SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 1

Welcome to BEST blog readers! The Book-binding Etsy Street Team blog is featuring an interview with me tomorrow. (link). Hooray! What fun.

In gratitude for the interview, I thought I'd start a series that might be of particular interest to BEST readers, but hopefully will also be of interest to other arty types who already read my blog. The series is entitled “SELL OUT!” and it will include weekly tips (every Thursday) for the next 6-8 weeks on hand-selling homemade work without losing your soul or compromising your integrity.

I’m basing this series on what I’ve 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's something I was kinda 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 authors who don't know what to do with themselves when they sit around awkward and bored at a quiet book-signing or similar situations. 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.

Most weeks I'll keep the tips short, but this week I hope you’ll forgive this rather too-long of introduction, and allow me the postscript I’ve added at the end, tying the series into my own personal journey.

ADDENDUM (added 5/13/11)
As I’ve been finishing writing the last few posts for this series and looking back over what I’ve written I feel that I was remiss in not noting at the beginning (this post) another major influence in my way of thinking regarding sales. While I’ll be directing people to his website (for those who want to learn more) in my final post of the series, I felt compelled to come back to the beginning (for those who may join the series late or be looking through back posts) and 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 here. I owe Bruce a great deal of gratitude, and upon looking him up 10 years later, I see that he is still actively teaching others to be better sellers. If there is or was a Bruce Baker school of thought on sales, I’d be in it. I’d like my readers to know that and look up Bruce’s products if they find this series helpful. [end of addendum]

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 Thursday, when I’ll offer tip #2.

On a personal note:
 I have a personal reason for diving into this series. While I've been good at hand selling crafts for a long time, I haven't ever gained that same sales-girl mojo when it comes to marketing my children's illustration work. If I could hand sell my children's books to real kids, or parents or teachers, I'd be psyched. I'd love it. I'd be in my element. But selling to the INDUSTRY mostly daunts me.  The mojo there has thus far escaped me (I will say that it has helped tremendously when I've attended conferences in the past and met real people from the INDUSTRY. Real people are way better than capital-lettered imaginary monsters). So, anyway, A few years ago I sort of bailed and just focused on my craft, which was good. I wanted to make my work really shine. And my work is way better for that time spent focusing on mastering my craft.

But! That being said, sometime last fall I realized I really had no excuses anymore. My work is good. I feel really proud of it and I believe in it. That is a key part of sales (maybe I’ll discuss that in a future tip). SO in other words, I decided it was high time I needed to shape up and learn to sell my illustrations like I learned to sell my handmade books. I needed to face the INDUSTRY and carve a path for this more cottage-y sort of gal.
So this year I’m doing it. I'm following through with an ambitious sample mailing schedule. I’m following goals that involve submissions. I'm working on some alternative promo ideas that feel distinctly me (although I don't know if any promo can be as fun as the book dragon!). And I'm even considering how to approach rejoining the twitter machine without it sucking up soul and too much time. I'm learning to flex the sales girl muscles in a new way.

The tips I'm posting in this series are related to hand-selling crafts, not selling to a big INDUSTRY, but they remind me that I learned to be good at selling in one area, so I can learn somewhere else. And so can you.