It’s a strange process to approach a group of people and ask them to exchange their money for a product you’ve made. In stores the customer gets to initiate the sale and at trade fairs people are there to buy or engage with our product.
I’ve worked behind bars before and as a hawker (where you carry beer on your back, walk around and try and sell it). The tactics for this were simple, you look for those with near empty glasses, stand near to the stadium entrances, focus on large groups of guys, talk to the people already waiting in queues for food – there’s nothing better than when you’re bored and waiting in a line for someone to offer you a beer so you don’t have to join another queue after. On multiple occasions at different events I was top seller from a team of around 20. But this was different. With hawking the audience was provided, penned in the rugby stadium or concert hall, they expected us to be selling beer, with our product we had to seek out the customer. Yes you can target family, friends and fools but the real art is in learning to sell to anyone. (Granted some people will show no interest in our product, it’s just not something they need, want or desire but I’m talking about those beyond your immediate social circle).
Studying fine art taught me how to deal with the rejection and criticism of ideas and work. In seminars we use to rip apart each other work. The artist would sit silent while the rest of the group analysed then tore into the context and appearance of the work unable to defend their choices or offer insight. The work had to be good enough to speak for itself and this is something I believe our product should and does do to. Even without our team present our new design and packaging communicates our ethos, brand and function. But the seminar rooms were still sort of a safe environment.
Even when we had to go out into Kingston town as one of our first projects or during our market research for Runeasy we had to speak to potential customers but never had to try and sell them something. That was more about getting their opinion than trying to get them to walk away with something you’ve made. In trying to sell this product to running clubs and outside of my friends circle, I’d say this was one of the first times in a while I’d been well outside my comfort zone.
It was after talking to the 4th potential customer that rejected my sales efforts that I realised I was approaching the situation wrong. This new challenge had thrown me off balance. I remembered I wasn’t always good at hawking but I learnt who to target, how to approach them. I knew before I approached if they were going to buy one or if I could persuade them to buy a round. I’d been so wrapped up in trying to explain how much the features of the product could help and how it was designed that I forgot about analysing the customer; gauging their interest before I approached. I forgot how to make a connection with the potential customer; through a story or a joke or even just a smile and how to clarify their need for the product. After this point I relaxed a lot, I used what I had learnt from hawking and made my first sale.
Despite this rocky start I’ve started to enjoy trying to sell once again, the next step is to contact some more running clubs to try and get time with their club members/club leaders.
Innovative Team Selling: How to Leverage Your Resources and Make Team Selling Work, Eric Baron (2013)
Insight Selling: How to Sell Value and differentiate your product with Insight Scenarios, Michael Harris (2014)