SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 7

SELL OUT is a blog series including weekly tips (every Thursday) for the next 2 weeks on hand-selling homemade work without losing your soul or compromising your integrity. It’s mostly for crafty business sorts who are gearing up for craft shows season. But it may apply to authors who do book-signings and are sometimes put in that slightly awkward place where they feel like a sales-person but aren’t sure how to deal. See the original introductory post here, and the following posts in the series here, here, here, here and here.

Tip #7: Don’t cross your arms or make similar closed body gestures while selling your work. Also, look out for closed body gestures in your customers – such gestures send a signal worth listening to.

Open gestures suggest a touch of vulnerability – just enough so that you show you can be trusted. Closed gestures suggest you are feeling intimidated or that you don’t want to talk. They say “go away!” If you are crossing your arms or folded all over yourself in the back of your booth, you are telling your customers to go away. If you are consciously keeping your arms open, perhaps even showing your open hand when you show people your work, you are sending signals that you have nothing to hide. Try it. You may find it’s a bit difficult to let go and leave your arms open. It feels vulnerable. Vulnerability is a necessary part of being a sales person. You have to open yourself up to rejection. It’s important to become comfortable with this vulnerability, to remain confident while still vulnerable. So practice the open gestures.  They will help you stay honest and help your customers trust you and know you are open to talking with them.

Similarly, if a customer is making a closed gesture (crossing their arms), try something to put them more at ease – hand them an item you are especially proud of or a photo of your process (uncrossing their arms). Or make a comment that has nothing to do with your booth that might make them smile. Or just step back, and give them space. Sometimes people cross their arms because they don’t know what else to do. Or they don’t know the person they’re talking to and so they are a touch out-of-ease. This is not a time to launch into hard sales. If someone had their arms open but then crosses their arms after they’ve been talking to you for a bit, it may be a subconscious thing they’re doing because you’ve crossed a line. Back off then. Stop talking about your work. Or try putting the situation at ease by asking them a question and listening to the answer. Pay attention to that signal – it’s just as valid of a way to listen to your customer as it would be to hear their stories.

Another gesture to avoid is the gesture of hiding ones hands. Hiding your hands subconsciously sends a signal that you have something to hide or you aren’t willing to open up with your customers just as much as arm crossing does. It's my opinion that over-eager sales people often put their hands behind their backs the most – I think it’s because they are trying desperately to open up to their customers (so they open up their shoulders) but they are still overly nervous and don’t know how to be open, so they can’t help but subconsciously still hide part of themselves (their hands behind their backs or in their pockets). Relaxing can help all of this. And practicing open gestures can actually help one to relax. Just as deep breathing does in yoga.

The point here is to pay attention to your body and the subtle signals you are sending. Try to align those signals with the ideas behind tips 1-6 (stay confident and available but not overly eager) and you’ll put yourself and your customers more physically at ease.