The Best Worst Way To Sell: A Step-By-Step Guide

Back in the day, I worked in the portrait studio of a retail chain that, for legal reasons, we’ll call “CJ Nickles.”

We mainly shot children. (edit: Photographed. We photographed children.)

It was my first introduction to sales, and also the reason why I thought I hated sales for years after.

If you were to make a list of Things Not To Do In Sales, CJ Nickles checked every. Single. Box.

It was Dante’s 7th Circle of Hell for both clients and salespeople.

Allow me to walk you through the average customer experience:

Portrait sessions are scheduled back-to-back-to-back, last only ten minutes, and there are no breaks in between. One uncooperative toddler (redundant) can derail the entire day’s schedule. Expect to wait over an hour. Hope you brought toys for the kiddos because this studio provides NONE.

And we all know how children love waiting. By the time your name’s called, your kid is a screaming hot mess of snot bubbles.

If you survive the portrait session, next you’re squeezed through the patented CJ Nickles Client Cattle Chute™ and chained to a monitor with your eyelids taped open, forced to relive the horror review of your portraits.

You’re exhausted, you have a headache, and you wanna get out of there. But no, this salesperson isn’t listening to you. They’re too busy rattling off an obviously scripted spiel (and you deserve a medal just for enduring it). You finally agree to purchase SOMETHING, just to be released from this hostage situation.

Think you’re done? EEEET, wrong. You still have to pay. Why can’t you pay at the monitor? Because screw you, that’s why.

So you wait in line, again. The outside world is but a distant memory.

distant memory

If you thought that was painful, buckle up for the salesperson experience:

The soundtrack to your day is non-stop meltdowns. Kids plead to go home like prisoners of war. (You too, during your one break per 12-hour shift.)

You’d give a kidney to have this sign displayed on every wall:

every wall

You don’t take the photos, you just sell them. Meaning you have no idea WHAT’S coming down the pipe. Usually, you can gauge how it went down by the client’s thousand-yard stare. But you never know what you’re selling until the photos appear on the screen.

You’re forced to insert cutesy frames around portraits, design holiday cards, and create collages in an attempt to upsell the customer BEFORE they get to see all of their pictures. No bypassing this step. The sales software is designed this way ON PURPOSE. It primes the client for a NO from the get-go. Of course, they’re gonna decline your offer when they don’t understand what you’re offering.

If you luck out and work with the one good photographer on staff, chances of reaching your daily sales quota increase significantly. Decent portraits are easier to sell. You’re excited, the customer’s excited, and you both end up having fun designing a package that meets their needs.

But when (not if) you get the lousy photographer… good luck sucker. You have to sell a bad product to a disappointed client, no matter how much it hurts you both. You apologize. A lot. (Remember, crying is not an emergency. This ride ain’t stopping.)

And your manager still has the audacity to ask why you didn’t meet your quota.

why you didn’t meet your quota

Traumatized Yet?

This isn’t a portrait studio. It’s a red flag factory.

Red Flag

This sales model fails customers and salespeople at every step.

It does not:

  • Meet customers where they are.

  • Serve their needs and desires.

  • Make it easy to buy by offering a killer product.

  • Attract or keep high-quality employees.

  • Attract or keep high-quality clients.

  • Promote authenticity in sales.

  • Prioritize an exceptional customer experience.

Feel free to use this step-by-step process as the ultimate UN-manual. A guide on how NOT to go about your sales. Just do the opposite. It’s that simple, really.