Now that Memorial Day weekend has officially ushered in the summer craft show season, let’s talk sales.
Usually craft sellers aren’t naturally into the whole sales-person role; we are artists, not salespeople. But if you’ve ever done a craft show or are thinking about participating in a craft show, you know that sometimes you have to put on the sales-person hat. So, how? What’s the best way to go about this task?
For the next 9 weeks, I’ll be posting weekly tips on being a better sales-person in a series of posts entitled “SELL OUT!” It’s a series on hand-selling homemade work without losing your soul or compromising your integrity. The focus here will be on the actual act of selling.
This series was originally posted on my own blog, starting a few months ago. Laura, of Prairie Pheasant, asked if I'd be willing to re-post the series on the BEST blog for fellow book artists. I'm happy to do so; I hope others find it useful. I’ve tweaked a few things to be more specific for this blog and I’ll be putting up a new post on Wednesdays for the next 9 weeks or so.
I based this series on what I learned from years working craft shows myself, as a vendor, as well as what I learned working as a salesperson at a small and highly successful handcrafted pottery retail store for many years. Also, please know that I didn't start out as being good at hand selling stuff, but I’m happy to say that I did become good at it. It was something I was kind of proud of when I was regularly doing shows (I took an extended break from shows when I became a mom). It felt like a bit of magic every time I engaged with a customer. I felt like sales I made were most often of the win-win variety, which is the best sort. And that is a good good feeling that I want other crafty people to share.
Most of the tips will be aimed towards selling at craft shows, but a lot of the principles of hand selling could easily crossover to other sales venues too. All types of hand selling are not the same, but many principles are. The idea is learning how to be engaging and helpful when you are in a position of selling things to people. To be engaging but not annoying, pushy or slimy. Mostly it’s about being true to your best self and your product.
I also want to acknowledge Bruce Baker, a jeweler who I bought a cassette tape about “being a dynamic craft-seller” from a decade ago. I listened to that tape several times in the car on my way to some of my earliest craft shows, and even though it’s been nearly a decade since I listened to that tape, as I read over my tips I see many echoes of what I remember learning from him present in what I have to share. I owe Bruce a great deal of gratitude; if there is or was a Bruce Baker school of thought on sales, I’d be in it. I’d like others to know that and look up Bruce’s products if they find this series helpful.
SO onto TIP 1:
1. To sell stuff, you actually need to do something. It is an active job.
The reason non sales-people often have an impression of a sales job as being one where you have to be annoying, pushy or slimy is because people bad at sales come across this way. But this image is missing a major part of the picture. If you are in a position of being a sales person of sorts, you should actually be trying to sell something. If you just sit aside or ignore the role or don't do anything active, you are also being a bad salesperson.
The annoying, pushy or slimy sales person is, in fact, at least trying to do their job. They just aren't doing it well. The inattentive salesperson who hides in a corner and reads a book when they could be engaging with potential buyers isn't even trying to do their job. They are running away from it. Creative people who are thrust into the role of selling stuff (I.E. newbie vendors at craft shows) often end up being the types who don't even try to sell, lest they do it poorly.
So consider this a shake-up. I am grabbing anyone out there who is guilty of hiding in the corner when they should be engaging with potential customers and I am shaking you awake. You need to figure out how to better do your job.
So what the heck do you do with yourself when someone walks into your craft booth? How do you go about “doing something” or being "active" as the tip suggests? And by doing something, I mean without becoming annoying, pushy or slimy?
For the answer check back next Wednesday, when I’ll offer tip #2.