Conventions and Events - [Dragonmeet 2010] What I learned about selling & other stuff

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Dec 1st 2010 edited

Last Saturday I got a chance to run a stall with Malcolm Craig and Gregor Hutton. It was a very useful experience, so I've come here to share what I learned.

Gregor came up with the Better By Design logo for the stall, and posted our publishing identities up on the top left corner of the black backdrop. This was rammed right up against the wall, so there was nowhere for us to sit behind. Our stock was laid out, three copies of each item, side by side.

When a customer came near the stall I would ask, "so, do you know any of these designers?" pointing up at the sign with our publishing identities. The customer might shake their head and smile. "They've come together as Better By Design to set up a stall selling games that deliver a particular kind of experience. Each game tries to do one thing well, and all the writing, rules and design gear toward that experience. Take, for example, Remember Tomorrow..." From here, I would talk quickly about how Remember Tomorrow's rules do 70s Cyberpunk Literature. And so on.

Here are my thoughts:

* Have lots of games to talk about
* Never talk about your own game first (that helps me iron out my squeamishness)
* Put books in hands
* Talk about things that make you smile
* Have a question to ask that isn't sales-y. Like, "do you know any of these designers?" or "what kind of games do you like?"
* Don't eat at the booth.
* Have lots of water. And mints. Eat lunch.
* Ram your booth against the wall.
* Make jokes about shit. Make sure you're always talking to someone about stuff. It doesn't have to games stuff... In other words, again, "Talk about things that make you smile."

Most importantly, tell your goddam mates to get out of the way of your booth. People won't squeeze by other people to buy your stuff.

Malcolm, Gregor, anyone who visited our stall—do you have anything else to add? For example, what doesn't work? (I noticed that I told one person the price of something too early. I told two guys about stuff that wasn't at the stall, so they got excited about something I couldn't sell.) Whaddya think?

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Dec 2nd 2010

One thing that happens on the booth is that customers want to just chat.

That's fine for some things:
Want advice on printing? Sure! (I'll give a brief low down. For detail start a thread here, I say.)
Help with getting started in game design? Certainly. (But for the ins and outs, hit the forums!)

I'm less keen on discussing mechanics, specific design implementations and so on while I'm working on the booth. Catch up with me on that detailed (and often lengthy stuff) when I'm at lunch or in the pub afterwards. Or kickstart a thread! We'll probably not remember the detail of the conversation anyway! (Hey, what was that thing you said on the booth about Mechanic X? Um, I have no idea!)

Otherwise I'm talking for an age about something quite involved, which would be better on a forum thread with links and examples of play (and game text!). And while I'm doing all this with someone then I'm not helping other customers at all.

Even further down the list is talking about people's general game sessions. I do like to hear what people are doing ("we're playing X, do you have anything like that?" or "we're enjoying playing your last game," or "we like blah style of game, but haven't found anything like it"), but when I start to hear anecdotes of game sessions that delve into the detail it's best just to stop and move on.

I love to hear that when I'm off booth. Please tell me that stuff then! But, being chatty myself, I know the stories ramble and meander and it takes away time from working the booth and serving the other customers.

So, I like to just wrap that up and move the customer on. (Hey look, thanks for coming by. Go see the rest of the show! And have a good con!)

They've got the rest of the con to see, and we've got more customers to serve, y'know?

Sebastian, I guess I saw you sometimes being drawn in to, say, debating the merits of open or closed games (or whatever) with gamers on the booth. And when I did see that I just waited for a pause and thanked the dudes and got them out of there. Otherwise we'd be there all day!

It's a fine discussion to have over a pint, but not when the booth is busy and the timid dude at the back wants someone to help explain what our games are about (but is too shy to ask).

Posted by: Keith Fyans On: Dec 2nd 2010

* Ram your booth against the wall.

The number of times I've given this advise to student groups at freshers fairs! You totally get more traffic & space to draw folks in by standing at the front compared with sitting behind a table.

Posted by: Andrew Kenrick On: Dec 2nd 2010

I think having the booth in the corner worked well where you were - it might not have worked so well over by us, where it'd have meant we were lost amongst the other tables.

I guess, as with everything else, the key is being flexible depending on the circumstances of the con, but overall all good points!

Posted by: Andrew Kenrick On: Dec 2nd 2010

Ooh, another point. That 'hook' question is important - it's what grabs the attention of the casual browser, engages their interest into having a conversation about your products without just passing by. The best hook questions are ones that can't be answered with a yes/no answer - I favour your "what sorts of games do you play" question, as everyone likes to talk about that. I'd worry that "do you know these designers" could be dismissed with a no and the customer is lost.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Dec 2nd 2010

Leisure Games over the CE side of the hall shook up their booth format, which I thought was pretty cool. The got rid of the tables at the front thing and made it into almost a "games alley" with the till area at the end.

I think our backboard with cloth drop and signage made the booth look pretty rad.

Posted by: Andrew Kenrick On: Dec 2nd 2010

That's a good point, and it took me most of the day to figure out it was all Leisure Games and not several different stalls.

Your stall looked super slick - liked the pared-down layout of the table itself, made them really standout. There's something to be said for having a tight focus.

Posted by: Claus On: Dec 2nd 2010

It was my first time and I learned a lot about how to engage potential buyers from Andrew and Neil. I also learned a bit from walking around the various other stands and noting how they behaved, and how it made me feel as a customer. These observations are my personal ones and I am very new at this, so please feel free to contradict me.

- Be friendly and say hi (especially to people floating by without actually stopping)
- Let people browse in peace when they are reading, but if they are just leafing through it might be time for the "sales pitch"
- Have a simple "sales pitch" in mind for each product that makes it sound cool/fun
- Some books might benefit from being displayed open on a page with some cool artwork (thanks Andrew!).
- Make sure there are books piled/stacked/spread that visitors to the stand will feel comfortable picking up - some stands (*cough* Exile Game Studio *cough*) were so elaborate or pretty that I felt reluctant to pick up the books from fear of destroying the display.
- Do not abruptly stop conversation when someone approaches the stall and all stare at them. Sometimes it may be better to let them know they can ask questions and be attentive, but continue talking to avoid scaring away shy customers with too much attention. Chatting at the stall should probably be kept to a minimum in the first place when there are customers around.
- I think Gregor's advise about not getting carried away chatting is good advise, and I certainly need to get better at ending unproductive palaver. However, friendly banter about the games on sale often increases the chance of making a sale.
- I see Sebastian's 'put books in hands', and raise it to open it up on a cool page, and when appropriate point to the pages that explain any questions (while explaining verbally too of course).

I'm disappointed I couldn't stick around for a beer aftewards, but it just went on a bit longer than I expected (I thought it would all wrap up at 5pm).

Posted by: Sebastian Hickey On: Dec 3rd 2010

So, I like to just wrap that up and move the customer on.

Yes, you're good at that. As gamers, we're generally afflicted with chronic logorrhoea, myself (and yourself) included. Be aware!

Have a simple "sales pitch" in mind for each product that makes it sound cool/fun

In retrospect, I tried to think of it as a "conversation pitch" not a "sales pitch." Gamers can smell a salesman from a mile off. We're all designers, players and lovers of new things so we shouldn't have to rely on clever pitches. Whenever I told truths about a product, asked earnestly for opinions, and so on, that's when people paid for things.

I'd worry that "do you know these designers" could be dismissed with a no and the customer is lost.

Yes, that's a closed question. In this case, it worked well as a hook. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because I was interested in the answer? Or because the Dragonmeet gamers like to know about gaming stuff? Or because the booth looked so sharp, they felt like they should know who was in charge?

In any case, Andrew is right. I talked to the manager of a certain national bookshop and he told me that they instruct their staff never to ask "can I help you?"

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