All Decision makers? What?

“All decision makers need to be present at the ordering appointment.”

You hear this phrase floating around in IPS circles all the time. In the terms spelled out in the client agreement, all decision makers must be present at the ordering appointment.  

Now, this is a sensitive subject. Are you saying that the spouses must come together because one isn’t capable of making the decision (specifically in a husband and wife dynamic)? That sure sounds insulting.

So what exactly does that mean? And how can you address this issue without seriously offending people?

Because here’s the bottom line: you really do need all the decision makers present. But that doesn't mean that ALL decisions makers are a couple, it can be one person or both or a combination of family members.   It isn't our job to figure out who all those decision makers are, it is our job to communicate to our client effectively what will be happening at the appointment so they can decide who must be there.

Let’s break this issue down and sort out how to handle it.  

The Reasons Behind The Reason

Some photographers interpret the “all decision makers present” issue to mean that both partners in a family unit must be at the ordering appointment (for the sake of this article I am going to use the terms husband and wife).

There are a few reasons for this.

Reason #1: Financial Implications

The thinking goes that when investing in a large purchase for the home it’s assumed that both the husband and wife must be there to make those decisions together because of the financial implications for the family budget. And with some photographers, it’s implied that both the husband and wife to be there because the wife cannot make these financial decisions on their own (more on this in a minute).

Reason #2: Home Decor Decisions

Another assumption is that it’s not possible for one person in the family to be able to make decisions about what is displayed in their home. People have different preferences, and if only one decision maker is present, they may choose something the other doesn’t like, creating all sorts of headaches.

Reason #3: Miscommunications

Having everyone present saves on getting phone calls or emails the next day wanting to change the order because one person failed to convey the value to the other partner. Now they’re uncomfortable with the amount that was invested in the purchase.  

Getting To The Heart Of The Matter

Let’s unpack the first argument. We all know times have changed and that women have their own money and can certainly decide on their own how that money is spent. They don’t need their husband’s permission to make larger purchases. For us to imply that they do need that permission is wrong and can get you in hot water with your client if you don’t handle this carefully.   

But that brings us to point number two. Just because one person can make large purchases on their own doesn’t mean that they’re all comfortable doing so. For example, in my home, I am fully capable of making significant purchases on my own. I don’t need my husband’s permission or approval. But when it comes to what I display in our home, I want to respect the fact that he lives here and might have an opinion on what’s displayed.  

So when I want to hang up a large wall portrait that includes all the family members, I ask him what he thinks. It’s more of a matter of respect in our family dynamic than me needing his permission.  So yes, I would want him there.

When it comes to point three, I don’t know many too many photographers that have gotten a phone call or email after a selection appointment, asking for a revision in the order. But it DOES happen, and more often than not, it occurs when only one partner has come to the selection appointment.  

This can happen for a variety of reasons:  

  1. The person at the ordering appointment didn’t know how to say no to you. It was easier to say yes and then send a message later.

  2. They realized that they really did overspend and truly need an adjustment on the order.

  3. They went home and found they couldn’t convey how beautiful your imagery and products were to their partners. As a result, their partner put their foot down on the purchase.  

When all the decision makers aren’t present, you’re ultimately putting the sale in the hands of the person present. They have to go home and sell it all over to their partner. But their partner didn’t see the slideshow with music, didn’t experience your great presentation, didn’t see how tears were shed when the images were displayed, or how excited the client got about displaying them in their home. They can’t do your job (selling) as well as you can.  

So how do you get all the decision makers present at the selection appointment? It can be tricky, especially if you have a hesitant husband who barely wanted to come to the photo session.  

When I’m speaking with the person who set up the selection appointment and she pushes back on the idea that she needs to bring her husband, this is what I say”

“I know that he might be hard to get him to the appointment but we’re going to go through all your images and I wouldn’t want him to miss them. And I know that if it was me, I would want my husband’s opinion on what I hang in the home.”  

Then I make a little joke and laughingly say, “And I don't want to go home and have him fuss at me for spending so much money either.”   

She’s usually nodding her head and agreeing with me, and then I say, “And this is when the order is finalized and paid for. I want to be sure that he loves what you have chosen.”  

And she usually says, “You’re right, we’ll both come.”

On the other hand, there are times when I go through that scenario and she just says, “Oh, I don’t care what he thinks I don’t want him there.”  

And I simply say, “Great, I can’t wait to see you so you can see all the great images and we can finalize your order.”  

I find with these clients, ordering at the appointment isn’t a problem at all and I’ve never had one come back to change an order over their spouse’s opinion.

Honestly, a lot of the pushback on having all decision makers present is because people assume it’s demeaning and patronizing to women. And honestly, if someone said to me that my husband had to come because a large financial decision was being made, I wouldn’t book the session and it would sour my attitude toward the photographer.  

Ultimately, it’s all about how you frame the issue.

The idea that women can’t come to make these decisions on their own is antiquated. Don’t put yourself in the category of the out of touch photographer by insisting on this practice.

BUT make sure you’ve covered all your bases a professional manner so that when your clients come to the appointment they’re prepared for what will happen and what is expected of them.