I'm going to tell you a story about my first ever leather goods sale, and the valuable lessons I learnt from this absolute catastrophe.
Do you have a sales story that can rival this one? Comment below! We'd all love to hear it.
First, allow me to set the scene for you.
Many years ago when I was a mere veg-tan virgin, I worked for a company unrelated to leathercraft.
I was a leather hobbyist at the time and I produced leather goods for myself, friends and family.
Where I worked, there were volunteers who would come in and help out directing the public and generally lending a hand.
These were usually retired individuals who wanted to give back to the community. But mostly, they wanted to get out the house and actually do something.
I met one volunteer who I used to chat to briefly in the mornings. Usually pre-coffee and definitely before I fully woke up (excuses starting early..).
Anyhow, this volunteer used to be an advisor to businesses involved in farming and agriculture. So being the aspiring leather entrepreneur, I would pick his brains and talk about my plans for the future, and how I wanted to start my own business.
One day he asked me If I could repair a belt for him.
His favorite leather belt had done what PU coated bonded leather belts do best. Yet he rather liked the reversible buckle that came with it.
I couldn't believe it, I had my first sale! YES!
Volunteer: 'How much would you charge to replace the leather part?'
Me: (crap, uhh, umm.) 'Fff..forty pounds?'
Volunteer: 'Yeah that's fine, I'll bring it in tomorrow'
Great! And he did too.
I got the belt the next day and took it home to start work right away. I arranged to have it ready for him the following week, when he'd be in next.
In the workshop I removed the worst excuse for leather I'd ever seen and strapped a length of good quality bridle butt to the fading 'gold' plated zinc alloy buckle (*cringes*).
Hey, he liked the buckle, who am I to judge?
Next week comes around and I drive in on my day off to deliver the repaired belt into the hands of my first ever customer.
I can remember now, the feeling of nervousness as I really didn't have much confidence in selling things I'd made (I’d never done it before!).
Gifting? sure! Someone's paying me? I feel like an impostor!
Heart pounding and anxiety getting the better of me, I walk into the lobby praying that he likes it.
I spot my very first customer over in the corner in his purple volunteer shirt talking to someone. I wait my turn then approach:
Me: Good morning! been busy?
Volunteer: Yeah pretty busy actually.
Me: I've got your belt here (holds out a brown bag with my logo on it), I buffed the buckle to a shine and applied some loctite to the screw threads as they were getting a little loose there.
Volunteer: Oh, uh right, ok.
At this point the volunteer just blankly stares at me for the longest time. I'm not sure what's going through his head, but I'm pretty sure there's supposed to be a transaction of sorts going on right about now.
Feeling like an eternity, and the look of confusion building on both our faces, I brave the subject of money:
Me: *Confidently* (I’m obviously a business man now). So as agreed that will be forty pounds, do you want to pay cash now or do you want to pay me when I see you next?
Volunteer: (Looking a bit out of sorts) Umm, I don't have any money on me now, can I pay you next time?
Me: Yeah ok, that's fine.
We said our goodbyes and I walked out feeling a little deflated. I couldn't believe the guy didn't say anything nice about the belt, or even remember to have the money ready to pay for it!
My confidence was knocked to say the least. Maybe I'm just not good enough or cut out for sales in general.
A week goes by and I walk into work. I'm thinking about how I'm going to handle it if this guy says he doesn't have the money again. I'm fearing the worst considering the situation went so weirdly.
I walk up to the purple shirt payment dodging volunteer, and before I can get a word out my mouth..:
Volunteer: (with glee) Oh good! Did you bring the belt??
Now, there are screw ups, mess ups, balls ups, and a plethora of other 'ups' that one could describe this situation with. but none would do it justice.
If you haven't guessed, In my tunnel vision of nervousness, I dropped off the belt the week before - TO THE WRONG VOLUNTEER!
They both wore purple shirts, they were both around 80, they both had pure white hair and were of a similar height.
I still remember the burning sensation radiating like a gas explosion going from my face down to my fingertips. I was mortified and frozen on the spot, I was confused and I didn't know what to say.
I managed to mumble something about dropping it off to a member of staff so that he could give it to him sooner, or some such bollocks that he probably saw through instantly. He was cool about it though and said it was fine. The conversation swiftly changed.
I'm going to cut a long story short at this point and say, I eventually got the belt off the first confused volunteer from the previous week, and gave it to the very happy volunteer who actually ordered the damn thing.
He loved it and my confidence was restored.
In my defence, these two chaps looked near identical in every way, whilst the same uniform really didn't help matters much.
So, What lesson have we gained from this? You may think next time I should actually notice that two different people are not the same person when selling my goods - and you'd be right!
But don't miss out on one of the most powerful sales techniques I stumbled upon by accident.
ASSUMING THE SALE
So there's this poor volunteer who who's handed a belt he wasn't expecting, a belt he didn't want, in a size that wasn't his (probably) for a price he didn't agree upon - yet he agreed to pay for it on the spot? Why THE HELL would someone do that?
I 'knew' this was my customer, so my choice of words, tone, and body language was giving off, 'you are the guy that ordered this belt'.
Also, 'do you want to pay cash now, or do you want to pay me when I see you next? is a strong double-bind where neither option gives him the possibility of not parting with his cash.
In conclusion, When you're talking to customers in person, always talk about what you do and what you create with confidence.
More often than not, if someone comes to your workshop, or perhaps your table at a craft fair, they are interested in your work.
It is up to you to talk about how much they are going to enjoy your product, how good they are going to feel, what it’s going to do for them.
All the time talking with confidence that this product is going to make them feel great.
You're not conning anyone if you know it's good, you made it!
Whether you sell on Etsy, your website, craft fairs, local shops, or you have your own store, sales is a major factor in how successful you will be.
Now, I firmly believe there are no true failures in life IF you can learn lessons that become useful in achieving your future goals.
So, here I learnt two very important lessons.
1) Talk with confidence if you want to connect with someone. Few people will be influenced by a person who appears to be lacking confidence, or that person is unsure about what they are saying.
2) If you agree on a commission, try and remember what that person bloody well looks like!
Would you like to get more usable information about selling your leatherwork?
Watch the videos below where I cover topics around leathercraft sales. You can use the time stamps to get to specific parts.