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client-first sales strategies
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#043. 10 Mistakes to Avoid When Talking Money with Clients

January 20, 2021


Episodes Referenced:
#001. How Service-Based Selling Will Transform Your Business: 3 Essential Steps that Will Turn Prospects into Paying Clients
#002. How Befriending Your Potential Client Can Make Them a Paying Customer

#014. Why You Should LOVE Hard Questions from Clients
#028. Everything You Need to Know About Attracting Your Dream Clients with Erin Youngren
BONUS EPISODE: My #1 Tip to Convert Leads Into Paying Clients (and STOP Getting Ghosted!)

Free Resources:
The Super-Simple 4 Step Guide to Answering Your Clients’ Toughest Questions


Today we are talking about talking about money with clients. This is a topic that I know a lot of us small business owners struggle with. Selling to clients is hard, and often, the hardest part is actually talking about a client’s budget and selling them a specific package with a dollar sign attached to it. For me personally, learning to talk about money with clients has been a process that has taken years to develop. I made a lot of mistakes along the way which caused me to lose potential bookings, lose out on bigger sales, and, in general, held me back from serving my clients in the best way possible AND achieving all I could achieve. 

So, for the most part, no one really likes talking about money with their clients. It can be intimating, awkward and nerve-wracking. Many people would even say that they’re afraid of having that conversation with clients! This aversion and fear of talking money with clients is often the catalyst that leads to making MAJOR mistakes – mistakes which lead to losing a client, or selling the wrong thing, or leaving money on the table. A best-case scenario in sales is the opposite of this, right? You want your client to happily purchase the package or service that is perfect for them, and you want that “perfect package” to be the highest dollar amount possible. So that’s why I’m sharing these 10 mistakes to avoid when talking money with your client – I want every sale you make to be a best-case scenario, and want you to make these sales often! Each of the mistakes I share today are going to be paired with a better way of doing business so that you can apply these tips right away to your own process of booking clients! Let’s get started with that list!

Mistake #1 is not asking the right questions

A huge mistake that many wedding photographers make is failing to ask questions before providing solutions to their client. When you fail to ask questions, you eliminate the opportunity to serve your client in a unique, personal and customized way. Particularly in the wedding industry, clients (who are engaged couples) want to feel special. They want to know, like and trust their wedding vendors. They want to know that their special requests have been heard, and not only heard, but appreciated and honored by their vendors. Failing to give them this experience, from the start, is going to turn them off to working with you and make it far less likely that they’ll want to book with you at all. In other words, you’ve lost them before you’ve even started. 

But let’s pause for just a second before going any further – you can’t ask the right questions if you never have a conversation. If you take NOTHING ELSE away from this episode today, you should know this: the BEST thing you can do to get clients to book is have a conversation (phone, video, or in person) before they book you. If you want to learn more about that, check out my bonus episode from May 15, 2020 – my #1 tip to convert leads into paying clients. This is a great place to start!

So, back to asking the right questions – before you ever bring up your packages or services, you need to ask the right questions to your client. This should include questions that allow you to get to know them personally (also known as building rapport) and also questions that specifically identify their own unique needs and desires for their wedding day. If you’ve been listening to the podcast for a while, you know that asking the right questions and building rapport are topics that I’ve shared about a lot and that I’m passionate about. If you’ve never considered “asking the right questions” to your client before, go back to the very beginning episodes of my podcast and listen to Episode #1 (How service-based selling will transform you business) and #2 (How Befriending Your Potential Client can Make them a paying customer). So start there if this is all new to you!

But let’s talk specifically about questions to ask that directly relate to money. You need to ask questions that uncover exactly what it is that you client needs to buy from you. As wedding vendors, we sell a service, and not only that, but we sell a customizable service. Package items like number of hours of coverage, number of photographers, additions like engagement sessions, and rehearsal dinner coverage, and albums and prints – the list goes on! – these things can be combined in all different ways to create a completely unique experience for a couple. 

BUT – you never want to assume that a particular option works for a couple before asking the right questions.

So what are the right questions? Ultimately, the right questions depend entirely on your unique service. I think it’s helpful to start by looking at all the different things you have to offer and then deciding on what you need to know from a couple to determine if each of the options makes sense for them. I break down the types of questions I ask into two categories: detail-specific and vision-specific.

I ask detail-specific questions that identify the objective elements of a couple’s day: so things like questions about timing, the size of their wedding party and family, the locations (to know if there will be lots of driving travel or if everything will be in one place), and other details that will help me understand how many hours of coverage will cover what.

I ask vision-specific questions that identify a couple’s priorities and dreams for their wedding day. I ask what their biggest priorities overall are, I ask what photos their most excited about, ask about what parts of the day are most important to be photographed, and I how they envision using their photos after the wedding. These questions are equally as important because they help me build a package that I can confidently say, “this is a perfect fit for you and your unique dreams for your wedding.” 

So #1, don’t make the mistake of forgetting to ask the right questions!

Mistake #2 is not building value before talking money

The logical next step after asking the right questions is building your own value before ever even talking about money. This mistake will cause a couple to wonder why they should spend money on you personally. If you don’t stand out, if you don’t make it clear what makes you special – what makes your service a luxury (because let’s be honest, no matter what you charge, spending money on a photography is absolutely a luxury!) – if you don’t build and communicate your value FIRST, then a couple is not going to want to spend money on you, period. And offering a discount or freebie later on honestly is just going to make it WORSE because you’re further de-valuing what you have to offer!

So, you need to build value before ever talking about money.

How do you build value? This can happen in a variety of ways. First, everything you do marketing-wise should build your value. Your website, your social media posts, the way you interact with guests and vendors on wedding days, everything you do that brings in a new inquiring couple should be building value along the way. These marketing strategies should be telling the story of who you are and what makes you stand out from others. 

Second, you should be building value in the actual conversation that you have with a couple before they book. This should not be overly complicated or long, but a simple, concise way of communicating what it is that you offer. My perfect formula for communicating value to clients is:

A Prepared Value Pitch + Customized Specifics

I don’t have an elevator speech. Just to be honest – I haven’t memorized some 30-second spiel about my business. Instead, I have a list of HBP qualities in values (in my head) that a communicate to the couple by weaving it in to our conversation. I pick specific items from that list and then customize the way I phrase them to match specific things that the couple mentioned to show why I am a perfect fit for them and their unique needs. This sounds super complex, but honestly, it’s not. It only takes a little bit of practice to remember and communicate your value in a clear, natural and organic way, and it will make all the difference in the world when selling to your client and talking about money. You do, however, need to be honest with yourself – you need to understand yourself and your business deeply. You need to know what exactly makes you stand out, and you need to be excited about it! This leads me to #3… 

Mistake #3 is not believing in your own value.

First, let’s address the obvious with this question: if you don’t think you’re worth the money, are you really going to feel good about selling to your client? The answer is no!

But before we go on, I want to give you a little encouragement – if you care about the work you do, if you strive to be the very best artist you can be, if you are constantly looking for ways to improve your business, if you want, more than anything, to WOW your clients – you are worth it! 

Monetary value is, ultimately, somewhat arbitrary. I know it sounds crazy to say that, but any service or product is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. So when it comes to an actually dollar value that you’re putting on your wedding services, the number doesn’t really matter. What matters is value itself. Do you provide value to a client? Do you stand confidently by the service that you provide and the photos that you create? If the answer is YES, then you are worth an investment.

One more note about this – as artists, we can be really critical of our own work. We’re all constantly striving to create beauty and get better and better at our craft. So if you’re listening right now and your work isn’t where you want it to be, that is OK and that is totally normal! That does not mean that you’re not providing value! Creating art is a tricky business – so don’t be discouraged if you’re not always 100% pleased with your work. If you are striving to be the best artist you can be and you’re working your hardest to provide your clients with an amazing experience, you are worth it!

So, all this to say, you have GOT to believe in your own value when talking money. If not, this is going to show through to your clients and you won’t be able to make a sale. So take some time to reflect and have confidence that what you have to offer is valuable to your clients!

Mistake #4 is being TIMID. 

In other words – lacking confidence when talking about money. This is the logical next thing after #3, right? First, you need to believe in your own value, and then you need to let that attitude influence the way you speak and carry yourself. Nothing is going to make your clients less interested than being timid. If you’re not speaking with confidence and authority – as a professional does – than your clients will not be confident in your abilities to serve them. 

One of the best things I did for my business very early on was deciding on being fearlessly confident. Now I know that that is easier said then done, but here’s what I did: I decided in my mind that I was the very best option for couples and I promised myself that I would go above-and-beyond in every way to give my couples an unforgettable experience. So going back to #3 – I mentally believed in my own value and was excited to share it! I also made the mental decision that I was a professional. I wasn’t just a recent college grad with a camera. I researched other photographers and best business practices, and I learned all that I could about providing a wedding photography service in advance so that I could speak with authority and confidence on all things wedding photography.

I cannot tell you how much couples respond to vendors who speak with authority. It is SO comforting to talk with someone who is both knowledge and kind, who speaks clearly and confidently about their profession. 

For some, speaking with confidence comes more naturally than others. But for everyone, practice makes perfect. Do practice consultation calls with a significant other, friend or fellow wedding vendor. Ask for feedback and think about different ways to phrase and word your sentences. And all this leads me to . . .

Mistake #5 is not preparing for the conversation.

You might be listening right now and laugh out loud at this one – you are the type of person that prepares for everything in advance, and rehearses the conversation over and over before it happens. If this sounds like you, this still might apply to you because you have to prepare the right way.

Now if you’re like me, and you like approaching conversations off the cuff, you definitely want to listen to this as well!

Failing to prepare for the money conversation is likely going to cause you to say the wrong thing – whether it be failing to ask the right questions (by thinking of questions in advance), or failing to communicate your value in a personalized way, or even just stumbling over your own words.

Properly preparing for the conversation requires several things. First of all, if you’re just new in general to having a conversation with potential clients, you should practice this with someone else, like I mentioned before. Just getting in the habit of creating naturally-flowing conversation and knowing how to phrase certain elements of what you do is going to be really helpful for the future!

Next, you want to prepare the content of the conversation. What questions will you ask? What are the main points of value that you have to offer? You don’t need to write out a speech (in fact, I would advise against that because it will sound forced and inauthentic!), but you do want to know the specific ways that you provide value. Spend time considering these things – you can even have them written out in front of you to start if you’re doing a phone call!

Finally, be prepared with the material that the client needs. Specific to talking about money, know your offerings inside and out. Have your pricing sheet pulled up next to you. Prepare for the questions you might get asked so you can answer them quickly and with confidence (and if you’re worried about getting hard questions, check out my podcast Episode #14 – Why You Should LOVE Hard Questions, and the hard questions cheat sheet that goes along with it at HannahBjorndal.com/toughquestions). 

So in summary of Mistake #5, the more you prepare and practice, the better. You’ll come off as more polished and professional, more confident and more able to serve your clients needs in a specific and unique way!

Mistake #6 is answering money questions on the spot.

This sounds like it directly contracts #5, doesn’t it? What I mean by “answering on the spot” is answering a question specifically related to money that you don’t immediately know the answer to. For instance, if a couple shares on a call that they’d like to do an engagement session in New York City and you live in Miami, but they want you to travel there for the session and ask for a quote, don’t answer that question on the spot unless you already knew that question was coming and you’ve researched the cost significantly. You never want to guess or just throw out a number on a call before having time to think about it. Another example comes from a personal experience of mine a few years ago. A couple who was considering booking me asked if I offered a military discount. At the time, I have never even considered this but loved the idea of it as soon as they asked. Rather than saying, “you know what, we don’t, but I’ll consider that as an option and get back to you” I said “YES WE DO!” and offered a % off discount right away without thinking about the specifics of what I had just done. Turns out, I offered a bigger discount than I intended, and then I had to figure out how I was going to address that discount in the future if this couple told their friends. 

All that to say – DO NOT answer money questions on the spot if you haven’t previously considered how you want to answer. It’s obviously great to prepare and consider every possible question about pricing that may be thrown at you, but chances are you’re going to get a question at some point that you’re not ready for.  There is NO harm in confidently saying, “I’m going to have to think about that a little bit more and I’ll get back to you in an email shortly”

Ok, #7!

Mistake #7 is assuming your client is just like you.

It is really difficult to get out of the mindset that everyone sees  pricing in the exact same way as you do. I really struggled with this early on, because when I got married, my budget for photography wasn’t even close to what I now currently charge. There were a lot of factors here – the location I was getting married in, my age, and even how much I valued photography at the time! However, when I first started pricing myself, I felt guilty charging more than what I had paid our own photographer for my wedding day. I assumed that everyone saw that amount of money as the “normal” amount to spend – everything else above it was “expensive” and anything below it was “cheap.” 

As my business grew, I was able to feel more confident about pricing myself higher, but for a long time, I had a subconscious “threshold” of what was/wasn’t expensive or too cheap based off what I saw other photographers charging. UGH! That was the wrong way of looking at things!

I think I was really able to get out of this mindset when I had a friend getting married and we were talking about photography. She asked for my advice on photography pricing, and then said “is this amount  too much, or is that about right?” – and then number she gave was nearly double what I was charging at the time! Now it’s not like she is a celebrity or the wealthiest woman on earth – she was honestly planning a wedding very similar to the types of weddings I was photographing! This really put it into perspective that most couples have no idea what is normal to spend on photography, and if you do a good enough job explaining and showing the value, then it really doesn’t matter what other people charge or even what you think is “normal.” 

So remember that your client is likely NOT just like you, and you should carry any guilt or worry about your pricing being too much!

The next mistake is similar to #7 –

Mistake #8 is assuming your client will want to book the smallest or least expensive package.

Oh boy, I have definitely struggled with this one, what about you? Similar to the mental struggle of assuming everyone is the same as you, assuming that clients will want to book your smallest package not only causes you to miss out on bigger sales, but it also often means that couples get the wrong package. 

The mistake here is fixating on price instead of value. You’re assuming a client is looking for the lowest rate, likely because we are accustomed to “bargain shopping” in our culture and ALSO because you’ve had other clients ask for discounts in the past. 

Not everyone is looking for the cheapest thing.

But more importantly, couples want the best fit. While they might say they have X budget or want to save money wherever possible, they also likely have a list of things that are important to them (which you discovered at the beginning of your conversation!), and once they realize how to get those things that they are hoping for, the smallest package you offer might not be the best fit! In fact, it likely won’t be.

Remember that couples need to be educated. You are the professional, not them. They don’t know what to expect from a photographer (or they might have incorrect assumptions). Ultimately, you are the one to educate them and help them understand what they need. And in so doing, you’re going to discover all the different things that would need to be included in a photography package. It’s your job to tell them this and tell them what it costs.

So don’t make the mistake of assuming you know what your client wants and needs before you’ve done the important work of asking the right questions. And once you know the answer to those questions, use them as a tool to serve your client in the best way possible (and, as an added bonus, not leave any money on the table!).

We are on to Mistake #9!

Mistake #9 is failing to give the next steps.

Despite all the best preparations, mindset shifts and confidence boosts, it is not that unusual to want to “speed along” the money conversation. Especially if you’re new to selling to clients, talking about the actual booking and decision-making is a little bit intimidating. You don’t want to come off as pushy or too sales-y, you don’t want to pressure your client in a way that feels uncomfortable, so . . . what ends up happening? We failed to give clear instructions about what the client needs to do next.

It is a huge mistake to assume a couple will just “know” how to book you. It’s also a huge mistake to think that they’re going to do this quickly if there is no reason to move quickly!

Maybe you can relate to this – but when it comes to making major financial investments, my inclination is to push off the decision as long as possible. Somehow, this seems like the safer and better thing to do. It gives me longer to think . . . and yet I end up just not thinking about it at all. Days, weeks even months pass and I still haven’t made up my mind. 

First of all . . . this is not a healthy way to live! Being decisive and making final decisions is the only way to move forward in life. If we’re being honest with ourselves, almost any decision in life can be made within just a few hours if we dedicate enough time, research and energy to making that final decision.

And when it comes to actually making that decision, I know that I am wayyyy more likely to actually pull the trigger if I have super easy and clear steps on how to do so!

So. You need to give your clients clear instructions – clear next steps forward – so that they know exactly how to make it official and also exactly how much time they have to do so!

This should be done multiple times.

You should first give your clients clear next steps when you’re having a conversation with them about booking. As the call comes to a close, clearly state “the next step is . . .” and explain what’s going to happen next.

For my own photography team, we tell couples that they will be receiving an email directly after the call ends with a proposal and contract attached for the package that we have agreed is the best fit during the course of the call. I let them know that I’m happy to make updates to that package if they change their minds, and that we will happily hold their date for 48 hours to give them time to make a decision.

Then, directly after the call (I’m talking within 2 minutes) I send an email with the information I promised.

Then, if they haven’t booked yet – two days later, when the 48 hours is almost up, I send another email reminding them that the date is still held for them with the proposal and contract attached.

We continue to follow up, even after the 48 hours when couples don’t give us a final response, if the date is still open. We let them know that it’s OK that they needed more time, and if they do want to book, to let us know so we can check the date availability for them at the time.

All along the way, I’m giving clear instructions. I want the path to booking to be as easy and free from roadblocks as possible. It’s amazing how even the smallest obstacles may cause a couple to change their mind, so don’t let those technical details get in the way of booking your clients!

Alright, final mistake!

Mistake #10 is making just about the money. 

I want to end this episode with some closing thoughts about the money talk. #10 is possibly the most important of the mistakes to talk about, and yet I also think it’s important that it is the last one, because from the outside, it might just seem like an easy way out of not selling properly to your clients. 

As you’ve been listening, you may have noticed that a lot of the “mistakes” that I talked about today actually aren’t mistakes that you make as you talk about dollars and cents. They are mistakes that are made before and after, that really set you up for success when talking about dollars and cents. All that to say – talking about the cost of each package, or the financial breakdown, or the final cost estimate isn’t necessarily essential to the money talk. 

A HUGE mistake to make in that initial conversation with a client is to just make it about money. 

While you shouldn’t shy away from talking about specific offerings or even pricing for those offerings, the central topic of conversation should never be actual dollar amounts. 

In my own pre-booking consultations with couples, we rarely actually mention the dollar amounts. It just doesn’t come up. The couple is able to view my pricing guides before our initial conversation, so when we finally do talk, we look over those package options together and narrow down which is the best fit based on what’s included, not what it costs.

The exception to talking about actual dollar amounts comes down to questions that come directly from a couple about pricing. Sometimes, I’ll have a couple asking me point-blank, “how much does that option cost again? I don’t have the pricing guide in front of me.” Questions like this, obviously, I am happy to answer and do so with confidence! 

But, if you share pricing information with couples via a webpage, or PDF, or something else that you email or send over digitally (which I recommend!), then there is no need to spell out the dollar amounts during the conversation. 

After the conversation, they will have a chance to see the quote you prepare for them and what is included, and from there, you can answer any remaining money questions. 

The main point here is that if you focus on the money, so will your client. If you focus on the value and what they’re receiving, then so will your client. Your client’s experience, even during a sales call, is entirely what you make it. Your attitude, your confidence, your positivity and your input all create an impression and an experience for your clients. You want them to leave that conversation feeling excited about your offerings, not focused on a dollar amount!

WOW – we went through TEN mistakes to avoid when talking about budget today! That was a lot! I hope you found it really helpful and that you’ll take some of these tips and apply them to your business right away!

As always, I love hearing from you! Send me follow up questions DM on Instagram @HannahBjorndal or email at info@hannahbjornda.com. My favorite thing ever is getting messages from you guys, so thanks to those of you who have reached out recently! If you haven’t already, make sure to subscribe to this podcast so that you never miss an episode! I post new episodes every Wednesday.

Finally, if you love this podcast, please leave me a 5-star review! They absolutely make my day!

See you next week!

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