Are you still frustrated with your sales after you’ve: applied the cost of sales equation to everything you sell; created a product line that leads your clients to the sales average you need; designed a beautiful site and simplified price list; and followed the experts’ best business advice?

If this is where you are, I want to encourage you to try a simple shift in your sales language that could lead to the sales you dream of.

Sales is really a simple conversation in which you grant permission to perspective buyers to invest in what they truly want. Now, you and I both know “simple” usually isn’t the first word that comes to mind in describing a sales transactions. Actually, there’s more than just one conversation going on.

The given is that there are at least two people involved, the salesperson and the client or the one investing in what is being sold. The main, “outside voice” conversation between them is about what is being sold and what will be purchased. But each party is simultaneously having a secondary, “inside voice” conversation with her/himself about the main conversation. These conversations go something like this:


Outside conversation: What do you want and how can I meet that desire?

Inside conversation: Do they really like my images? Hope so. Why did I photograph that one like that? Can today’s sale cover my bills due tomorrow? Kids to soccer practice in 45 minutes! Maybe they think my prices are too high. I know they are not, but …


OC: What are all my choices?

IC: How can I possibly pass up even one of these things? What all can I get for the amount I feel I can spend? What will my spouse say if I spend that much? Can I afford to pay that all at once? Do I look good in this image? Twenty by 24 inches — isn’t that awfully large for a portrait? Is it weird to hang framed pictures of ourselves on the wall?

In all of these conversations there can be confusion and frustration for both parties. Each party bounces confidence and doubt. I’ve learned that it is the party who remains calm and leads the conversation that wins.

With that in mind, I want to walk you through three simple shifts I made in my language that put my sales on the plus side of the conversation and took my selling experiences from grueling to fun and exciting.

Speak like an expert.

We do bounce between excitement and caution when we’re preparing to invest in something, especially something expensive. We long for someone to lead us through the difficulties of making decisions about things we don’t feel knowledgeable about.

Let’s admit that decorating a home with photographs requires expertise in art and interior design, which few clients have. When the client feels as though you, the salesperson, is an expert, much of the doubt portion of their conversation goes silent; they can trust the direction and leadership of the one who knows more than they do. If you don’t currently feel like an expert, begin the process of becoming one.

Always assume.

In your role as the expert, it’s important to assume that your client will follow your lead and love what you recommend. The key to being a great salesperson is to take that lead while allowing the client to feel in control of the final decision-making. You want to ask questions that you assume you know the answer to, yet give the client the option to say “No.”

For example, you are in a conversation with a potential client who is considering hiring you for a family portrait. As the conversation seems nearly over, you might have said something like, “Would you like to book your session?” A more effective assuming question would be, “What month would work best for your session with us?”

Here, you assume the prospect wants to book the session with you (you know you can give them gorgeous work), yet the prospect feels he has options. Your confidence encourages their faith in you and a desire to move forward.

Give permission.

People like to feel “normal.” Presented with a large decision, we long for someone to give us permission to do that. One of the ways you can give permission is tell the client what most people purchase.

Another opportunity to give permission comes when you feel like the client’s big purchase from a single session now might delay or deter her from booking, recurring subsequent sessions. Give her permission to hold off on decorating that third room until next year’s session.

Now you’re building trust that you aren’t going to try to oversell them. You’re also showing yourself as the expert, and you plant the seed that they will want to keep having their family portraits taken year after year.

The next time you’re in the sales process, take notice of your language and ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I leading the sale, but allowing my client to feel like she’s in control?
  • Am I speaking like an expert that my client feels she can trust?
  • Do I believe in myself and my work by assuming the client wants what I offer?
  • Am I giving my client permission to invest in what she truly wants and needs?

As you choose to be on the confident, leading, permission-giving side of your sales conversation, your clients will be much more likely to invest the kind of money you dream of, and I bet you will both have a lot more fun in the process.