What kind of message are you sending?
Last week I photographed two real estate agents a few days apart. They were both connected to the same national company, but worked out of separate independent offices.
They had nothing to do with one another, and may or may not even know of one another. The only other thing they had in common was that they both served in the same region. The similarities ended there. They couldn’t have been more different.
During the photo session I asked them both a number of questions as I often do to relax my clients. I asked how the market was in our region and essentially, how was business?
The first agent sounded like Eeyore lamenting that business was slow, there are too many agents in the area, people wanted to list their homes themselves to save commissions, and on it went. He also mentioned during our conversation he was only getting a new photo done because other agents at his office were giving him a hard time about using the same photo that was over ten years old. I guess his now thinning hair that contrasted so strongly with his old photo was the catalyst he needed.
A few days later enter the next agent and again I started with my questions as he sat for my camera. This time, his answers made me question if they were both working in the same region.
I asked, “How is the real estate market for you these days?”
His reply was, “Fantastic, things are really booming and we couldn’t be happier!”
I should mention that there were other differences in addition to their answers. The second agent showed up wearing a sharp new suit with a gold tie. He had a slight tan and he was impeccably groomed. He also walked in carrying several jacket and tie combinations. He was prepared for his session. His demeanour was relaxed and confident and he took a keen interest in me and in my studio. He asked me a lot of questions about my business.
The first agent? He was wearing a tired sweater and and an expression to match it. He seemed older than he was and even his shoulders seemed to droop. His body language showed me that he was a “glass half empty” kind of guy and his conversation just confirmed that observation.
So which agent would I likely call if in the future I was selling my home? You already know don’t you? The second one. The one with the “glass half full” attitude.
As photographers we can also project a favourable or unfavourable message to prospects and clients. That message can be projected a number of different ways, so we need to be conscious of all the points of contact that can create a good or bad impression.
Let’s start with us. We should always project a positive attitude no matter who we are talking to, so how we communicate verbally is of the utmost importance. Telling others that business is slow or complaining about customers is just a great way to make things worse. That kind of conversation can be kept for your spouse or close friend but never to anyone who could potentially be a client. It would be better still if we could try to avoid those thoughts completely and concentrate our efforts on making changes where necessary to improve our situation.
Hopefully the words we use and the way we talk will be considered by others to be kind, helpful, positive, and encouraging. When we talk about our business we want to project success, integrity, energy, fun, and anything else that connects to our brand. We want to communicate our successes with a pinch of humility so we don’t sound like we’re bragging but simply want to share our good news.
Remember that social media is permanent – once you say something critical or negative it’s hard to take it back. I am always amazed at how many photographers use Facebook as a platform to rant about their pet peeves in life. You might as well put a “Going out of Business” sign on your door after you do that. Prospects might wonder what you might post about them if they do business with you. So best practise is to keep everything you say online positive and stay clear of posting anything that is negative or possibly controversial. Remember also that in general people will gravitate to businesses that appear successful and shy away from those that appear to be struggling, so don't share anything online that suggests your businesses is anything but thriving.
Another way to make a positive change in the way we project ourselves is in our appearance. Being well-groomed seems like an obvious thought, but sometimes we can get lazy and overly comfortable. Looking our best doesn’t mean spending crazy amounts on expensive clothes or jewellery or hairstyles. It does mean spending the necessary attention to our outward appearance so that we project a professional image wherever we go.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the idiom “clothes make the man” (which incidentally is a line from Shakespeare) but I found an article from Psychology Today that uses scientific studies to back up that idea.
“It's been well-established—in the scientific literature and real life—that what we wear affects how others perceive us. Women who wear more masculine clothes to an interview (such as a dress suit) are more likely to be hired. People dressed conservatively are perceived as self-controlled and reliable, while those wearing more daring clothing are viewed as more attractive and individualistic.” -Psychology Today
Psychology studies reveal that first impressions are formed within 7 to 17 seconds of meeting someone; 55% of a person's opinion is determined by physical appearance. In reality, what you wear is not a shallow consideration; it could make or break your meeting. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional then you need to look the part. -The Business Insider
If physical appearance is that important we should be doing everything we can to enhance that experience. A study by Dr. Albert Mehrabian at UCLA revealed that when we try to convey meaning through our communication with others, the majority of our message is communicated nonverbally and through voice and facial expression.
Make a point of smiling, greet others with a warm handshake and eye contact. Those three little things always make a good and lasting first impression.
So it would seem that we should invest time in the image we project to our clients. Not just in our clothing and grooming but also in things like our studios and our vehicles. Is your studio cluttered? Are there empty coffee cups hanging around? Are there surfaces with a week’s dust accumulating? You might be blind to things that you pass by everyday that can leave an unfavourable impression with clients. If you drive a client to a portrait location, is the interior of your car impeccable or is there pet fur and stains on the seats. Can old fast food containers be seen kicking around in the back seat? We can laugh about those examples but I speak from experience. I’ve gone into another business and noticed a number of small areas of neglect that lead me to wonder if bigger things are being neglected as well.
I’ve given some solid ideas here for you to consider regarding the message you want to convey about your business and the impression you want others to have of you.
- Choose your words carefully and try to always be positive and cheerful.
- Always convey an attitude of professionalism.
- Take care in personal grooming and wardrobe.
- Make sure that every point of contact with your business is maintained, clean and tidy.
- Try to appear confident even if you don’t always feel that way.
- Make sure anything you post online is free from negativity.
Make sure the only message you send is one that conveys to the world that you are a professional. Present yourself as someone who loves what they do and is good at it. Be sure that your appearance and language are always a great representation of you at your best.