My unsolicited sales advice finds two audiences.

2 Oct

On my way to Safeway this weekend, I got stopped by a guy with a clipboard who was trying to gain support for an anti-hate crime support. Usually I walk past sidewalk campaigners, but for whatever reason, I allowed him to engage me.

His memorization of statistics was impressive, and his delivery of the message was smooth, but it ran a bit long. I cut him off, saying, “I believe in your cause, but I make a practice of only giving online. Do you have a web address I could go to?”

Instead of answering my question, he pulled out a form for sidewalk donations and started a long pitch for how they’re “only looking for a modest donation of a dollar a day…” Still trying to be polite, I said, “Again, I won’t give money on the street, but if you have a URL I’ll visit it when I get home.”

And again, he didn’t answer my question but instead plowed forward with his pitch, trying to close me  to make an on-the-spot donation. It pissed me off, and although I tend to be a polite person, I realized that if he wasn’t going to listen to me, I wasn’t going to listen to him. So I just raised my hand, said, “You need to learn to listen,” and walked away, muttering “asshole” under my breath.

Apparently I’m not good at turning off my job, because it wasn’t the first piece of sales advice I offered this weekend.

Earlier in the morning, I had been at Crafty Bastards, an annual art fair held in Adams Morgan. Against my normal taste, I’d been taken by the work of an artist who created pictures out of fabric:

I pointed out a few pieces I was interested in and asked for their prices. She rattled off prices, but instead of sounding confident, she said, “Of course, all those prices are negotiable.”

I pointed to a specific piece (photographed above) and asked her to tell me how she made it — why it was more expensive than the others. She then went on to show me the 30+ different pieces of fabric, the hand stitching, the fact that she doesn’t use a pattern, etc.

“I’ll take it,” I told her.

When she brought her credit card machine over, she said, “How much did we agree on for this one?”

I reminded her of what she had quoted and said that amount was fine. I then went on to say, “By the way. As someone who negotiates for a living, let me offer you some advice: Don’t tell people you’re open to negotiation. Your stuff is really good and you’ve priced it fairly. Instead, tell people how you made it so they see its value. If someone asks if you’ll negotiate, tell them you will flex on price only if they buy multiple pieces.”

She nodded, wide-eyed, as she ran my credit card. While we stood there, waiting for it to process, another person walked up and asked, “How much for this one?” I stepped aside, turning my back so she wouldn’t feel like I was listening.

But I did. And I heard her deliver her pricing perfectly. As I turned back around to collect my wrapped piece, the prospective buyer was gesturing for her partner to come help her decide on a piece. The artist looked shocked.

I gave her a little thumbs-up, and as I walked away with her work tucked under my arm, I felt a bit like a fairy godmother.

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9 Responses to “My unsolicited sales advice finds two audiences.”

  1. H.E. ELLIS October 2, 2011 at 8:35 am #

    Nicely done! I have to admit, I have to opposite problem. If anything I probably go too far in the confidence arena, nearly bordering on arrogance. This guy walked up to me in the parking lot and asked if my 1968 Chevy Impala was for sale. I told him it wasn’t. He tried offering me about $1500 for it (it’s worth at least $7000) I went off on him so bad I’m surprised he didn’t call a cop.

  2. k8edid October 2, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Nice work, fairy godmother. I never know how to price my jewely pieces, some of which take many, many hours to make. I love the piece you bought.
    The pushy guy on the sidewalk gets to me. My husband always politely asks for literature to peruse at home (he is leery of donating on-line). If they don’t have it, he simply walks away.

  3. skippingstones October 2, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Funny, that kind of art isn’t my normal taste, either, but when I saw the picture (before reading), my first thought was that I really liked it. It took me a second look to realize it was fabric.

    It’s great that you offered her sales advice, I think it was a nice and generous thing to do. I’m so glad that she immediately took that advice, it should serve her well. I think your confidence in offering it will also give her confidence to follow it.

    As for the street peddler, because that’s clearly what he was doing, I never am sure whether or not to trust those people. If they don’t have a website or pamphlet of some kind, a phone number or address – anything you can use to reach the charity organization – then I assume he’s raising beer money.

    • pithypants October 3, 2011 at 7:47 am #

      I’m all for membership drives where they’re simply trying to add to their roster, but asking for money? And I agree – it felt like he was looking for beer funds and tried to choose the most guilt-inducing cause.

  4. Deborah the Closet Monster October 2, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    So many organizations have lost prospective donations from me by doing exactly as Mr. Pushy did above. When I say I only make donations online, I mean it. If someone tries to pressure me into doing something I’m not interested in doing, what they’re effectively saying is: “The person who’s important in this here ‘conversation’ is me.” I’m not interested.

    I almost left an organization I belong to and love because they kept manhandling me for donations. I ended each call abruptly, until they had a friendly acquaintance call. At that point, I said, “When I say ‘I am not equipped to donate right now,’ that is not a cop-out. That is the statement of someone who knows her exact financial situation and has in fact already allotted a significant amount monthly for membership in this organization. If I receive another call asking for additional funds donations, I will cease my membership and you will never receive another penny from me again. Now, if you’d like to chit-chat for the rest of your break, I’m absolutely fine with that.”

    I take these things seriously. Respect me enough to listen to what I’m saying and you’ll find much more positive returns than if you try plowing over me!

  5. thesinglecell October 2, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    Well done! That street pitcher leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth… any time someone completely disregards my attempts at giving them money my way, I’m suspicious that raising the money is less important to them than making a commission or getting a reward for immediate impact. If that’s the way his organization is run, it needs a new model. And I’m sure that artist will long appreciate the tip (and the confidence) you gave her.

  6. cleaningupatown October 2, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    double thumbs up to you! We never know, in this life, what impact our words have – yours clearly did wonders for this artist! -Lee

  7. Lorna's Voice October 5, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    Will you be my agent? I make fabric art pieces like the one you showed and am always under-pricing them. In fact, I’d rather give them way to friends or family than sell then for so much less than they are worth. I have a real thing with money/valuing my time.

    Bless your heart for giving another fabric artist the kind of confidence in her work that I need. 🙂

    • pithypants October 7, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

      Really? That’s awesome! Do you have an Etsy store? This chic does, and I figure it’s a pretty good barometer to see what pricing will move pieces. Just a thought?

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