 100 custom thank you cards). This way they can find something they like.
Also, you never want to simply discount your price because that a) cheapens you, and b) costs you more. Taking $500 off your package price costs you a lot more in profit that throwing in an item valued at $500, but to the client it’s all the same. So go with the freebie.
3. They’re time sensitive.
This seems obvious. At the end of the meeting, after going over your packages, you say, “Also, I mentioned my booking incentives. This is simply a reward for those clients who are able to decide at our meeting. If you book today (contract plus deposit) you can choose from one of these three items! Each is a $500 value!”
I also have a (much cheaper) incentive for those who book within 3 days (a few 8×10 prints). However, in my experience people either book on the spot, don’t book at all, or book much later than the 3 days and simply accept the fact that they lost their incentive.
When I implemented booking incentives my bookings improved dramatically, because when all other things were equal, this gave them the extra push they needed to choose me over someone else. It also doesn’t hurt that my consultations are usually very fun and laid back, so by the end they are feeling really good about things and I can take advantage of that emotional “high.”
Adam Nyholt is a professional wedding photographer, co-founder of Gively.com, father of three, and husband to one. His hobbies vary widely and include, but are not limited to, mountain-biking, home-theater-building, barbecuing, and flying R/C helicopters. His mission in life is to love his family well, take amazing photographs, and help as many people as possible along the way. He also enjoys referring to himself in the 3rd person when writing his own bio.