Selling is often one of the hardest parts of being an independent designer. The skills and confidence required often don’t come naturally or sit comfortably with creative people, but if you’re going make a living from the things you design and make, they’re pretty crucial. With five years sales experience at Tent London and now heading up new sales agency Design Relations (as well as being our very own commercial director), Rebecca Harkness can sell in her sleep. We pinned her down for some top tips…
Creating a sales strategy when you have no proven sales skills or training is one of the hardest things to tackle and can be completely overwhelming. A great place to start is by introducing some small changes to your current sales process – here are five simple changes you can make this week:
1. Be more personable
When you’re sending emails, keep the number of generic ones to an absolutely minimum. I know, it’s quick and easy to bcc your entire mailing list and send them all the same email. But there is a high chance that these sort of emails will be deleted without being read or end up in a spam folder. Worse still, they risk annoying your customers. Personalised emails to individual contacts, as time-consuming as they might be, go a lot further and are almost always worth the time investment – a phone call goes even further.
When you meet contacts at trade shows or events, get into the habit of writing down a specific detail about your conversation on the back of their business card – including this in your follow-up email is a nice reminder of your chat and will differentiate you from your competitors.
When you need reach a higher number of your contacts, stick to sending out updates via social media channels and via e-newsletters.
2. Be utterly reliable.
If someone inquires about your collection, a quick answer is great. Even better is to make sure you’ve answered all of their questions – and provided them with some extra details they may not have known about your designs.
If a customer sees you as professional and responsive, they are more likely to trust you, and therefore more likely to do business with you.
If you have samples, think about sending a sample and a hand-written note thanking them for their interest in your collection. Such small efforts really stick in people’s minds.
3. Become knowledgeable
You’ve designed the collection so you know it from inside and out, but it’s also crucial that you know your pricing structure and that you understand your target audience and your competitors.
Differentiating yourself and what you are offering from your competitors will give you an edge. That doesn’t mean opening criticising them, just understanding how you are different.
4. Be accountable.
Set yourself sales targets. Make your first job on a Monday morning (after coffee!) to set some goals for the week ahead, for example, how many phone calls you need to make, how many meetings you’d like to have – work back from the number of products you need to sell to work these out. Schedule your e-newsletters and social media activity. Then every Friday morning, evaluate the list you made on Monday, look at which tasks you achieved and which you didn’t, be honest about the reasons why and consider these reasons and how to overcome them when you’re setting the next week’s goals.
5. Practice gratitude.
A thank you goes a really long way – along with your clients, take a moment to thank your team and the people in the industry like journalists and bloggers who have supported you this week. A little #FF on twitter is a really simple way to do this – or again, a handwritten card is a lovely touch and often really appreciated in today’s digital world.
If your sales approach isn’t working, mix it up, try different things, work out a strategy that works for you and most importantly one that you enjoy – people will be more likely to buy into you and your brand if you enjoy the selling process and you convey passion for your design and collection.