If you’ve ever been to Key West you’ve probably been to Mallory Square. It’s a waterfront area filled with vendors, sunset seekers, and engaging street performers. Many of the street performers are like the circus acts of long ago. They use their skill and dramatic flair to draw a crowd, perform for them, and then persuade them to leave generous tips. It’s the way they make a living. They have to know sales techniques well.
As I recently watched these performers on a beautiful Key West April evening I learned that they are skilled salesmen and women. They can teach us all how to be better at sales. No matter your work or vocation you more than likely have to sell something. It may be goods. It may be food or drink. Or it may be ideas. Learning to sell things well is a skill upon which most of us could improve.
- Draw attention. In order to draw a crowd each performer used various means of getting attention and getting people to follow their curiosity. One juggler/acrobat/fire eater poured liquid out of a bottle of lighter fluid to make a border for his act. He later revealed that it was only water, but everyone was waiting to see that border go up in flames. As he was setting up chairs and a table he began to engage the crowd with a loud voice and audacious claims. He most certainly gained the attention of a significant group of people and soon began his act that would result in sales.
- Build anticipation. The performers we watched all used this tactic. They made a bold promise and then built up to it. To a performer they all fulfilled their promise. But they used anticipation to keep the audience engaged. I didn’t see anyone walking away. People stayed because they wanted to see what happened. One man drew a young couple out of the crowd to help him with a trick in which he leapt over the young woman through a hoop that her boyfriend was holding. He didn’t just set it up and do it. He built the tension for at least five minutes before he performed the stunt. Anticipation builds desire that helps with sales.
- Capitalize on your uniqueness. Not everyone can do what these performers do. Each one is unique. They do things that you don’t often see in your everyday life. They are different. They are individual. They aren’t easy to duplicate. If you want to sell something you need to emphasize the uniqueness and value of what it is you want to sell. People don’t use their valuable leisure time to watch something that isn’t unique. These performers are exceptional and are able to capitalize on it.
- Use humor. The Key West street performers that we saw brought humor into their acts mainly by using volunteers from the crowd. It’s daring because you never know what you’re going to get from a volunteer. The juggler/acrobat/fire breather that we saw used two volunteers. One was a precocious little kid who gave the performer the kind of lip he had received from him. Another was a thirty-something Cubs fan from Chicago who was as stiff as tree branch. It was an opportunity for the performer to make some jokes at the expense of the guy. The crowd was in stitches…and still engaged. Humor always seems to do that. Humor also puts people at ease as they get ready to make a purchase.
- Be straightforward. When the act was over each performer was bold to ask for tips. They all had a huge bucket into which people could place their money. They were even straightforward enough to suggest an amount of money that would be appropriate for a street performed that had just entertained for the previous fifteen or twenty minutes. From what I could see, all of these tactics were enough for each performer to take in a substantial amount of money. Don’t be afraid to specifically ask for what you want.
- Work with a team. What I really admired was that the performers seemed to be working together. Once an act was over another one started momentarily. The performer who was finishing an act promoted the one that was about to start. In sales it always helps to get referrals…and give referrals. It helps to work with a team.
What do you have to sell? These tips for creatively selling something will most likely boost your sales. Give it a try.
What tips would you give to help sell something?
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