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Author Topic: Selling yourself without selling your soul (or looking like a dick)  (Read 5186 times)
Jared A. Sorensen
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« on: August 24, 2005, 04:45:32 AM »

So, I had some great experiences at the con and wanted to share my ideas/opinions with you lot. In particular, about avoiding the "hard sell" (which I first encountered, personally, at the Adept Press booth way back in 2001...yes, there wasn't always a Forge booth!). I love Ron like a...much, much younger brother (me, not him. He's, like 70?) but I was really uncomfortable selling Sorcerer with the...uh, ardor that he displayed.

So here's my advice on selling your game:

"What games do you like?" is a great question to use once you've made contact with a person. But if you use it as part of a sales pitch, it starts to smell like a chum bucket. If you don't really care about what the person likes to play, don't ask. The question is not a replacement for "Which game would you like to buy?" -- it's "Would you be interested in anything I have here?" I had four games in mind when I asked people that question --

1) "Fantasy games like D&D" -- Enemy Gods
2) "Adventure/pulp" -- Against the Reich!
3) "History" -- Thirty
4) "I'm not really into RPG's that much" -- Cat (usually because I asked the gamer spouse)

If the person was a female PiB (Person in Black) I'd ask if they had kitties. If so, I'd point out Cat (which would then elicit much squealing and clutching of the bosoms). If the person had tattoos (esp. on the neck!) or an Iron Maiden t-shirt I'd point out octaNe. I'd say "You should check this out." -- not "You should get this." The idea is to identify the person as an individual and find something that suits him or her, not to treat them as a  wallet full of $20's.

The other thing I did was the "not sell" -- I'd say, "If the cover of octaNe doesn't call out to you in some way, then it probably isn't for you" and then explain (briefly) what the game was like (and why they wouldn't like it). For some people, that was enough for them to pick the game up and say, "Hmmm...well, maybe I would like it." Because I knew octaNe wasn't for everyone, I used that. Same with John's Discordia RPG -- if someone wasn't obviously into that stuff, I'd mention the game briefly and then move on.

Things to not do:
1) Vanna White-ing your games. This is when you hold up a copy and wave it around like a retard (with or without the carnival barker pitch. It's incredibly lame, false and tacky.
2) Carnival barker-ing your games. Speak to the person, not to the crowd. There was some chick from Titan Games who had a makeshift hat (made from some "sale" signs taped together) who was standing in the middle of the aisle making loud noises re: the Titan Games booth. That smells desperate.
3) Repeating Pitches. I cannot tell you how bothersome it is to get a sales pitch, move on and then have the same pitch repeated by someone else (or 100x worse...from the SAME PERSON WHO DOESN'T REMEMBER YOU).
4) Who are you? The GenCon ID's are GREAT because they show first names. Don't assume the person is named that (could be a different person's badge they're borrowing, they might go by a nickname, etc.) but definitely speak to them by name. Bonus if you see them later on and just say, "Hi, ______." Folks like it when you remember them.

I have to go to work now but hopefully that helps out a bit.
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jared a. sorensen / www.memento-mori.com
TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2005, 05:03:53 AM »

1) Vanna White-ing your games. This is when you hold up a copy and wave it around like a retard (with or without the carnival barker pitch. It's incredibly lame, false and tacky.

Absolutely.  Why on earth should the game be in your hands?  Put the game in their hands!  Always, always, always make sure that the customer has the weight of the book firmly in their hands as you talk to them about it.  I resort to such tricks as gesturing and then "noticing" that one hand is weighed down by a book.  "Here, hold this.  I've spent too much time in New York.  I can't talk without my hands any more."

Also, remember:  You can sell exactly as hard as you believe in the games.  The sale is not about making a buck by any means necessary:  it's about helping these people spend their money in the way that will make them the happiest.  I'll go out on a limb and describe my absolute "do not exceed this point" borderline:

Me:  "So, that's why this game rocks on toast.  Can I put it into your hand for $20?"
Them:  "Urggh!  I would, but I've already spent all the money I can afford to spend here."
Me:  "Sure, you gotta spend your money where it makes you happy.  That's the only reason I can sell this hard: because I know that this $20 was among the best money I ever spent... better value per dollar than video rentals and comic books.  Better than beer."
Them:  "Better than... BEER?"
Me:  "Twenty dollars of beer will get you drunk for a night or two.  This game will keep you stoked and give you ideas for years."
Them:  "That's a damn fine point.  I can skip some... well, not beer, but video rentals.  Ring me up!"

Now if, at "better than beer," they shake their heads then you are done.  They have consciously evaluated the other things they can be doing with their money, and your game is not worth it.  Take the game back from them, smile, say "Well, it was great meeting you," and let 'em go.

Generally speaking:  If you are not selling them the game out of a sincere belief that you are doing the customer a favor then I don't want you on any sales floor that I'm sharing.  This is about helping people to see that their money will be well spent on these spectacular products.
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Clinton R. Nixon
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« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2005, 06:43:05 AM »

I have to give Jared two thumbs up.

Unfortunately, I have to give Tony two thumbs down. Tricks to get people to hold your game? Pushing the sell when you've obviously gotten the nicest "piss off" a customer can give? ("I don't have any more money.") What's that about?

Now, I didn't get all my TSOY copies at the con. But the 36 or so I had, I sold all of. How?

- I demoed it and made the demos fun.
- I showed other people's games off, and when asked "What's your game?" I told them and gave a few sentence run-down then moved back to everyone else's games.
- I never once said, "If you like X, you'll love TSOY!" That's just obnoxious, unless the customer initiates it by asking, "What's like X?"

To be brutally honest, I went to the Wicked-Dead booth and bought some stuff. It was a nice experience. If was an unrelated-to-the-Forge-just-plain-customer guy, the exact behavior described above, which I saw all day at the Forge booth, would have made me very uncomfortable.
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Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games
Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2005, 06:56:57 AM »

I watched Tony sell and his printed dialogue sounds a bit worse than his actual pitch.  He does put the book in the person's hand but that is a recognized and effective selling technique that isn't pushy at all (unless the person says they don't want to hold the book).  Once the book is in the customer's hand they already start to form an attachment to it and some ownership of it.  Makes it easier to sell it to them because people don't like to give back something they feel some ownership for.  It's like they're losing something.  Besides, most prospective customers are going to want to look at the book while the salesguy is talking to them. 

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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2005, 08:33:31 AM »

Well, as a customer not affiliated with either booth (Forge or Wicked Dead) this year, let me give my impression. I've already stated in another thread that Jared is a perfect role model of an RPG owner/creator turned salesperson. When I have a game for sale, if I'm even half as slick (and I mean that in the good way, not the sleazy way) as he is, I'll be happy.

At the Forge booth, it was very much: "Look at this game! Buy this, you'll like it! You played a demo? Well, now you have to buy the game! Hey, my game/this guy's game is awesome -- you need to buy it. Buy! Buy! Buy! Come back! Why are you running away? We have awesome games...that you need to buy! Right now!"

Over at Wicked Dead, it was something like: "You interested in that game? Cool. You want to hear more about it? Okay, no problem. Convince you to buy it? Why? If you don't want it already, you're probably not cool enough for the game. Maybe you should take some time and think it over. Oh, what? You want to give me money? Okay, then. Good choice."

Even knowing some of the folks over at the Forge booth, I was uncomfortable being there. I just wanted to get the games that I'd planned to buy already and get the heck out of there. At the Wicked Dead booth (I'd never met John Wick and I'd seen Jared once before, but never talked to him), I felt comfortable flipping through a book or two, asking some questions, thinking things over, and making a purchase or two. And, to be perfectly honest, I bought those games from Jared because he made me feel that his books just might possibly be too cool for me, and I wasn't going to take that, right? I'd show him...by purchasing his books...hey...wait a minute! Way to go, Jared. I'd definitely have bought InSpectres online after the convention, but I might or might not have picked up a copy of octaNe. He sold me by appealing to my emotions, which is the way to do it. Most of the Forge guys were selling to my brain...bad idea. My brain has active defenses, my emotions do not.

It was very much the difference in sales techniques you see between an upscale clothing store (Wicked Dead) and a used car lot (Forge). Keep in mind that I have a great deal of respect for pretty much all the indie designers I've dealt with personally, whether in person or online. I also respect their work, almost down the line. So, for me to feel this way, I can only imagine it was even worse for the average con-goer. I hate to keep coming back to this issue, but it seems to me that it is a critical concern that absolutely must be addressed.

As to Tony, yes, he does some things that, in and of themselves, would be pretty annoying, but he can pull them off without being annoying himself. It's a talent he has. Tony could probably smack someone in the face, then have them laughing about it and buying his book. Most people don't have that talent, so they shouldn't use the same tactics Tony does. I wouldn't say Tony's sales technique was either good or bad, but rather that it works for him. And, as the other Andrew just pointed out, while it sounds abrasive in print, it's not that way in person.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2005, 09:05:56 AM »

Hi,

Just in general, it's very positive if the people at the booth look like they're having fun being at GenCon.  It's kinda creepy/scary if they do not.  Also, a couple of other booths I went to started slamming the hard sale AFTER I explained I would come back the next day when I had some moeny.   Not listening = not respecting = not buying.

Chris
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2005, 09:12:49 AM »

I have to second this. When I came by the Forge booth last year, pretty much everything about the booth said Hard Sell. In some ways, I can see where that would be effective.. Some people go to the Cons looking to get the most bang for their buck, and they're not going to buy a game unless it's almost forced into their hands. Obviously the Hard Sell hasn't been too ineffective in past years, so I surmise that this is likely the common case. But I guided my friends there, they left in a real hurry.. And it was a pity, because from what I know about my friends, they'd really enjoy some of the Forge games, but being comfortable with D&D, the Hard Sell absolutely will not, and did not work. I imagine that there are a lot of people like that who go to Cons.. They just want to game, hang with friends, and relax. Buying games isn't something they're hugely interested in, and will only likely do it if the game intrigues them, or it's something they've heard of and have been looking for. The Hard Sell technique, I think, puts all the emphasis on the seller and the buyer, rather than the creator/demoer/enthusiastic fanboy and the prospective player/fanboy.

Just my two centimes, from the possible buyer side of the table.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2005, 09:33:21 AM »

Well, guys, I appreciate the "Tony Magic" vibe, and all, but it's not magic.

Some people want to be given the Hard Sell.  Some people do not.  Learn to tell the difference.  This is something I practice at, which means trusting your (yet imperfect) judgment, then examining the consequences.  If I goofed (and hard-sold someone who wanted the freedom to walk away) then I'm very sorry.  But yeah, everyone at that booth is on the learning curve.  Not a huge surprise.

I had someone hanging about at the booth on Sunday, chatting with me, and he had a huge pile of books that he'd already bought.  But he had that "I'm here for a purpose" look, still.  So I said "Say... is there something in particular you wish I'd sell you on so hard that you were forced to buy it against your will?"  The guy got an amused look on his face and then admitted, "Well... yeah.  I keep thinking I should want Big Night more than I do."  I contorted my face instantly into a look of outraged horror.  "You DON'T have Big Night?" I cried, a quaver in my voice.  Sale concluded.

On the other hand, I had someone who had the book in his hand, headed for the check-out line, but didn't look happy about it.  I said "Hey, did you want to get a demo?"  He explained that he didn't have the time right then, so I said "So come back, demo, and buy it then."  I don't think he ever did.  No big.  He'll get around to it.
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Lisa Provost
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« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2005, 10:14:03 AM »

I'd like to give some advice if you all don't mind.  Having been a wireless sales rep for four and half years, I can tell you that actually all of the above ideas work.  The "Vanna-thing" does work.  The "Hey, how's it going..?" thing works too.  Yes, even putting the game book in their hands works too.  People like to touch, look and feel.  Let them.

See the difference is, you have to be able to tell what your customer is wanting.  But this does take practice.  Go with your gut instinct.  It's usually right.  If it tells you to talk softly, then talk softly.  If it tells you to make jokes, then make jokes. 

Overall though, the best way to sell is to know your product.  To know -all- about it too.  Its pros -and- cons.  Smile and be clean!  (Whoo.... someone needed a shower bad on Sunday by the way!)  And don't mummble.  Goodness gracious, there were a bunch of mummblers there!  Also, never ever be afraid to say that you do not know the answer to something.  That will give you a bit more respect in the eyes of your customer and they will most likely stick with you, thus they will most likely buy from you.  Funny... admitting you don't know something makes you look like you are very knowledgeable. 

And look at your customer!  Yes, it may seem trivial to some people but once you make eye contact and smile, people will instantly be friendlier with you and thus more willing to listen to what you have to say. 

If the person was a female PiB (Person in Black) I'd ask if they had kitties. If so, I'd point out Cat (which would then elicit much squealing and clutching of the bosoms). If the person had tattoos (esp. on the neck!) or an Iron Maiden t-shirt I'd point out octaNe. I'd say "You should check this out." -- not "You should get this." The idea is to identify the person as an individual and find something that suits him or her, not to treat them as a wallet full of $20's.

I'm going to have to disagree with you here.  As a sales rep I realized that one of the worst mistakes you could make was to make a generalization about someone.  I happen to be a gamer spouse.  I also happen to be female.  I also like kitties.  But I also am a gamer.  I have had -many, many- people make the generalization that I wasn't into gaming and they have lost my money.   Take each and every customer on the same level and treat them all the same.  And yes, I will agree with you that you should not look at them as if they are a wallet full of $20's. 

The other thing I did was the "not sell" -- I'd say, "If the cover of octaNe doesn't call out to you in some way, then it probably isn't for you" and then explain (briefly) what the game was like (and why they wouldn't like it). For some people, that was enough for them to pick the game up and say, "Hmmm...well, maybe I would like it." Because I knew octaNe wasn't for everyone, I used that. Same with John's Discordia RPG -- if someone wasn't obviously into that stuff, I'd mention the game briefly and then move on.

This is very good advice!  But I only tried this approach -after- I had already 'felt them out' for what type of customer they were.  If you go right for this approach, you're going to lose them.  Telling someone what they do and do not like right out the gate makes them get defensive.  Whether it is a conscious thought or not, if someone is feeling defensive, they are more likely to disagree with you.  Disagreement does not equal a sale.

Well I too should get back to work.  I hope some of that info helps.  :)
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Gordon C. Landis
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« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2005, 12:35:28 PM »

I have to stress one thing about this issue, which I understand much better than I am actually able to practice: pay attention to the INDIVIDUAL you are selling/pitching/talking to.  People and situations vary.  While it would be nice to take just one trick and always use it (and you can have some success with that), the truth is you need a whole kit o' stuff available for use.

I was personally "sold" much HARDER at the Wicked Dead booth than I was by anyone at the Forge booth - harder than many (though certainly not all) of the pitches I saw at the Forge booth.  Now, part of that is that John and Jared know me, but I'm gonna claim another part is that they had a whole set of tools available to 'em, and they have some skill at choosing amongst them.  That's the goal to shoot for, and remembering that all the good answers here aren't neccessarily the right answer for a particular situation is important.  I think.  Now, if I could just be better at doing it . . .

Gordon
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Meguey
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« Reply #10 on: August 24, 2005, 03:13:20 PM »

(Background: I sold sewing machines for 9 months, and worked in fund-raising for 8 years) Finding out what the customer wants is key. Trusting your gut is a part of this. The "not-sell" works if you've got enough attitude behind it to carry it, otherwise it comes across as "You don't wanna buy my game, do you?" to which the answer is "No, actually I don't, now that you ask." The overcoming objections/hard-sell can only work if the person is genuinly enthusiastic about the product and stil has a good connection with the customer. If the customer has started to close down, back away, break eye contact, let go gracefully. At the Forge, there was always a stack of other folks around, so trying to overcome objections, even lame ones, seems a bit like wasted energy to me. Yes we want them all to buy our games and have great fun, but if they choose not to, their loss. It's not like any of us had a mortgadge riding on the con. (At least I sincerly hope not!)

The approach that worked best for me, and that I saw working a lot, was sincere "Hi, how are you? What do you like to play?" with eye contact and all my attention on them untill they had answered those questions, then put relevant books in their hands, then tell them why I'd handed them those books. I checked in with eye-contact a lot. I'm also VERY good with names and I really remember people. I was able to greet people as they came to the register, and I could ask "So how'd that X demo go? I see you've got this other book here too, that's great!" A couple people were by the booth on one day for their "I need it now" list, and came back another day, and I could say "Oh, hi! Good to see you again! I know you got XYZ, what can I show you now?" People love to be remembered.
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ejh
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2005, 09:07:10 AM »

This has been a fascinating thread for me, because it sounds to me like good salesmanship is not anything I've ever heard it said to be (or not anything I've had ears to hear before) -- it sounds like good salesmanship is mostly "mindfulness" -- that is, seeing every sales situation as unique, potentially different from any other you've been involved in, so that you are fully "present" in that moment for that sale, and reacting to it from its own unique quality, not attached to predetermined procedures or outcomes.

It seems obvious in retrospect but I don't think, until this thread, I've never associated sales with something that positive.

(Ron will note my continued obsession with "mindfulness" here if he's reading the thread...)
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Lisa Provost
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aka urbanpagan


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« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2005, 09:55:49 AM »

The approach that worked best for me, and that I saw working a lot, was sincere "Hi, how are you? What do you like to play?" with eye contact and all my attention on them untill they had answered those questions, then put relevant books in their hands, then tell them why I'd handed them those books.

Awesome!  That's a fabulous example of good selling. 

I checked in with eye-contact a lot. I'm also VERY good with names and I really remember people. I was able to greet people as they came to the register, and I could ask "So how'd that X demo go? I see you've got this other book here too, that's great!" A couple people were by the booth on one day for their "I need it now" list, and came back another day, and I could say "Oh, hi! Good to see you again! I know you got XYZ, what can I show you now?" People love to be remembered.

Very, very true!  If you can remember them from a few days previous, it makes them feel special.  It makes them think you really, truly cared and you really, truly listened to them and it makes them feel comfortable and more likely to buy more things from you.  I too can remember faces and customers easily.  For me, it's like I take a polaroid picture of them with the item they want in their hands and bam, I've got them filed in my memory. 

This has been a fascinating thread for me, because it sounds to me like good salesmanship is not anything I've ever heard it said to be (or not anything I've had ears to hear before) -- it sounds like good salesmanship is mostly "mindfulness" -- that is, seeing every sales situation as unique, potentially different from any other you've been involved in, so that you are fully "present" in that moment for that sale, and reacting to it from its own unique quality, not attached to predetermined procedures or outcomes.

Oh it's actually bits of both.  When I sold wireless phones, I would give the same exact pitch upwards of 20 to thirty (or even more) times a day!  Word for word most times.  But I would be mindful of how I did it.  Simple things like paying attention to your own stance, what your hands are doing and where they are, along with how your voice sounds, the freshness of your breath, the smile in your eyes and on your mouth are all very important things.  Also paying attention to how your customer is reacting to all your movements, words, phrases, etc, is the next most important thing.  You have to keep all this in your head along with paying attention to their actual question and then actually answering it in simple/understandable words and phrases all at the same time. 
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