Sunday, May 27, 2012

How Do You Sell Yourself?

I spent last weekend at the Canton Arts Festival.  As one of the vendors, I spent a lot of time selling my books which was quite rewarding and fun.  I also learned a lot and spent a lot of time networking.  In fact the best part of the weekend was the information that I learned that will help me continue to help children, parents and counselors through the sales of my book.

One thing I noticed was that not everyone at the festival took advantage of the environment in the same way.  Maybe it’s because I’m such a newbie and still feel there is a whole world out there to learn about, but I tend to view every opportunity like this as a chance to learn more about how other authors sell books.  One individual who was not only delightful but also a wealth of information was Deanna  K. Klingel.  She had the booth right next to me and I believe God must have positioned her there just so I could pick her brain about what has and hasn’t worked for her.  She has only been selling her books at festivals for fourteen months but she is a natural saleswoman.  Don’t get me wrong, she’s not pushy or annoying or overbearing.  In fact just the opposite.  She embodies all the best qualities of a great servant.  Deanna has written two YA books that are set during the Civil War.  Attending the Canton Literary Festival was really out of the norm for her.  She told me she usually goes to Civil War Enactments and that there is pretty much one every weekend that she travels to.  She has definitely found her niche.  She dresses the part at the enactments of a settler and her mission, really the reward for her, is enticing reluctant readers to find the joy of reading  a book that is engaging as well as informative.  She told me with great pride of parents who had emailed her to tell her that their child who hated to read, had stayed up all night reading her book.  There were a lot of authors at the festival who put their books out on the table and sat back waiting for the magic to happen.  Not Deanna.  She knew who her audience was (middle and high school students ), and she called them over to her booth where she gave them a card and a bookmark and encouraged them to look at her book.  Parents loved the educational and wholesome nature of her books.  Students were drawn to the adventure of the story.  And Deanna sold books.  Not as many as at the enactments she told me, but still she sold books while many others sat around.

Here’s a synopsis of the great things I learned from Deanna:
·    Have a passion and a mission bigger than just selling a lot of books.  For Deanna, this was engaging reluctant readers in a good story.  It was introducing middle schoolers to the joy of reading through exciting but wholesome stories.
·    Know your niche and focus on that.  Don’t be a generalist.  For Deanna, this was middle and high school students (especially home schooled students) and the civil war era.
·    Be engaging and interactive.  Don’t just sit back and wait for a sale to take place.  Develop a relationship with your potential clients.
·    Be generous and serve others.  Not only did Deanna have something to give every person who stopped at her booth, she gave me lots of information and insight into the history of writing and publishing her work.

Truly, the best part of the festival for me was developing and nurturing relationships.  I had a conversation recently with someone who told me that they couldn't imagine themselves selling anything, it was so foreign to their nature.  But when I told her to think of selling as helping; sharing your gift with others who want and need it, her attitude changed.  This is what good selling is all about and Deanna was relationship selling personified.  What is your experience with sales?  Do you view sales as helping others or as pushing someone into buying something they don't want?  We're all selling something, the question is, "How do you do it?"

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  1. Another thing we can talk about on Thursday - selling! I'm definitely not a shy person, but I'm not pushy, either. I loved how Deanna modeled the relational side of salesmanship. What an inspiration! And, if what we have to share is worthy, I believe people will be drawn to what we have to offer.
    Blessings, Lynne, and thanks for another great post!

  2. Lynne, congrats! It looks like you have quite a platform there. When you learn all the tricks of the trade on book selling, fill me in ;-) And any other tips you may have are welcome.
    Deanna sounds like a platform-building whiz and a colorful character to boot.
    Your advice is wonderful! I’ll take it ;-)

    Now you can answer these questions over at my place. My readers and I would appreciate your take.
    In the absence of inspiration, do you still sit down to write anyway?
    Or do you procrastinate and wait for motivation?

  3. @Martha--This is one aspect of being an author that I've spent a good bit of time researching and learning about. I have had a real change of heart about selling and the qualities that make it effective. I'd love to talk more about this!

  4. @Debra-thanks for stopping by--I'll be right over!

  5. Congratulations on your book!!

  6. Thanks for some great advice. I've always been hesitant to be a salesperson but this gives me a whole new perspective. Great post.

  7. @Nikky44-thanks so much Nikky1
    @ Sara--I too have avoided sales but learning more about this approach has changed my perspective altogether. Thanks Sara for stopping by.

  8. Lynne -- What a great story! Don't you love it when you come across someone who has a natural gift for what they do? I've never considered myself good at selling, at least in the traditional marketing sense. But I've always been pretty good at sharing something for which I have a great deal of passion. I appreciate that the new experts are encouraging us to be generous, and to share rather than persuade (or knock over the head). Doing so builds trust, and I'm a huge advocate of trust! A couple of days ago, I received an email from a friend who sells Mary Kay, and operates with a much more traditional marketing strategy. Her sales message really stood out in contrast to the much more appealing new-fangled messages I'm becoming accustomed to. I like the new-fangled ones much better! And, I'm grateful for the great examples out there of people who are passionate and generous, and working hard to build trust with their audiences.

  9. @Diane--I've always been scared to death of selling anything. It was only recently that I discovered that it isn't hard when you have something YOU BELIEVE IN!! Then it's not selling, it's helping and I LOVE IT! Thanks for the comment!