When I was a kid I remember my Grandmother telling me, in no uncertain terms, that children were meant to be seen and not heard. Really? I’m not allowed to talk? Seemed kind of rude at the time but now I wish I could go back and thank her. Not only did I manage to stay out of trouble more often than I probably would have if left to my own devices, but I’ll never know how much I learned because I wasn’t busy talking and I was able to actually listen to the stories being told around me. A few years down the road, I taught students that anybody could be reached emotionally because everybody had a need. If you met that need, then an emotional connection would be made. Some people need to hear how awesome they are, some to hear that you have what they want in a monetary sense, and in one humorous case, someone needed to hear how cool they were because they had recently purchased a rare type of racing pigeon. Hey, to each their own. What really mattered was recognizing the individual’s need so you could make a plan address that need. Note that wasn’t “meet” their need, just start to address it. People are surprisingly forgiving if they feel that their need is a legitimate priority for you.
There are literally hundreds of photographers in my area just jumping to tell my potential client how amazing they are and how tack sharp their latest photograph is. Hey, I’m no different. I usually chomping at the bit to release every image that I think is just technically awesome! For example, look at the recent shoot with the one and only photog rock star, Huong Forest and the lovely Gianna and Manila in front of the lens. I couldn’t stop jabbering about how incredible these ladies were and how I did this, that and the other thing during the shoot. Well, to the potential client who is considering contacting me, is this really what she or he wants to hear? Maybe, if they’re another photographer, but probably not. They don’t know Gianna, they might not care what Manila’s story is and might not have anything in common with either of these ladies, but they absolutely do have needs of their own. They may want me to sit and listen about their college years, how I’m going to deliver amazing wedding or portrait photos to THEM, or how they are completely cool for choosing to have their wedding at the local dairy. Sure, I mean doesn’t everybody want to get married with cow manure in the background? Well, after taking the time to listen and learning that her Grandfather, who recently passed away, owned a dairy when she was a little girl and those summer visits are her favorite childhood memories, yeah the dairy is a pretty stinking cool idea (no pun intended). The problem is that if all I did was spend the entire consultation talking about how incredibly awesome I am (compared to the other hundreds of photographers she shouldn’t choose) and how I use that light and this filter, my overactive mouth wouldn’t allow me to actually listen and realize that what she needed was the affirmation of her decision on the dairy wedding. If you ever needed proof, I saw this in action at a recent wedding during which I was lucky enough to assist Jennifer Halen and Desiree Rohlfs. Jennifer had spent so much time and built such a strong relationship with the couple that the photography team was an invited guest of the wedding instead of just another vendor. It completely changed the dynamic of the photos for the better. The product delivered to the customer was better because the photographer listened to the needs of the client…not just the bottom line. Stay tuned for more on that wedding in future installments. All I can say for now is…a-maze-ing!!
There’s an old saying…”We’re born with two ears and one mouth for a reason.” If you’re speaking more than you’re listening, you may have figured out why nobody seems to be listening to you.
See you next time everybody.