Seriously, I am the worst salesperson ever. I admit to merely greeting people with a simple hello, a smile or a nod, and then only interacting when I see signs of them needing help. It is likely that my soft selling technique is way tooo soft but….
I am getting away with this.
Just the venue alone is conducive to sales.
Customers want to be there, they are looking for something special…my stuff is special! I make sure they can figure this out without my telling them.
They say that the product can’t sell itself…….well I say, at least try!
Now assuming that your selling in a market that is appropriate for your wares, this is my basic strategy….
Quality + Presentation + Persuasion = Bam….wrap it up
Make sure that it is good , and well made.
If you are a beginner, make the skill level that you are at, work for you.
When I first started out as a potter, my skills where rather “rustic”. I created work that I could pull off and used the rustic quality to my advantage by making earthier forms, I imbued this with plenty of charm and innovation.
Impart the qualities that the customer is looking for into the work.
This does not mean you are selling out. It just means you are a smart business person and you may need to make some adjustments to maximize your income potential.
For instance, if your personal desire is to make small mugs because that is your ideal and what you think is right, well I prefer that too. But, I can tell you from experience that the customer prefers really large mugs with good size handles. They are looking for what is going to be their next favorite mug or their dad’s favorite mug.
If you don’t cater to the customer to some degree, well….the problem takes care of its self, you will be spending your time making something else or doing something else (a job), harsh but true.
Making work that people actually want is a process of discovery and trial and error, but it is not a mysterious process, go at it with zeal.
Be prepared to do what ever it is going to take to be successful, don’t hold yourself back with ideals that really are not very important in the grand scheme of your vision and happiness.
Effective presentation is key here. You don’t necessarily need anything professional, it just needs to work for you. Marketing materials like a sign, business/gift cards, and packaging can really dazzle.
Prime real estate at an event, or in a shop/gallery space, can make all the difference in the world.
I have seen craftspeople with wonderful elaborate displays and others with card tables, both kill it at shows.
The actual time that you have to grab a person’s attention is about 1 to 3 seconds. Make sure that the customer can see and understand what you are all about in that short amount of time.
Early on I had this tall rack with 4 shelves that I used to display my unglazed terracotta planters. I found that when the display had just the planters, I sold about 80 bucks or so a day off the rack. When I mixed in my other glazed and decorated pottery, I went down to zero sales of the planters…….zero! I tried this on several occasions because, the first time is just a fluke, right? I switched it back, and the sales started up again…interesting. This was my first great discovery on how to passively manipulate sales.
It seems so obvious, but make sure that whatever you are trying to sell pops out in your display. Think in terms of large blocks of the same color or same shape, go so far as to separate your display units to keep visually competing objects, or fundamentally different lines of work away from each other.
Be willing to dump your whole display and start a new if need be. My first booth display was just a copy of a friend’s that encouraged this. I have discovered that the display can actually be a deciding factor in how much money I am going to make on any given day, this is why I build my display units small so that I can easily configure multiple arrangements.
When I was using the display to the right, which is just cardboard boxes painted white with wooden tops, I didn’t need to mess around anymore, I could sell paper bags off this display! I just totally killed it so many times and the boxes really hold up well.
When you are working with a shop or gallery, let them know what you think works best regarding the display, they are usually happy to oblige. I have even brought in my own display units and pedestals that were going unused and installed them in the shop.
Craftspeople predominantly use a soft sales approach, and we can get away with it because we subtly persuade with the unique qualities and presentation of our products.
Marketing materials and offering up a few friendly details about the function, innovations or processes you use can really clinch the sale.
We end up offering up the details we know are most important to the customer, over and over again. Try not to sound like you are giving them a spiel.
I actually attempt to phrase what I am saying randomly because it is kind of embarrassing when I have given a pre-packaged spiel and then suddenly recognized that I just gave this to the person an hour ago….oops! Being authentic and down to earth is important, people really appreciate this.
At Barnes & Noble they have a technique called “hand-selling” and I really like it. The customer comes in, requests a subject matter, they research it (or search their brain), then the staff person walks the customer to the book, pulls it and puts it in their hands…beautiful…need fulfilled!
Hard selling is just a bad idea and I see this on occasion, and when I do, it is pretty horrifying for everyone in earshot.
Recently, I met a vendor at a show who was actually trying to hard-sell fine art paintings! She told me she would say to the customer, “what is it going to take to wrap this up” and “let’s get it done” etc.
If no sale happened she would bully them to get their phone number and call them several times. She took particular offense at the excuses people were fabricating to get rid of her. Thing is, she had totally great work! She wanted the high-end crafts fairs that she easily got into, to work for her, but they just didn’t, every show was a bomb, her work was too contemporary for that market, she needed to be in a gallery setting.
As the desperation set in, she thought like so many of us have thought at one time, that the critical factor is verbal selling……that this was where the problem was going to be solved.
As artists/craftspeople /makers, we are trying to build relationships and even friendships with our customers, we need their support to make our living and the soft selling technique is really the only choice here. We can’t afford to alienate anybody if we want our long-term prospects to be full of opportunities and pleasant surprises from unexpected sales.
If people don’t buy from us now, maybe they will next year or when they have a particular gift to give. We need them to have a good feeling about us, and what we are trying to accomplish. Besides how are we going to get them to “like” us on Facebook!
What this comes down to is that we are really just doing the work of selling up front, so that we don’t have to aggressively “sell” to every person who comes thru the door.
Every time that you set up your display, try to add qualities that help the customer see the value.
If you have the time please share some of your selling tips (or selling fails and struggles) below, this is such a critical area and any insight will be appreciated. Holly