Is selling easy? Not always. It takes discipline and hard work to build a business selling your handmade work. Here’s how a determined artist made peace with her inner salesperson.
Evelyn Pelati started making jewelry six years ago, but it was just one year ago that she decided to enter the wholesale marketplace with her collection. She shared her experiences and what she’s learned with ABI for this article.
What surprised her most was the amount of time that she spends on marketing and following up with wholesale prospects. She is in the building phase of her business, so it takes literally half of her time. Even though she would rather be doing studio work, she acknowledges “You have to embrace the business side too, because you can’t get around it.”
She’s found that buyers need frequent communication. They are busy, and they can easily forget about a conversation that they had with you. “Stay in touch on a regular basis, especially if they have expressed interest in your work,” she advises. “It might not be the right time for them to buy – or, they may need to see your work over and over again before a decision is made.”
Evelyn uses a spreadsheet to keep track of the hundreds of leads she is pursuing at any given time. That can be daunting, so she suggests, “Break it down into smaller tasks, which are doable. Otherwise it can become overwhelming.” Then, she works each day on a regular task, such as making phone calls or updating her records. She notes on her “follow up” calendar when she needs to make calls to buyers who need another nudge towards writing that first order.
Another calendar holds her marketing plans. This may contain dates for a postcard mailing, or getting an advertisement placed. She urges other artists not to forget these. “You can get busy and not think of it – and the months roll by,” she says.
Overall, it can take her five or more contacts to get the first order from a promising wholesale prospect. She understands the value of these customers because of the great potential of repeat orders and long-term potential of lasting business relationships. It is sheer persistence that lands most accounts. This is the hard work that everyone in sales (that’s you!) must do to help their businesses thrive.
How does she handle disappointment? She says, “I figure you need to get a lot of ‘Nos’ to get to a ‘Yes’, and getting ‘Nos’ means that you are working hard.” And, she literally thanks the buyer when she gets rejected, for their time and consideration, and for being honest with her. If they are not a good match for your work, it’s better to know and take them off your list. Then, you can move on to other prospects and save time on follow ups.
Evelyn finds phone calls to be her most difficult task. It can be hard at first to get up the nerve, but you do gain a comfort level for speaking to buyers after a while. She’s found that rehearsing conversations in her mind ahead of time can help.
The biggest lesson she’s learned? “There are a lot of ups and downs,” she says. “You can get discouraged at times, and other times you celebrate. But, all in all, it’s like driving on a long trip. You start out very excited, but then you have to go through some boring spots too. You just have to keep moving.”
One of her strategies is using Google Analytics after a postcard mailing to prospective buyers. When she sees that a visitor to her site from a particular city has been active, she places that prospect on her “Hot List” and send out a full marketing package to them to follow up. This can lead to more follow ups – and then, closing the sale!