Thursday, 18 November 2010

Three Ways of Selling

Cries of London: 'Sweet Oranges'
In the late 1990s I changed from British Telecom to another company for my telephone calls and enjoyed much smaller bills for a long time. Then the company was taken over by another one...and another one...and another one and nowadays I get frequent unsolicited phone calls from them about switching to their broadband/telephone/line rental package. Apart from the fact that I don’t like getting phonecalls when I’m working and I’ve already looked at the package online and decided against, I really object to these phonecalls because they are what I’d call really aggressive marketing! On one occasion, when I said I wasn’t interested, the telemarketer turned quite sarcastic...and I put the phone down. But they still continue to call me about every six weeks, in spite of my frequent requests not to. When I ask a question, the caller never replies but continues with his sales pitch regardless.

The calls show up as ‘out of area’ which is the same as calls from my daughter in Sweden, so I pick up the phone, just in case.

To me this is an abuse of the fact that, as my telephone calls supplier, they know my telephone number. It’s what I’d call the ‘Hard Sell’ kind of marketing and I can’t see the point of it as it so easily leaves the potential customer annoyed if not downright furious. I can’t imagine it works that often but presumably, it does result in ‘sales’ just often enough to be worth their while continuing.

So, what is the best way to approach selling, if, like me, you are not a ‘natural’ salesman?

Over and over, I’ve read that networking, forging relationships, building trust, is what it’s all about and that social networking sites are the place to do it. I suppose that is what you might call a ‘Soft’ selling technique. But while I do think that the social media are great ways to get to know people, and even to become friends, that still leaves me with a problem. I feel really uncomfortable with the thought that my friends might think that I’m trying to sell them something!

I’ve recently sent out my first ever email newsletter to both old and new friends in my email contacts list and I found it really hard to click on the ‘SEND’ button, even though it wasn’t a blatantly ‘selling’ newsletter. I steeled myself to do it and almost immediately email replies came back with offers of help to build my partyplan network and even some promises to buy my cards. Also a request for advice on social media!

So, yes, when it’s a question of ‘I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine’ – or ‘I’ll tweet your link if you’ll tweet mine’ – I think getting to know people through social networking, whether on or offline, is great.

But for me it doesn’t solve the problem of how to sell.

Is it something to do with being English? I read somewhere recently that we in the UK are far less comfortable with promoting ourselves and our wares than our friends across the pond. Or is it an introvert/extrovert preference? Whatever the reason, I think many of us have an almighty dread of being seen to ‘brag’ and none of us wants to be thought of as ‘pushy’. I’ve found that people are happier to offer my greeting cards for sale to their friends and colleagues if they let it be known that the proceeds will be donated to a charity or good cause – nothing ‘pushy’ about that!

I can persuade myself to put my artwork out on public display because I believe that art is about communication and I don’t want my paintings and designs to be reduced to talking to themselves! But I have great difficulty describing my designs in the sort of glowing terms that I’ve seen some artist do; I’ll leave that to others if that’s how they feel about my work!

So, in the face of the competition from those who have no such qualms, are we introverted English at a disadvantage when it comes to selling? Do we need to model ourselves on market traders – ‘Get your pork sausages here – only the best!’ ? We have, after all, been referred to as  a ‘nation of shopkeepers’!

My mother had a set of prints known as ‘The Cries of London’ – ‘Buy my Sweet Lavender!’ etc and I have a similar set of French ones with sellers of clogs, kindling and eels! But that was all right if you were poor and only selling to the rich, it was just the way things were, as you can see from the illustrations on the plates. Which is not necessarily the position we are in, though it may sometimes work out that way!

I’m beginning to think there may be a third alternative to the Hard Sell/Soft Sell options – the ‘Indirect Sell’ – and it’s a solution that I have no problems at all with! Instead of selling direct to ‘people’, it involves ‘selling’ to the search engines – and I don’t really care if the search engines think I’m pushy or bragging, in spite of my tendency to ‘anthropomorphosise’!

Which is why I began my second, ‘products only’ blog that allows me to display my goods for sale without cluttering up my Art & Design blog. Since I began to tweet the link to that blog and post it on facebook, my sales have definitely increased . So I’m very grateful to my friends who have retweeted those links – and I try to return the favour wherever I can!

To me that’s like ‘setting out my stall’ but without the shouting – or simply dressing my shop window - and neither is a problem for me. I just hope it is sufficient to keep the sales coming!

How do you feel about marketing and promoting yourself and your work - which, in a way, amounts to the same thing?

Cries of London: 'Who'll buy my Sweet Lavender?'


Jean said...

Judy, Like you I am not the "pushy" type when selling anything...much less my photos. I still haven't gotten the nerve to pitch them to an online product company.:(
You are teaching me much by posting on these topics and on what is working for you. Maybe one day I will feel confident enough to do the same.
I will re-tweet this and post it on my Facebook page.

PS...Hope you get some videos of your granddaughter! I know you must miss her.

Country Mouse Studio said...

I have the same problem as you do but then my father was British so maybe that's where the "Don't brag or Don't show off" comes from.
I've found twitter to be helpful and of course these blogs.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Jean - thank you so much for tweeting this and posting it on facebook. I always hope that what I write might just be what someone needed to read on that day! Your photos are beautiful and I'm sure they would be enjoyed on greeting cards and other products as well as on your blog! Maybe if you could look at it as 'sharing' them rather than 'selling' them, it might help you to get started?

Hi Carole - it would be interesting to know if there really is a cultural difference in attitudes to selling, maybe linked to our attitudes towards aspiration and 'bettering oneself'. Prince William's engagement to a 'commoner' this week has revealed that we, as a nation, have mixed feelings about this.

Di said...

Not sure if it's a UK thing or just an introvert vs extrovert thing. I'm an American but I was brought up that it wasn't polite to brag or be pushy - so marketing is hard for me. Even though the best marketing works because you don't feel like they're bragging or pushing - just that you want it. And you're right about social networking working to make you part of a bigger community but not always leading to more sales. I like your idea of having a separate blog for just your POD store news! Very inspiring and practical info Thanks!!

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Di - yes, I think on the whole it's probably more of an 'introvert/extrovert' thing.

Interesting what you wrote about how the best marketing works! I'll watch the TV adverts with that in mind and see if there's anything to be learnt from it. (Though sometimes there are marvellously memorable adverts - but you don't remember what they were trying to sell!)

And thank you very much for following my other blog :)