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.
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.