SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, BONUS TIP, tip #12


Well folks, Labor Day is fast approaching back in the U.S.A. marking the end of another summer. At the beginning of the summer I started a SELL OUT series of tips on hand-selling homemade work without losing your soul or compromising your integrity. I started with the summer craft show season in mind and now that the summer is dwindling to a close I think this will be the last in of my bonus tips. I hope the series has been helpful to someone out there and anyone who’s participated in craft shows this summer has had phenomenal success.

Tip #12 for great craft show sales (BONUS TIP): Accept credit cards!!!

Okay, I realize this one seems a bit silly. But anyone who frequents craft shows or farmer’s markets knows why I say it. Not all artists take credit cards. It’s a pain to set up collection, if you don’t regularly do shows it’s a pain to figure out how to maintain, it costs the artists extra money etc. etc etc.

BUT. If you are selling stuff, you have to figure out a way. Go to the bank and figure it out.

I totally failed at this one for many of the first years I sold at craft fairs. And I BLEW IT. I knew it was dumb then but after I remedied the situation I figured out just how dumb. You can double or even triple your sales by accepting credit cards (I did). If you ever sit around groveling after a show because you didn’t sell as well as you wished you had, but you don’t take credit cards, umm…. Hello? You have yourself to blame, stop groveling and go to the bank and solve this problem.

I think this is especially important advice now, at least in the United States. People don’t carry cash as much as they used to. They are used to paying for things with debit cards and credit cards. You will make LOTS more sales if you accept credit cards. LOTS. I promise.

On that blunt and silly note, I'm officially retiring the series on being a good seller at craft shows. It was fun to revisit my craft show glory days and think about sales again. Perhaps someday in the not-to-distant future I’ll have my booth set up at another fair somewhere again, this time selling more of my collage art, and happily SELLING OUT!

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.

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


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 as promised when I finished up my recent series, SELL OUT! Tips on hand-selling homemade work without losing your soul or compromising your integrity, I'm bringing you the first of a few monthly bonus tips in the series. I hope all crafty folks out there who are taking on craft shows are having a good season! Okay, onto tip #10.

Tip #10: When you are a sales-person, or working in any sort of customer-service role, avoid saying the words “No problem.”

I worked at a retail pottery store for a number of years and this was an absolute must that my boss drilled into me. It seems sort of silly to put so much emphasis on it, people say “No problem,” all the time. Especially in response to phrases like, “Thank you!” or “Wow, That was so helpful!” But “No problem,” comes across as suggesting the other person was kind of actually causing a problem. Like, “Ya, I had to get off my butt and help you find the color of product you were looking for, but really – don’t worry about it; it was no problem.”

My boss at the pottery store also was insistent that “no problem” was also a generational phrase. In other words, it belonged only to a younger generation. He said it sounded one step higher than a crass, “no sweat,” to an older generation. He insisted it was a turn-off, and while I didn’t hear it as such at first, I grew to agree with him whole-heartedly.

Consider a few of my favorite alternatives:
“My pleasure!”
or simply,
“You are welcome.”

Don’t they sound better than “No problem?” Yes they do. “Thanks,” is one of the most beautiful words/sentences/phrases in nearly any language, responding to it in such a crass way isn’t exactly tacky, but it’s still kind of cringe-inducing. So rid your vocabulary of this pesky and prevalent phrase, at least while you have your sales hat on. 

I'll try to remember to post another tip in the beginning of August. Happy July!

SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 9


 SELL OUT is a blog series including weekly tips (every Thursday) for the last 9 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 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, here and here. This is the last post in the weekly series, but see the note at the end of this post about future plans related to this post.

Tip #9: Believe in your product.

When you believe in your product, it is easier and more delightful to sell. In fact, if you want to be a sales-person and maintain your integrity, it’s essential to believe in your product. If you love something, and you are willing to share that love with others, they will be more likely to love that something too. It is easier to come up with selling points and pitches for why someone might want to buy something if you think it’s a good thing to buy.

This may all seem obvious, but all too often, reluctant artist-turned-salespeople-at-craft-shows are WAY too self-deprecating. They act as if someone is doing them a favor by buying their work; they act as though they should probably just be checking themselves into a funny farm somewhere for daring to try to sell their work. How ridiculous that their little creations could be worth anything.

But I truly believe that the world is a better place for crafty goodness and art being in it. Do you? It’s not always a cake-walk to be an artist, especially if you venture into making it a career of any sort, but those who do venture towards professionalism generally bring better crafty goodness and art into the world because they practice their craft regularly. I solidly believe that. So thank goodness to all out there who do so! Thank you! And to the writers out there who bother to take time to twist a bit of their heart into words and story – I mean you too. The world is a better place because people bother to try to do what you do.

So, all that being said, when you switch into sales-person mode, don’t apologize for bringing heart to the world. Stand up tall and honor that what you do is valuable, even if imperfect at times.

"No woman should be shamefaced in attempting through her work to give back to the world a portion of it's lost heart." -- Louise Bogan, American Poet

Believe in your work. It will be easier for others to find the door into your work, the door towards that heart, if you do. 

The best sales transactions are win-win. You are getting paid to make something lovely that you are adding to the world, and your buyers are getting to take something lovely away with them into the world. Perhaps you are meeting a need of theirs. For example, in my case, maybe a buyer is an avid journaler and she wants to ditch the boring journals, be bold, and add some color to her journaling life. She wants a journal that she can play in, she can scribble in, but it won’t matter, the book will still be pretty and playful, even with ugly scribbles and cross-outs because the pages are colorful and delightful to page through, no matter the color of ink on them. Or maybe the buyer has a dear friend that just got pregnant and has been looking for a pregnancy journal that sets a bright mood. Voila! In either example above, I have met a buyer’s need and she has met mine. Get it? Win-win.

One area where sales people sometimes get a bad rap is that there’s an impression that a sales person is talking you into something you wouldn’t otherwise do. Yes. That’s not so good. But at it’s best, sales is actually doing no such thing. A good sales person is a facilitator of sorts. They are helping gift-givers to find gifts, lovely-seekers to find lovely, and treasure-seekers to find treasure. I would even go so far as to say that at a sales person’s very best she is bringing a little more heart into the world. That is – if she believes what she is selling has heart.

In my personal examples a minute ago, I mentioned the journaler who wanted a playful space to journal in. Most likely she hadn't thought about the effect of writing on colorful pages. But once I introduce the notion to her, mention why others have liked it. She may think, YES! That's it! I want to be a part of that. Does that make sense? I filled a need she had (finding a new journal) but I filled a further need that she maybe hadn't put to words (for her journaling life to be richer) by introducing the parts of my journals I believe most in and talking to her about them. We've also gone a long way towards a nice relationship towards buyer and seller. Talking about things that make us both happy. Win-win.

I don’t feel bad when I talk to a customer for a long time and they buy four books from me. I feel happy that we found each other. I know that sounds extremely cheesy. But think about it. If you are a crafty sort, you’ve likely gone to a craft show because you like crafty things. You want to find treasure.  When you find crafty treasure, that’s good right? As an artist, selling your wares at a craft show, you are most-likely selling to an extremely hospitable crowd. If you have product worth believing in, you have what your buyers are looking for. It is your job to help them find it.

Think about times you, personally, have gone to a craft show and bought something you deem as real treasure. Maybe you even met the artist and felt inspired afterward. Isn’t whatever you bought, most likely something that goes beyond materialism a bit? I’m sure people buying at craft shows still have buyer’s remorse, but somehow I’d suspect that they have it way less frequently than they have it after shopping at a strip-mall. People are thrilled when they find treasure at a craft show. Handmade stuff has heart to it. Especially when a buyer can meet the artist, learn the story, and root out that much more heart to something already lovely.

So I’d argue that it’s likely that customers are exceedingly inspired and happy when they find a booth that they buy stuff in. They have found product with heart, and that brings more heart into their lives, and that’s a beautiful thing.

If you believe in your work, you can honestly sell it. Because you believe when someone takes it home, it adds to their lives in a positive way.

So, make product you believe in. Don’t waste your time with something that doesn’t capture your own heart or imagination, because it won’t capture that of your buyers either. Even if your product isn’t perfect, or could be better, or be improved, if there is something about it you believe in, I guarantee that it will be easier to take the leap towards talking about in such a way that allows others to see the beauty in it too, to believe in it too. And buy it.

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Moving on...
It’s been a blast to write up these sales tips. Thanks to all who have written to tell me they are useful to you. It’s nice to know that something I’ve written is helpful to people out there. It’s also been fun to think about my time at craft shows again and put myself in sales-person mode, if only while writing the tips, both for my own encouragement in striving to learn to sell my illustration work better, but also because I do indeed miss doing craft shows regularly (I took a break from them when my son was born 4 years ago, and have extended that break while living in Malaysia). 

This is my last post in this as a weekly series.  If you've enjoyed the series, there are a few places I'm happy to direct you for more information.  

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 would be remiss in not acknowledging another major influence in my way of thinking regarding sales and directing people toward that influence. I highly recommend checking out products or workshops by 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 the tips I wrote in this series 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.

Another place I can direct you to is the Art Fair Sourcebook. There are many guides to finding and choosing shows that are a match for your work, and although it's been a few years since I was making the rounds in any craft show circuits, I remember the Sourcebook as being the most helpful guide of it's kind. It's not the cheapest guide, but it's well worth the money spent.

I also realize that I probably have a bit more, here or there to offer on this front, if not the time to keep this up on a weekly basis. So I may continue with shorter tips on a monthly basis for the next several months (as long as I feel inspired to do so). For those who follow my blog who don’t care about selling stuff, not in the slightest, you are in luck. The lecturing sales-lady is finished monopolizing Thursday posts for awhile. For those who are diving into craft show season, I wish you many happy sales.


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.

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.

SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 6


SELL OUT is a blog series including weekly tips (every Thursday) for the next 3 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 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 and here.

Tip #6: Stand up! Or if you must sit, get a stool that’s high off the ground. Or else at least sit up straight and act interested. There are exceptions to the rule of standing, but the general idea – stay available and on the same level your customers are on, physically (without being intimidating), is what you want to keep in mind.

Not everyone will tell you to stay standing in your booth. Some will even suggest you are intimidating if you do so. I have to respectfully disagree. If you do not have the foggiest notion on how to engage with people, standing is a bad idea. If all you do is hover in the background with your hands behind your back, eagerly awaiting your next customer, standing is a bad idea. Of course you don’t want to come off as too eager or intimidating.

But too many artists take this as a welcome invitation to sit and disengage, hide in a corner. I find that if I stay standing as much as possible, but don’t hover, I’m at my most available when natural conversation with customers takes place (see tips 1-5). I think it’s best to stay active, dust or rearrange or sort things behind my small “desk,” so that when conversation starts, I can easily part with what I’m doing, but I’m not dragging myself out of some dormant and checked-out position to engage with people. If you sit during an entire show, when the inevitable happens and you need to stand to help a customer, it comes across as way more confrontational and intimidating than a gentle setting down of the product you were rearranging. The act of moving from sitting to standing is like making a big announcement: “Okay, now we’re serious, you’ve disrupted me enough to make me stand, you better buy something!” It’s subconsciously an intimidating gesture to someone who is leisurely shopping and doesn’t want to be pressured into buying anything but still wants artists available to chat with them about their work.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t stand during entire shows, but I try to stand a lot. And when I am sitting when a customer comes in my booth, I’m sitting and doing something active, but that lets me still be available (see tip 5). I also try to subtly stand up to start to rearrange or dust or whatever, rather than stand to engage. Does that make sense? If I find that I’m sitting when it would be better to stand, I stand and start rearranging or doing something booth-related before I engage in sales. Then when I do engage in sales, I’m not doubling the interaction so that it seems confrontational rather than engaging.

Some artists who have limited abilities buy tall stools. This is a great idea. You can stay active while sitting, but when you go to stand it’s not quite the production that it is if you are sitting low and raising to full height. You are already at full height, so it’s just a small move to stand. If you do have the ability to stand though, don’t use the tall stool as an excuse to sit and disengage. Stay lively and active, as much as possible while sitting. Don’t resort to reading or staring off into space, arms folded.

I did two of the biggest craft shows I’ve participated in while I was pregnant, and while I stood a lot, it obviously wasn’t practical for my health for me to stand the entire time.  So I kept the basic ideas in mind, sitting up straight, not hovering, but staying available. I sewed more covers during those shows. I found that it was actually more effort to stay interesting-looking and not bored while sitting, but it was possible.

There are a few definite exceptions to the standing rule. One is if your booth space is extremely limited (like only one table or something like that). Standing in such a small space I think is too intimidating. I tend to sit in extremely small spaces and find other ways to stay active. I also think that if your product is fine art or really large and you have a limited amount of product in your booth (large paintings for example, or giant metal sculptures or something), if you stand the whole time you are just going to look too eager. There’s not enough for you to do naturally to make standing a good idea. Buy a tall stool in that case and brainstorm ways to make yourself busy but still available (as suggested in tip 5).

Standing or staying up tall (like on a tall stool) is preferable because you are at eye level with your customers. You can engage them more naturally and you signal that you are available and lively. You can engage people while sitting low, but I think it’s far easier to be effective if you stand, which is why I recommend doing so as often as possible during a craft show, particularly if the show is busy. But don’t take my advice point blank and word-for-word. Apply it to your own situation and see how it works.

SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 5


SELL OUT is a blog series including weekly tips (every Thursday) for the next 4 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 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 and here.

Tip #5: When no one is in your booth, or when you are not directly engaging with a customer, make yourself busy by rearranging product or dusting. If you look bored or like you have nothing to do you send a signal that you (and possibly by extension) your product are boring. Act lively, and you’ll bring out the best in your product (and yourself).

You’ll become a magnet and draw people in. (This is key if you aren’t selling at a craft show too. If you are an author at a lonely book signing, you obviously won’t take this advice literally, but think about how you can apply the idea behind the advice, perhaps the visuals at the end of this post are something to consider.)

How many times can you dust and rearrange the same stuff, you may ask? Lots of times. Lots and lots of times. If the show is fairly busy, you should never be slinking off to a corner to find something else to do. You should dust and rearrange when there’s a break. Stay available, without looking bored.

If you simply cannot bear to dust and rearrange any more, try doing something active that still allows you to be available. I often choose to sew bindings on my books. This is a bit of tricky advice though, because it shouldn’t be seen as an invitation to disengage in the corner to “demonstrate” your craft (too often an excuse for not actively selling stuff). Instead it should be seen as a way of keeping yourself busy and active, but still available (that’s key). I never think of sewing bindings at craft shows as production time, I think of it as a strategy to not get or look bored. Sometimes a book I could usually sew in 10 minutes takes 2 hours. That’s fine. It’s because I set the book down when I need to. I subtly stand and start rearranging product so I’m more available to chat with customers.

Perhaps if your craft is something like painting or photography, something that you can’t do at all in your booth, also something you can’t really rearrange too much, you could consider taking up a hobby like knitting while you are sitting there (hopefully on a tall stool as opposed to a low bench– but I’ll get to that next week). Something that keeps your hands active if they need to be, but keeps you available. It’s not the best solution, but it’s WAY better than hiding in the corner with a book or your iphone (completely disengaging).

The long and the short of this tip is this: brainstorm ways you can keep yourself active, but available. This is how you avoid the polar opposites of bad salesmanship: disengaging or hovering. You don’t want to do either. So think about how you can be available, but not in some one’s face, not only when you are engaging with a customer, but also when you aren’t actively engaging with them.

Not to belabor my point, but picture the following artists in their booths, visually. All have one thing in common, no one is currently in their booth shopping: 

  • The artist looks bored, whiny or angry, she has a scowl on her face or is commiserating with another artist in the neighboring booth about what a lame show this is.
  • The artist is hiding in a corner, head deeply engaged in a book or something that looks potentially like accounting or homework from the way she’s concentrating, she looks like she could be at the library, for what she’s doing.
  • The artist is standing on the outside of her booth eagerly smiling, hands behind her back in a tight bun (or is she wringing her hands behind her back nervously?). Her eyes look like a puppy’s eyes in a pet store, she seems desperate for someone to acknowledge her work or like she hasn’t had human interaction in months. 
  • The artist is just sitting, face expressionless, eyes staring off into the void. Perhaps her arms are folded.  
  • The artist is quietly rearranging product, she smiles when she sees you, but goes back to rearranging product or dusting. Her shoulders are straight and she stands up tall. Her eyes look confident.


Okay, obviously I’m exaggerating somewhat, but only to make my point more clear. Who seems most interesting to you? Who seems most the most available but the least intimidating? Who do you think you’d most likely be able to have an interesting conversation with in the moment? And consider how the body language of each of these artists might rub off onto their work, who’s work do you suspect might be most interesting?

Now, who do you think will be the most likely to sell something?

I’ve been at many craft shows where it seemed dead. Really, hardly anyone was around. But there were 8 people in my booth. I am not a charmer by nature. I am a painfully shy chronic book-worm. But I believe in my work. I felt like it was worth learning how to sell it. And that effort matters.

SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 4


SELL OUT is a blog series including weekly tips (every Thursday) for the next 3-5 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 and here.

Tip #4 You are not being a slimy sales person by being friendly and talking to people. You are doing your job.

Last week I established that the word “if” often opens people up and gives people permission to ask about one's work without feeling like they are under pressure. This week I’m adding that it also sort of gives an artist permission to start talking about his or her work (after a few seconds pause) because you’ve established that everything is at ease in your booth, that no one needs to feel pressure (yes, all because of the word “if”).

So, after the niceties and a bit of a pause, if the customer doesn't ask any questions, or engage, (and provided they aren't acting turned off or put-upon -- which they rarely do) that’s when I usually say something like, “I make all these journals and photo albums myself. I also make a lot of the paper for the covers.” (Perhaps I pause again here, if the customer seems shy or hesitant) “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.”

What you say depends on your work, but yes, this is when it’s time to give a bit of a pitch, without being in someone’s face, keeping things informal, and without diving in before you are sincere with those introductory niceties.

When I engage someone at a craft show, I’m doing my job as a sales-person. After I got the hang of it, I found it to be lots of fun. My customers have liked it too and I’ve found they are more open to my work more because of it. The thing is, you are giving someone what they came for at a craft show by engaging with them – personal interaction with an artist. You are showing them your art and what's awesome about it.  The same goes for an author at a book-signing. You are there to engage with people, you aren’t being a creep by doing so. You are doing your job

So after you've put people at ease (always sincerely) don't be afraid to talk about your work. That's what people have come to a show for.  Hopefully it's what you've come to a show for too.

SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 3


SELL OUT is a blog series including weekly tips (every Thursday) for the next 4-6 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 second post in the series here.

TIP #3: Use the word “If,” to help you break the ice with customers.

To sell your work at a craft show, you must learn to talk to people. Buyers of craft like things with a personal touch. They want to know the story behind the art they are looking at. That’s one of the best things about craft shows, after all – you get to talk to artists. So artists need to learn how to engage people, which is not always an easy task for people used to hiding out in their studio making their work.

So after I've said hi when someone comes into my booth, and waited a few seconds, I try saying something like, “If I can answer any questions about my work, just let me know.”

It's an invitation and often people will take it. A conversation often naturally flows.

Before we move on though, please note the difference between the above ice-breaker and the more familiar, "Can I help you?" or "Can I answer any questions for you?" where the answers will usually be, “No thanks, just looking,” at which point a shopper will most likely leave rather soon. Why? because they feel cornered.

When a sales-person says, "IF I can answer any questions," it changes everything. Like I said, it's an invitation, not a requirement. Everyone is put at ease. When I use the IF line at a craft show, I am letting someone know I’m available, but I’m not aggressive.
  
Then that person knows that it’s fine to have a look around my shop a bit. They don’t have to make a decision fast, or if they engage me it doesn’t mean they have to buy. They don't have to ask questions but they can. The control is in their hands. All because of the word “if.”

Usually the response is, "Thanks." Or "I will, thanks." 

But as a bonus, I’ve often found that a nice conversation flows right from there. That word “if” opens people up and lets them ask me questions about my work. But it also allows me to take the next step if the customer doesn’t. So what is that? How do I keep things at ease and move on to talking about my work with people?  Check back next week for tip #4.

SELL OUT! Tips for hand-selling stuff, tip 2

This series includes weekly tips (every Thursday) for the next 5-7 weeks on hand-selling homemade work without losing your soul or compromising your integrity. But it's not just for crafters sitting around at craft shows. Authors who do book-signings take note. Some of this may apply to you as well. See the original introductory post here.
 
TIP #2: Always, always, always (you must!) smile and say hi when someone enters your booth or your selling space. 

You simply MUST do this or you aren’t even trying. 

This is the simplest and most effective thing you can do to be a good craft seller. It's that simple. Just "hi" with a smile. It immediately lets people know you are friendly and available to help if needed. 

Yet I mention it because I can almost guarantee that this one tiny little no-brainer of an action will already give you a huge advantage over other booths at a craft show. Believe it or not, few craft sellers take their sales jobs seriously enough to even do this much. I'm not exaggerating. I've walked around many a craft show and noticed that it really is the rare booth where the seller doesn't clam up the second anyone walks in to check out their work. All a person has to do is say hi, and surprise! People are set at ease and might stick around to shop instead of rush out of your booth because they are afraid they interrupted you or made you feel awkward. So take note. If you do nothing else to be a good seller, just smile at people and say hi. Take a deep breath and set yourself at ease too.

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.

P.S.
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.


Enjoy.