My wife didn’t know. My parents didn’t know. No one knew.
But I had a secret.
At first, things seemed perfectly normal. Sure, the recession was going full steam, but I had just come off my best year ever, and I was ready to make 2009 even better.
Fate, it seems, wasn’t on the same page…
It was just a trickle, but if you looked, the signs were there. The phone rang a little less. My planner friends stopped calling. Slowly, I went from inquiry town to ghost town, and the inquiries that came in were always about pricing. And forget about meetings. No matter how I asked, no one wanted to come in.
In fact, after I’d send people my price sheets, most inquiries just flat out disappeared.
It didn’t make any sense to me…
Why would they get in touch then ignore my reply?
By the middle of the year, my cashflow had gone off a cliff, dragging me down with it. I had exactly 3 months of savings left.
What was I going to tell my wife?
What would my friends think?
The stress was pooling in my gut, and I felt exhausted from worrying all the time. Every morning before sunlight hit, groggy and dazed, I’d reach for my iPhone to scan my emails, praying for a booking. But the well was bone dry. I couldn’t figure it out. My prices were good. My pictures were solid. But my business was slowly dying.
And even when the occasional inquiry came in, it was the same thing, over and over. I’d get excited. I’d muster all of my energy to write a perfect reply. I’d commit to it with the full force of my hope…
What I didn’t know then, was that I was consistently violating the Fundamental Law of Persuasion. By sheer luck, though, my desperation would lead me to the one piece of information that saved me. It was a study about inquiry response, and in 3 steps, here’s exactly what I learned…
(Quick Note: There’s a guide I put together to at the end of this post to show you how to deal with any objection clients throw your way. Be sure to look for it.)
STEP 1: REPLY FAST. (WAY FASTER THAN YOU THINK.)
When you’re the one replying to an inquiry, time goes fast. An hour or even half a day feels pretty fast. But here’s the thing. If you’re the one waiting, it’s forever.
For example, think of your first crush. Think of waiting to hear from your first crush to go on a date. Every second is agony. And, sure, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but time goes very slow, when you really want to hear from someone.
But, worse yet, you’re rarely the only one. People commonly send out a bunch of inquiries to many photographers. They’ve got multiple crushes. (After all, no one ever said business is monogamous.) And each time your client gets a reply from another willing and able photographer, their excitement for you wanes that much more.
But it’s not just theory. The numbers that they found when they studied it, blew me away.
How Much Does Speed Matter?
Professor James Oldroyd of MIT partnered with InsideSales.com and found that the odds of qualifying a lead if you contact them 30 minutes after an inquiry drops by a factor of 21 times compared to a 5-minute reply. Even going from 5 minutes to 10 minutes translated to a decrease in response by 400%. And don’t even ask what happens after a full hour.
It really is true that other people eat your lunch.
It didn’t used to be this way. But this is an instant everything world, where people are used to chats on websites, information on demand, and more now, now, and now than ever.
You have a window—maybe five or ten minutes—to really impress someone. If you reply in a minute, it’s like a chat. Your client is ready to go and excited to respond. In five minutes, she’s probably still at the computer and thinking about you. At ten minutes, you’re responsive. And that counts. This is your first chance to make an impression, and a quick response shows good service. But it also capitalizes on excitement. The more excited someone is, the greater the chance they’ll reply.
After an hour or many hours, the opportunity is gone. Odds are you’re just one of many replies. Some people can’t remember in the afternoon what they did in the morning. Many people. The more time passes, the more everything is a blur.
Here’s how to reply FAST without ruining your life.
So the numbers are too big to ignore. Maybe it’s not really 21 times. Maybe it’s not even 4x. But even if you could double your response just by replying faster, it would be the easiest money you’ll ever make. How many other things get you a 200% lift for almost no work at all?
But, let’s say you have another job. Or you’re on the road. Or you’re just busy. After all, you can’t always go around checking email every 5 minutes.
All you have to do is forward inquiries, and only inquires as text messages, so you’ll be notified on your phone. Easy peasy! Here’s what you do:
First, set up a custom inquiry email that you use for nothing else.
Second, forward those emails as text messages to your phone.
How? Simple: Every cell phone has a corresponding email address that will appear as a text message. You have to look it up from your provider, but basically, if I send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, it would show up as a text message on a Verizon cell phone with the phone number 555-444-3333. (Verizon is @vtext.com. AT&T is @txt.att.net. Sprint is @messaging.sprintpcs.com)
If you’re on Gmail, you just go to your settings, and fill in the forwarding information:
Third: Keep a template for your reply on the Cloud, cut it, paste it, and change the name. Done deal!
Over the years, I’ve tried short replies, long replies, casual replies, formal replies, psychological replies, and low key replies. Speed made a bigger difference than all of them.
Here’s what’s next…
STEP 2. TELL THEM WHAT TO DO
Now that you have a fast reply, you can work on creating an effective reply. Start by making sure your communications have a call to action. For example, you might ask to set up a meeting or a phone call or whatever the next step is for you. If you don’t ask, people don’t do.
How detailed should you go with your call to action?
There’s a study in the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. Students are given a personality test and divided into two groups (the Jerks and the Saints), based on how likely they are to make a donation. When given a basic letter just asking for donations, none of the Jerks donated, and only 8% of the saints donated. Not terribly impressive.
But get this: When given a detailed letter that included a map, a specific request to donate a can of beans, and a suggestion to think about a time when the student would be close to the donation center, a full 25% of the Jerks donated.
In other words, the instructions increased the chances of donation more than people’s personalities. Give people as detailed instructions as you can for what to do next. Naturally, if it’s just a chat, that can be fairly short an quick. But if it’s more involved, you can do what I call Barrier Mapping.
Map out every step of what your clients have to do for your call to action, then guide them through each hurdle they’ll encounter.
For example, I used to have an interactive form, and I went so far as to direct people not just to the page, but to tell them what to do and where to click.
What hurdles do your clients face? The Fundamental Law of Persuasion is simple: See the world through your client’s eyes. The more you do that, the better the chances they stay in touch.
Juice It Up a Notch with Social Proof
You can do one better by adding this little touch, along with specific instructions: “Most people like to [do what you want them to do].”
Most people like to set up a meeting. Or…
Most people like to have a chat. Or…
Most people like to come out for coffee.
Why bother? Simple. People are social creatures. We have a herd mentality. It’s known as social proof in psychology, and what it comes down to is that when you hear everyone else does something, you don’t question it. You just feel like you should do it, too.
STEP 3: GET THEM ON THE PHONE
In sales, trust rules all. That means taking the time to show you care, learning about your client’s needs, and getting to know one another. You can’t do that in an email. Email is too impersonal for high value connections. It’s true that a lot of people just want your basic information. But that doesn’t mean you should give it all out. You’re not a walking price sheet, and that’s not your job. Your job is to help people, and until you talk to them, you’re nothing more than an abstraction and a number.
So simply ask for the phone call, then use that to learn about people.
BONUS: Handling Objections and Stalls
So, invariably, in any sales process, you’ll wind up dealing with objections and stalls. Things like, “I need to think about it,” and “This is a little more than I wanted to pay.”
There’s a 3-step framework for that, and, as promised, if you need more help, here’s what I’ve done:
- First, I’ve put put together the exact 3 steps to use, so you’re never lost for words when people have an objection and potential clients don’t walk away and book someone else.
- Second, I’ve included my 3 most popular psychological pricing strategies in a video for you. You can implement them in just about 19-minutes, and they work instantly and invisibly.
- Third, You’ll get free access to the Foundation Framework email course. It’s the formula I used to stay fully booked for a decade in one of the most competitive times to run a photography business.