The Fastest Way to Lose a Prospect (Before You Ever Meet)

Good friends are your biggest cheerleaders. They’ll also tell you when something about you or your business can be ‘improved’.

Today I want to be a good friend and get honest about the individual and team photos I see on many advisory websites. So here goes…

Dear Advisors:

Please stop sharing awkward photos of your team standing in a formation in which they would never stand, in a location in which they would never be together or dressed in a way they don’t always dress.

When it comes to individual photos, consider something that provides a window into who you are rather than something that looks mysteriously like a high school yearbook photo. And if you’re going for some action with your photos, make it authentic. We know you aren’t actually on the phone or in a client meeting and knowing you faked it makes it look, well, awkward.

As your friend, I have to tell you that the vast majority of photos on websites do little more than tell me there are actual people working there. They do nothing to communicate your culture or personality. And as a prospective client, that’s exactly what I need to see.

I’m sorry to be harsh but it’s only because I care. More important, I think there’s a huge missed opportunity to do something great.

Yes, You Need to Hire a Professional

In fairness, I don’t see many sites that look like someone’s child took the photo with their iPhone (although there are a few). It seems almost certain that most advisors have taken the leap and hired a professional or, at a minimum, someone with real skill.

Finding a professional and finding the right professional are two very different things. The right professional helps bring something out in you that will be truly engaging. That will only happen if you’re completely comfortable with that person because that comfort – or discomfort – will come through the lens.

My headshots are taken by Sevag Sagherian. I consider him part photographer, part therapist because he patiently talks with me (and laughs with me) about life while he shoots. I’d estimate he takes over 100 shots and we pick one. The one we choose is typically of a moment when I was laughing at him (or myself) and was completely unaware of the camera. I may not look great, but it’s real!

Your Headshot

We know this much. Your face is your face and that won’t change.  (I’ve often wished this wasn’t the case when having my own photos done!) A great individual photo has nothing to do with how you look and everything to do with the message it sends. It’s about capturing a moment when you look like yourself, you’re smiling and your eyes are looking straight at the camera like you’re talking to a friend.

Clients aren’t choosing to meet with you because of how you look but because of who they think you are.  A great photo communicates that and a bad one hides it.

I asked Sevag to share some hints for a good headshot (beyond finding the right photographer). He shared the following:

  • Make sure your eyes are looking into the camera.
  • Make sure you breathe.
    • It sounds odd but it’s true.
  • Lighter-colored attire with a brighter color underneath gives the photo a pop and brings it to life.
    • I get a failing grade on this point but also recognize that you need to balance the best practice with what will make you most comfortable.
  • The photographer should shoot down on you, not straight on.
  • The clothes that you wear should reflect who you are. Ties are becoming passé for men; a more casual look often works best.

Your Team Photos

I think team photos are the bigger missed opportunity.  If they’re done well they can give a prospective client a window into what it’s like to work with you. I feel reasonably certain they won’t pull up in front of your office and find your entire team standing there in a long line trying to look natural.

Show your team at work, at a team event, helping in the community, laughing, listening – anything that gives people a window into your world.

My partner in crime at Absolute Engagement is Reema Baber.  In addition to being the Director of Programs and Development she’s an avid photographer.  According to Reema, there are three things to consider (beyond hiring a professional) when taking photos for your website.

  1. Keep it natural. Don’t sacrifice your personality for the sake of professionalism. You want your photo to be representative of your business, yet at the same time, to convey warmth and approachability. The standard straight-on, stiff-backed ‘mug shot’ method just doesn’t cut it. Lean against a wall. Relax in a chair. The more comfortable you feel, the more it will come through your photo.
  2. Background matters. Position yourself in front of anything but a monochromatic wall. Adding some detail to the background in your image makes the image more interesting and realistic. Your desk or elsewhere in your office can work well, as long as there is enough natural light in the room aside from the camera flash alone, which can sometimes be too harsh. At the same time, it’s important to maintain a shallow depth of field in the photo so the background is blurred and the focus remains on you, without the other details becoming too much of a distraction.
  3. Beware the fake smile. Your smile has two critical components: the smile itself, and the action performed by your eyes. When you are genuinely smiling, the orbicularis oculi muscle – the one responsible for closing your eyes, contracts. A forced smile causes basically no change in your eyes, and immediately gives you away. Make sure your smile is a real one so that your eyes are smiling as well. This makes your photo instantly more natural, and you more likeable.
  • Finding the right photographer, in my mind, makes all the difference because they help you be “spontaneous”. Oh and I like to work with Reema because she uses words like orbicularis oculi in a sentence.

It’s unlikely that someone will leave your site because your photos aren’t perfect. The question is, will they be compelled to reach out because they want to be a part of what they see?

Thanks for stopping by,

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2 Responses to The Fastest Way to Lose a Prospect (Before You Ever Meet)

  1. Jason April 4, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

    We did the website for this team, and it does a great job of showcasing their personality: http://exceptionalwealth.ca/

  2. Carolyn Gowen April 5, 2017 at 7:29 am #

    For those readers of your blog in the UK can I give a shout out for The Headshot Guy? http://www.theheadshotguy.co.uk/

    He’s the only person who has ever taken a photo of me that I liked!

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