From my experiences working as a professional salesperson during my hiatus from education, I’ve been contemplating writing a sales book for some time. However, with the deadline for completing my third novel looming and a fairly heavy teaching load, there simply isn’t enough time to take on another book, so a very close friend gave me the idea to share my ideas via blog. I hope to share what I learned about the sales process so that other creative people can improve their skills in marketing and promoting their work. This blog is not geared to one particular group such as fellow writers. Rather, it is intended to be an overview of the general sales process so that creative people regardless of medium can benefit.
Let me start by saying that I wasn’t a salesperson when I first started. I was forced into the profession by circumstances, and I entered it reluctantly and believed some very common misconceptions about sales. Let me also admit that I am not the greatest salesperson on the planet. In my experiences, I have encountered some remarkably talented people who are true professionals and know how to adapt to almost every sales situation. That being said, I personally have been fairly successful at every sales position I’ve held, and once I learned what I was doing, I consistently remained in the top ten percent at my last sales job. Also, I have taken what I’ve learned and applied it to selling my books at conventions and festivals and have seen a pretty good increase in total sales per show.
That’s enough about me. Let’s take a look at the sales process.
In any sales situation, you have to think about the customer’s mindset. Very few people leave their house thinking, “Today is the day I’m going to buy a painting” or “I need to find an unknown author to read.” They may think those thoughts randomly from time to time, but very few people make it a point to leave their home and their daily routine to achieve this purpose. Even someone who is purposefully going to a gallery or a convention is doing so with the mindset that they want to know what’s out there. In other words, in their mind, they’re in the “just looking” stage. The challenge for the artist is to move them from the preliminary stage to the close.
To achieve this, you have to follow the four stages of the selling process. Very simply, these stages are 1) Trust, 2) Need, 3) Assistance, and 4) Urgency. Without all four steps working together, the sale will not come to fruition, and the artist will consistently hear, “Let me think about it.” Let me explain something, most people who want to think about it are sincere. They have every intention at that moment to consider your work and come back to buy it later, but then they get back in their car and start remembering trash day, soccer practice, the dentist appointment, and everything else in their day to day life. The next time they think about you is a long time later, and by then, they have forgotten everything they wanted to think about.
That’s where the sales process comes in. A successful salesperson understands that people love to be sold. They love to be convinced that a product is right for them. Even people who claim to hate salespeople deep down inside love the game. It’s not salespeople they hate; it’s bad salespeople who make them feel mistreated or misguided that they hate. That’s another big point about the sales process. You don’t have to lie and cheat to sell. A professional salesperson doesn’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. If the product you’re selling, whether it be a painting or a CD or a book, does not work for that person, don’t waste your time with them. Find the customers who are the right fit and sell those people.
That’s all for now. Tomorrow, I’ll start talking about the first stage, Trust, and explain some of the ways to establish the foundation.