SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, BONUS TIP, tip #11

If you are new to this series read the green stuff, otherwise skip to below. Recently I finished up a series here on my blog entitled SELL OUT! It included tips on hand-selling homemade work without losing your soul or compromising your integrity. It was mostly aimed at crafty business sorts who were gearing up for craft show season. At the end of the series I mentioned I might try to offer additional tips on a monthly basis (on, or near the first Thursday of the month) for a while, and this post is a part of that promise. For those interested in reading previous tips, click here.

It's the beginning of a new month, and it's time for another bonus SELL OUT tip. While this tip is still aimed at craft show people, I confess it's also heavily influenced by the fact that I'm on my way to a writing and illustrating conference. So this tip probably (at least partially) applies to writers talking about their work, as well as those who I intended the original series for -- artists off to craft shows. Anyway, onto tip #11!

Tip #11: A pitch (yes, a sales pitch) should be short, to the point, and the sort of thing that draws people towards your work and invites them to have a longer look.

In tip #4 of the series (posted a few months ago now), I mentioned that artists-turned-sales-people actually have to learn to talk to people about their work. It's their job to do so. But I didn't go too far into what to say about your work. I gave some examples of what I might say at a craft show, which hopefully was helpful. But I thought it might be additionally helpful if I broke it down a bit.  Here's some of the pitches (most examples may sound familiar from tip #4) that I use about my own work at a craft show:
  • "I make and bind all these journals and photo albums myself. I also make a lot of the paper for the covers."
  • "Feel free to open any of the books, the pages inside are often pretty colorful. I like to do that because I think it’s more fun to write on colorful paper."
  • "The binding I use allows the books to open flat, so even while they're pretty, they're meant to be used. They are easy to write in."

Please keep in mind that you should never go into any of this out of the blue like a stealth cougar attacking it's prey; no no no, instead you want to first establish that you aren't a sales robot or a preditor -- don't forget to say hi, smile, leave pauses here and there and ask "if" questions before you resort to any pitching at all -- see tips #2 and #3

Basically each pitch I mentioned above does one of the following:
  1. Highlights an aspect of my work that sets it apart as special (example: the comment about colorful pages).
  2. Highlights the craftsmanship and quality of my work, or in other words, that I know what I'm doing, (example: the comment about me being the sole producer of my work, or that I like making my books with colorful pages because I like writing in books with colorful pages -- signaling that I use my own product).
  3. Peaks a question because whatever the pitch is, it's highly compelling (example: mentioning I make my own paper for cover designs).
  4. Welcomes people to look closer in a casual friendly way -- no pressure, rather a gentle invitation that if left unanswered isn't awkward (example: "feel free to open any of the journals," because while I've invited them to open the books if they wish, being "free to" do so means that even if they don't, things won't turn awkward.)

When you are coming up with initial pitches, you are not trying to rope somebody into being stuck in your booth and feeling like they MUST talk with you or buy something. You are simply providing the service of letting customers know what's special about the work they are looking at and helping them feel at ease to notice that specialness themselves. You are also giving them one of the things they came to the craft show for -- personal interaction with you, an artist. That's it. If you mess up a little, no big deal. But if you don't try at all you mess up without even opening your mouth.

Pitches have a bad rep because of BAD sales people being pushy or going overboard. You are being pushy if someone tries to leave your booth after showing no interest and you force your work or your sales pitch upon them anyway. You are being pushy if someone tries to engage in normal casual conversation with you, or even about your work, and you turn into a pre-programed television advertisement spouting out memorized lines from a dry script.

When you mention your sales points don't be a sales robot or a predator, just as you signaled you wouldn't (in a way) with your welcoming "Hi," and your unobtrusive "if question. Be relaxed. Breathe deep. Be a regular human being chatting with another human being. If you do this, you probably are not being the pushy one. Also, you probably aren't anyway, I've rarely met a pushy artist at a craft show (On the other hand I have met some pretty pushy writers at conferences... but that's not what I'm talking about here). Have some idea of what to say about your work for those quiet moments after the initial ice breakers (TIPS #2 and #3), and then breathe deep and you might just realize That you can indeed talk to people about the work you love so much and often people are happy that you've bothered to do so in a thoughtful way.