My copy of How to Win Friends & Influence People is well used. I hope it will become much more dog-eared over the years.
I’m starting to think that the success of most photographers doesn’t really lie in their technical skills, their branding, their equipment, or the number of site hits they get a day.
Real, lasting success, I suspect, comes from the ability to interact with people.
Whether those people are your subjects or your clients, the skill of connection is so unbelievably important that it is hard to overstate.
And yet, we, as photographers, spend our time studying light and composition and what gear is best and what website template fits our personal style, and a myriad of other such topics.
But I don’t believe we spend near enough time studying people.
When I made that realization, and set about to correct it, I genuinely saw a massive change in my business. Massive. But more than that, I saw a massive change in my life.
To begin this topic, I’ll hit you up with a report on the book that really made a huge impact on me. I know I have a tendency for hyperbole and dramatics, but I genuinely believe that anyone who reads this book has an advantage in life.
Did you get that? Anyone who reads this book has an advantage in life.
Yeah, that’s how much I dig it. Let’s think about it though. It was first published in 1937. The material is 73 years old, and yet I read it and found it extremely relevant. To me that suggests that Dale Carnegie, the author, hit on the fundamental, unchanging principles of human interaction. Studying this now will benefit you for your entire life. Sounds good, right?
So here’s my book report. Hope you dig it. But more than that, I sincerely hope you go and buy this book and read it and see how much of an impact it can have in your photography, your business, and your life. I suspect it will be very significant, if you want it to be.
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
I have the “Special Anniversary Edition”, which I think just updated the language so us modern folk understand his jokes and references
It’s not a huge book, but substantial. My copy is 249 pages. And when you think of a “self-help” book that is that long, you might cringe. I know I did at first. But it got to the point where I knew I had to read it, so I prepared myself and dove in.
I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was an extremely enjoyable read! He fills the book with many anecdotes and stories so that you are entertained while you learn. I’m always down for edutainment. It ends up being a pretty quick and painless read. In fact, I devoured it. I’d recommend grabbing a paperback copy that you won’t feel bad about writing in, since I did a LOT of underlining and note making. I even used a pencil as my bookmark so that I could really interact with the material. I found that really helped me absorb the ideas. Whatever does it for you.
The book is broken up into four sections:
- Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
- Six Ways to Make People Like You
- How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
- Be a Leader: How to Change People WIthout Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment
Each section has subpoints that are discussed in detail and then summarized at the end for review. This structure really helped to reinforce the critical principles before moving on. (If you’d like to take a look at all the points Wikipedia has them listed here.)
The section that I found most valuable, and that I have been working on a lot, is “Six Ways to Make People Like You”. It sounds funny to write it out like that; that I’m working hard to figure out how to make people like me. But when you read the book you realize that it’s all about compassion and respect, not tricking people into thinking you’re cool. So it’s not as weird as it sounds. :)
The biggest point, the one that has really directed our focus with our portrait business, and has made an incredible impact is this:
It’s actually very easy, but something that is not done enough. Too many people are a bit caught up in their own lives, which is completely understandable. But, if you’d like others to really like you, focus on them. It’s magical, really. And the more you practice, the more you realize that everyone is interesting. The key is just asking enough questions, and paying attention, and you’ll find it.
How To Improve Your Connection With Your Clients
If you look at photos of Rob and myself shooting, you’ll notice we smile constantly. Constantly. All day. I smile at pretty much anyone I come into contact with. Some people might think I’m crazy, sure. But I usually am met with a wonderful smile back, and we both go off feeling happier than before. It’s amazing, the power of a smile.
My goodness, I feel so embarrassed to admit how bad I have been with names in the past. But after reading this book I made it a very serious goal to be great with names. And with practice over the past few months I’ve improved so much.
Practice your clients’ names before a shoot, and repeat names after meeting people. Anything to make it stick. Doing so makes an enormous difference in the way people relate with you.
Encourage others to talk about themselves, and listen:
This is huge. And you’ll be amazed at how well it works.
Just ask people about themselves, and listen. You’ll find yourself in some of the most interesting conversations ever!
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might notice that I ask a lot of questions. And I get a lot of great responses and conversation going! When I post something about myself, I get very little response.
Be genuinely interested in other people.
Make people feel important, and do it sincerely:
When you do this well, I can’t imagine you ever worrying about needing more clients.
If you put in the effort to make your clients feel important, and do it sincerely, they will talk about you to everyone they know. It’s a constant effort, and not something you can just do once, but it’s very much worth the time.
For us, it’s things like sending handwritten cards, dropping off prints to our clients homes, and bringing treats for the kids, remembering their favourite musician, or asking about their recent visit with their family. The more things we do like this, the closer we become to our clients, and the more rewarding the relationship for everyone involved. It’s win-win in all respects.
Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise:
This was a quote from Charles Schwab (one of the first people in American b
usiness to be paid over a million a year in salary), when discussing his greatest assets. And it’s something to take to heart.
Try to give as many genuine compliments as you can. Never flatter. Always mean what you say, but do it often, with clients, friends and family. Bonus: It truly feels great to do.
If you can make someone’s day by taking 2 minutes to send them a message saying you like their recent work, or just that you think they’re cool, why wouldn’t you?
Stop being shy. Tell people when they do something awesome! And for goodness sake, please make sure you tell your photographic subjects that they look great!!!!!
The other sections of the book are, of course, extremely helpful as well. When I find myself in the middle of a “customer service problem” I need only to review the “Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking” section, and I am able to handle it compassionately, and with understanding.
I’ll tell you a secret. This book lives on my desk. And I have picked it up on a couple recent occasions to consult when I needed guidance on how to deal with a problem. I read it a few months ago, and am ready to read it again as a refresher. It’s a book I know I’ll always own, and will open up every once in a while, to remind me of the importance of treating other people with as much kindness and thoughtfulness that I can.
I think my opinion is a bit obvious by this point. Read this book. It rocks. :)