SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 8


SELL OUT is a blog series including weekly tips (every Thursday) for one more week 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 show 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, here, and here.

Tip #8: Positive sells; search within for the bright side and focus on it.

Let’s face a truth. There are times when being an artist is challenging in a harsh way. I don’t want to suggest that all artists are prone towards a melodramatic stereotype of being brooding, depressed or angst ridden. Hardly. All I mean to acknowledge is that sometimes the going gets tough when you are an artist. And unless you’ve barely tried to sell your wares, you probably already know that one of the riskiest places for the going to get tough is in the sales department. 

Actually, if you haven’t tried to sell your wares it could very well be because you are afraid of that aspect of sales: the tough part. What if I don’t sell enough? What if I spend lots of time and money investing in this and no one buys my work? What if, what if, what if. And to be honest, your what-ifs aren’t even figments of your imagination. 

I truthfully will tell you that the going will most likely get rough at some point after you enter into the world of selling your work. There. You can stop asking what if. You know the truth now. At some point something will suck. It’s not all going to be roses all the time. You can stop worrying about it now and go forth seeking out the roses. I promise they are there too. If you learn how to sell your work properly, you will almost certainly find them if you look. But you won’t find them if you are too caught up fretting with where they aren’t.

I guess my point here (at the risk of moving toward Pollyanna territory) is don’t dwell on the suck. You’ve heard the term “think positively.” Well, thinking positively is a necessity if you want to be a good sales person. Hear me out to the end here – I mean this in a really concrete dollars-and-cents sort of way.

One of the biggest drags on sales at a craft show is an artist who has a negative attitude. Someone who is pessimistic, whining, blaming the organizers of a show, cursing herself for not researching the market better, worrying and fretting with breaking even or paying bills (which can be painfully real worries!), fussing about the fact that she misjudged how much product to bring, obsessing about the opportunity cost of doing a show that sucks, or fretting or fussing about whatever demons are at hand is a sales person who has knotted eye-brows, a distracted demeanor, and a grouchy face. 

No one wants to talk to a sales person like that. No one wants to buy art that’s polluted with dour air. We want our art, our crafty goodness, and our handmade lovelies to be just that: lovely, inspiring, and full of goodness. And someone who is focusing on the negative is pulling a dark blanket of dourness over all of his or her work, at best only during that show, and at worst, even while they create their work.

There is hardly a single tip I could offer you that is more valuable than the simple piece of advice at the heart of this post: search your heart, your situation, your work, your potential, your past, your dreams and anywhere else you can search to find the positive, especially when the going gets tough. I mean this in general, but I also mean this for those times when something tries to drag you down at a craft show. It is part of your job as a sales person to stay “on.” Staying on means you have to let go of the negative in a heartbeat. You owe your work an aura of lovely. You owe the muse within an aura of lovely. You are only hurting yourself if you turn to the dark side of your attitude while you are selling at a show. Like I said before, I mean it in real dollars and cents. There is no better way to make a bad show worse than by turning into a sourpuss. And by contrast, there’s no better way to make a bad show kinda okay (even financially) than by tossing aside your angst and looking for a silver lining for your cloud.

Say I go to an outdoor show and there’s bad weather (literal clouds). Rain rain rain. No one is there. My product is at risk for getting wet so I’m at risk for getting nervous. I’ve done the show before and had expected to do well because I had in the past, but the rain is going to certainly put a dent in sales. Crap. What do I do?

I buck up and deal:
Sadness, you’ll have to come back later, I’m in sales-person mode. I’m focusing on the moment, and in the moment my priority is to keep a good attitude so I can do the best job that I can with the situation at hand. Maybe I’ll focus on keeping a good attitude for the people who did come out in the rain (even if crowds are thinner than they would be otherwise), those people are probably the hardcore craft lovers if they showed up in the rain, so if I stay positive, maybe I’ll make their beloved show better too. I’ll beat out the grumps around me and offer my booth as a sanctuary. Keep a happy face. Maybe I’ll say something encouraging to the artist who looks down and out next to me (unless they want to commiserate, then I’m outta there – no one is dragging me down). Maybe I’ll mentally focus on how much fun it was to make the work around me. Wow, that piece is one of my favorites; I should rearrange to make it stand out more in my booth. I should put the yellow and orange pieces out front to contrast with the grey sky. I’m lucky, so lucky, to be here at all. To have the time and energy to do this work. To have a muse within who works with me to create such fun crafty goodness. I will let go of the rainy day and worry about all the worries later (if I must), but for now, I’m a sales-person. In this moment I am a sales person and it is my job to find the silver lining and to keep being a good sales person.

I bother with the inner monologue stuff here because I can’t tell you how many shows I’ve been at where, when circumstances made selling less than ideal -- too few shoppers, bad weather, change in venue that led to fewer repeat shoppers, etc, etc, etc – I bucked up and dealt and reaped reward because of it. There is nothing more satisfying than selling a bunch of your own crafty goodness when the going was tough around you. 

 It’s easy at a killer show. It’s harder at a not-so-killer show. But isn’t it satisfying to do a good job in the face of long odds? To do you’re best with a hand of cards that’s less than ideal? Celebrate those successes. A show where you made half of what you expected can be a success in that it might have been a show where you made a tenth of what you expected if you turned toward the dark side. You worked hard for what you sold. Celebrate it.

So, to sum up, don’t drag yourself down when circumstances are somehow less than ideal at a show. Search for the positive, focus on it, and make the very best you can with the cards at hand.