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Author Topic: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person  (Read 760 times)  

Offline David VanDyke

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Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« on: March 12, 2018, 12:17:04 PM »
Apologies if there's another thread on this topic, but a quick search didn't turn one up. It would be great to share experiences, tips and techniques for success at in-person events.

I've gone to a few shows and events, but like many of us, most of my sales come online and in digital form. However, there are niches and opportunities to sell reasonably well in person, and there's also benefit to simply having a presence at shows and meeting people in person.

I recently attended the Tucson Festival of Books, which is an outdoor event on the University of Arizona's mall. Booths are in units of 10x10 feet, with multiple booths possible to be formed into larger pavilions. Many different book-related organizations and people attend, plus a lot of other community and educational organizations such as C-Span, newspapers and magazines, science outreach, sports, charities, local food providers, musicians, etc. They claim about 130K attendees.

I got a corner booth for me and Lance Conrad, an author who mostly sells in person and in print. He does offset printing by the thousands, of hardbacks with beautiful covers, and his books are family-friendly fantasy so he can target all ages, especially young readers and their families. He's great at telling stories in person, so for each of his books he has about a 1-minute oral blurb-story that works well to instantly spark interest.

For example, he might say (in a once-upon-a-time voice)  "The Price of Creation takes place in a mystical land where every child is born with a small, magical stone..." and go from there.

He's also worked his sales pitch in with the blurb-story, so he transitions smoothly to selling one or more books, and often sends people away with his entire 4-book series. Because he gets his unit costs down below $2, he can make good money at $10-14 per book.

He puts up a framed poster with his face and his book covers, with "MEET THE AUTHOR" as its only text. This catches people's eye and gets them to notice him standing, usually in front of his booth (if allowed), ready to speak and sell. He also engages people quickly by opening with "Wanna hear about a book?"

I was shocked by how well this worked, because it instantly asked them a question that they responded to yes or no, and if yes, he was free to hold out his hand and introduce himself by saying, "Hi, I'm Lance and I write books." Notice that he doesn't say "Hi" at the very first--he asks the question that demands a response, and if the response is no, he's free to move to the next person.

The combination of these techniques, along with a well-oiled script with appropriate hand gestures (oral storyteller techniques) often closes the sales. After all, if this guy can tell a good story in person, he must be about to write a good story in a book, right? So, I did my best to emulate him and I sold a lot more books in print than I've ever done before.

Also, putting the book in their hands is a good idea. If they'll take it and look at it or look through it, they're more likely to buy it.

***

We got a 10x10 corner booth together--paid extra for the corner, otherwise you get just 10' of frontage. I figured this doubled our frontage and doubled our ability to engage people coming from different directions and I was right about that. So, if your event offers this option, it's worth it, especially if you can get two authors (or maybe more) to go in on one.

In fact, across the way, there was a sort of author co-op with about 12 authors in a larger tent, 30x40 or so, from whom I learned some other things that I'll mention now.

They had a central purchasing point, run by a separate bookseller who handles all the business, sales tax and so on. That way people could pick up books from disparate authors and not have to make several individual purchases.

Many of the authors had pre-configured deals, such as trilogies or the first three books in a series, tied up with ribbons in attractive packages. Most of these were pretty ribbons around romances, but the idea could be applied to anything. I'm thinking of bullet-riddled metal printed ribbons for my post-ap series, etc.

Most of the buyers weren't willing to commit to more than a trilogy of a new series, but many were willing to get the three books--the balance between the reader anxiety about loving a book and having to wait, vs. concern they would buy a bunch of books and find out they didn't like them after all. So, one of my takeaways is to reduce the clutter on my own table and focus on selling trilogies formed from the first three of each of my series.

Those trilogies were always discounted, but the first book in the series often wasn't. So, this flips the ebook script on its head, back to the more traditional retail concept of, say "buy 2 get 1 free" or "buy 1, get the 2nd at half price." Since you are trying to close the deal right now, and since you have the ability to introduce a deal in person, it pays to get them thinking that way--"Book 1 is $13, but buy 2 for $25 and get the 3rd one free!" That way they really feel like they're getting a great deal and gets them walking away with something more than a single book, but with the feeling that they can get more in the series if they like them.

One great idea I saw was to put those trilogies in forward-facing vertical tiers, one per trilogy, with nicely coordinated covers, and the ribboned 3-pack on the table in front of it. Sometimes these 3-packs also had freebie swag such as bookmarks, or even CDs with the ebook and/or audiobook along with it. The 3-packs saved labor for the author-seller, and were pre-signed of course, another selling point. They can always be untied for further signing or personalization.

The author co-op also allowed them to help each other by pointing customers toward their genre--"No, I don't have any Westerns, but two tables down Jane Smith has some..." etc.

Some of the forward-facing book-holders were pre-configured with individualized "SOLD OUT" signs, so that if they were sold out, say near the end of a festival, the series cover and blurb was still showing and there were bookmarks with the cover and blurb sitting in their place. That way, the author could say sorrowfully, "Oh, sorry, those sold out, but you can get them online with this information" and give them a bookmark. Of course, it's best to bring enough inventory to never sell out, but sometimes it will happen. It also may even give a positive impression, like "Wow, her books are so hot she sold out some series!"

A few other general tips:

Make sure you can take cards, including chip readers or touchless if possible. Some people don't carry cash. You can offer a discount for cash if you like.

If storage space in the booth is limited, make up an initial set of books that you expect to sell, and then you can run back to your car or whatever for reloads as needed.

Naked tables are not inviting, so buy some cheap fitted skirts or plain washable or disposable tablecloths that can be taped into skirts. Neutral colors seem to be best, and consider the cloth color vs, your book colors.

Having some other draw to a booth can work if you have room, and have a plan for turning attention into sales. Lance sometimes has expensive, fascinating steampunk-inspired pens that get people to stop and look. A bird breeder with a friendly macaw came by and we never got so much attention as when the bird climbed around on our shoulders. Some people put out candy or other cheap swag for pickup.

Have bookmarks or business cards with your contact info on them, for people who don't want to carry books. I like to sign the bookmark before I give it to them, so they remember me better and maybe come back to the booth on the way out to pick up books as they leave.

If you don't have power outlets available, make sure you have extra battery packs for your vital card-reading device.

Many times the chairs provided will be cheap hard folding chairs. Bring your own comfy chair or at least seating pads. Your butt will thank you.

Bring water, drinks and snacks in a cooler. You may eat up your profits buying $6 sodas if you're not careful.

Do make sure you have your sales tax paperwork with you, and can prove you're collecting it. They might check.

Consider tax-included sales for cash (back-figured to calculate the actual retail price), but add on the sales tax for card sales. This will speed your cash sales, but will help cover the cost of transactions and sales tax on card sales, and if you care to mention it, you can use it as an inducement to use cash ("We eat the tax on cash sales!").

That's all I can think of for now. Please chime in with your experiences and tips for being successful selling in person.









« Last Edit: March 12, 2018, 12:35:37 PM by David VanDyke »


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Offline beccaprice

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2018, 12:42:22 PM »
All excellent pieces of advice, and as I sell most of my books at festivals, and festival season is just starting up, it's very timely for me.

One question: does Lance spend all his time standing up? Most of the festivals I go to are 2-3 days, and some are very long days at that. There's no way decrepit old me can spend 8-10 hour days standing up all the time. Should I move my (very pretty) chair to in front of the table with my books on it?
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Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2018, 12:54:40 PM »
Hand selling my books is my idea of a nightmare, but I have worked a lot of high traffic booths in my past life. These are terrific tips, but I would add a few more. (I have never done a reader event so if something here does not work for those, sorry.)

1. Do not sit down. It is very hard to engage while sitting down. If you do need seating, pay the ridiculous extra for a high stool. 

2. If you are a woman: compliment the person on something. Love your earrings.

3. Do a giveaway with a good prize and a fish bowl or Lucite box for entries. You can get this at conference supply store. Make a sexy easel with your prize. Best is a product prize. They have to give their email to sign up. Many people will enter a giveaway. Separate this emails on your mailing list. Make sure you put a note on the entry slip that they agreeing to join your list. That they can cancel at any time and that you will never share or sell their email address.

4. Candy. Do not underestimate the allure of candy. Make it good. Chocolate is best. Those miniatures. Scatter it on the table around the books.

5. Conference supply stores (online). Prize boxes, folding book racks, easel stands, etc.

6. Remember that the best salespeople are finding out what the customer needs and wants and providing that. Listen at least as much as you talk, if you get into a discussion.

7. ETA: Altoids! Toothbrush! Manicure is also good. A few accessories. Polished physical presentation. Smile.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2018, 01:07:27 PM by Usedtoposthere »

Offline Mark Gardner

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2018, 01:05:16 PM »
I sling more paper that I do digital. I attend 4 - 8 events a year, just in Arizona! I never invested in a banner or anything, just a rack and a few folding stands for hard covers. I've done well, but then again, I've got decades selling electronics and warranties. To me, the key is to be approachable, know your product, and always be chill. Finally, network, network, network!

Photos of me from some smaller events in 2017.

Huh... Apparently, I point a lot...

Offline beccaprice

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2018, 01:26:03 PM »
One other thing - I sell fairy tales, and I don't wear just blue jeans and a t-shirt. I have some lovely angel-wing-sleeved dresses (I love Holy Clothing!) that are cool, comfortable (non-binding), and give me a sort of fantasy-esque look.  Whoever helps at the table can wear whatever they like, but I like looking like the kind of person who would write fairy tales.

also: chocolates on a hot day in the sun are a non-starter. I do sell mostly to children (and their parents) and I'd rather not have chocolately fingers on my books as the children leaf through the books looking at the pictures.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2018, 01:27:48 PM by beccaprice »
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Offline Elizabeth Ann West

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2018, 01:37:10 PM »
The one handselling thing I did I had balloons and a costume and bookmarks and "wedding favors" to give out. We folded over 100 golden boxes with candy in them and gave them away. I stood in front of the table and greeted people and complimented them to get them to talk to me. I began every conversation NOT SELLING BOOKS because then it eventually led to them asking about my books.

I made $80 in 2 hours, which was all the time we had for the author signing event.

I agree that at those kinds of events you need to stand out and anything you can do to attract people to your table and KEEP THEM THERE with like a little game of chance or something to make a bit of a crowd gather, it will attract other people.


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Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2018, 01:53:45 PM »
I did a big conference in Minneapolis once, which is where my little sister lives, and she came over one afternoon to help me. She is a professional dancer. She knew absolutely flat nothing about the products, and 99% of the attendees were women, but just her charming smile, beautiful presentation, and personality brought traffic into the booth. (And no she was not wearing anything sexy). My CEO stopped by and was so impressed that he asked if she could come back again. (She could not. She was just hanging out with me.) I was an expert on the products (Director of Marketing), but I could not pack them in half as well as my beautiful sister, even with an audience of female teachers. Sad but true! Time for that makeup lesson and shopping trip!

Offline WHDean

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2018, 03:44:26 PM »
Thanks for posting, David (and others). Very informative.

 

Offline boba1823

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2018, 03:46:14 PM »
also: chocolates on a hot day in the sun are a non-starter. I do sell mostly to children (and their parents) and I'd rather not have chocolately fingers on my books as the children leaf through the books looking at the pictures.

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"You chocol-it, you buy it!"

Offline Elizabeth Barone

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2018, 05:42:39 PM »
Great stuff in this thread -- and timely, as I'm aiming to get back into the IRL game this spring/summer. (My UCTD makes it so hard!)

I used to package up candy to hand out in little clear bags with a business card tucked inside. I'd done so many events where I put out candy and business cards separately, and guess which disappeared and which didn't? I also used to complement my focus book cover with my tablecloth. For example, when Crazy Comes in Threes had a predominantly orange cover, I used a teal tablecloth. I never thought to use a neutral, but that's a really good idea -- especially if you're displaying more than one book.

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Offline David VanDyke

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2018, 08:22:11 PM »
All excellent pieces of advice, and as I sell most of my books at festivals, and festival season is just starting up, it's very timely for me.

One question: does Lance spend all his time standing up? Most of the festivals I go to are 2-3 days, and some are very long days at that. There's no way decrepit old me can spend 8-10 hour days standing up all the time. Should I move my (very pretty) chair to in front of the table with my books on it?

I'm also a generation older than Lance, and I set a tiny 3-legged folding chair-thingy at the front corner so I could sit and stand when needed. I was thinking perhaps I would get a folding barstool with a back for the same purpose.


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Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2018, 09:12:13 PM »
Photos of me from some smaller events in 2017.

Huh... Apparently, I point a lot...

Ah, the old Point of Sale.

/retail humour.

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Offline Elizabeth Barone

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2018, 07:31:08 AM »
Ah, the old Point of Sale.

/retail humour.

Hahaha

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Offline notjohn

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2018, 10:39:00 AM »
I am full of admiration for anyone who can do this, and especially do it well. Personally, I detest having to sell my books, or myself.

We had a family friend who was a genuine hero (Medal of Honor) and who wrote two books about his wartime experience. Every year the MOH has a gathering in Washington, and all living MOH holders (we're not supposed to call them "winners" because they didn't win it, they earned it the hard way) are invited and get a first-class ticket from wherever they live. Dick lived in Washington State. He would cash in his ticket and buy two open-ended tickets on Delta for himself and his wife, and visit friends and comrades all over the country, always carrying a box of books.

Invariably he was able to sell a book to the person in the same row as him and his wife. Once the flight attendant saw the transaction and bought a book. She then took it into the cockpit and showed it to the pilot, who promptly turned the controls over to the first officer and came back and bought a copy for himself.

Of course I don't have the Medal, so perhaps the stew wouldn't have bought my book even if I had Dick's gift of gab.
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Offline Lorri Moulton

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2018, 12:02:53 PM »
I am full of admiration for anyone who can do this, and especially do it well. Personally, I detest having to sell my books, or myself.

We had a family friend who was a genuine hero (Medal of Honor) and who wrote two books about his wartime experience. Every year the MOH has a gathering in Washington, and all living MOH holders (we're not supposed to call them "winners" because they didn't win it, they earned it the hard way) are invited and get a first-class ticket from wherever they live. Dick lived in Washington State. He would cash in his ticket and buy two open-ended tickets on Delta for himself and his wife, and visit friends and comrades all over the country, always carrying a box of books.

Invariably he was able to sell a book to the person in the same row as him and his wife. Once the flight attendant saw the transaction and bought a book. She then took it into the cockpit and showed it to the pilot, who promptly turned the controls over to the first officer and came back and bought a copy for himself.

Of course I don't have the Medal, so perhaps the stew wouldn't have bought my book even if I had Dick's gift of gab.

That's great! :)

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Offline P.J. Post

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2018, 01:52:30 PM »
I am full of admiration for anyone who can do this, and especially do it well. Personally, I detest having to sell my books, or myself.

It's not about selling or even the gift of gab, it's about engagement and enthusiasm and excitement.

A general rule to keep in mind with face to face sales is to listen more than you talk. Most people don't have world-class charisma, and even then, it's so easy to fall into 'the sales pitch', which always sounds like desperation, and people can smell it from a mile way. Instead, open up with any of the greetings mentioned here, and then ask them something about themselves, engage with them honestly...and then shut up. The idea, in my experience, isn't to manipulate shoppers in order to move individual units (push strategy), which may or may not be read, but to generate real interest and make fans (brand loyal consumers - pull strategy). Talk to everyone, smile, laugh and just be real. Enjoy yourself. Be the party of your row. People having fun draws more attention than any poster or slogan or presentation. Genuine interest will move books, and that doesn't involve selling anything.  ;)

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Re: Tips and Techniques for Selling In Person
« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2018, 10:57:49 PM »
Great approach, P.J!
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