Monday, June 16, 2008

Get The Deer Out Of Your Headlights

This always happens when I'm on vacation: I'm trying to find a sandwich shop in the town or city I'm staying in. I skip past Subway for something more local. Only when my blood sugar starts taking a dive do I find a local eating establishment. By then I'm feeling dizzy and ready to bite into any hand or foot that passes in front of my face.

In this state of disorientation, I walk into the sandwich shop in search of a menu of offerings that's hanging over the high counter. Other customers are ordering and paying for their food briskly while I stare and become overwhelmed by the 35 different sandwiches you can order, each having either a cute or corny name.

"Can I help you," snaps a voice behind a tall pickle jar that stands on the counter. It's said like probably been said hundreds of times already and the words snaps in the air like a whip.

I don't say anything. I'm trying to decide between a Marvin the Martian or a Forrest Gump but I'm sure I look like a deer in headlights.

Again, I hear "CanIhelpyou."

"Nope," I say to the picklejar and head for Subway I had passed earlier.

If you are selling more than 30 in-hands at a card show, it's not going to take much to overwhelm a customer if they have never heard of etopps. And you'll be surprised by how many have not.

As I have stated in an early post, you are much better off putting each card on a single-card display stand or display tower rather than lying flat on the tablecloth. Most likely, the overhead lighting (fluorescent) will reflect on the cards if lying flat.

Picture all of your cards, each on display and lined up in rows or neat columns. How do you prevent your customer from having the deer-in-headlights reaction to your table?

There are two ways: your table presentation and your customer service skills.

The first one is easier because you can do this prior to the show starting.
  • Center Stage - create an area on the table that will showcase the high-end cards (autos, graded etopps, etc) as well as the popular local heroes whether baseball or football. We had one display tower full of Yankees and Mets and the other had hot-selling football rookies.
  • Group the cards by sport and by team, preferrably alphabetically so you can find the cards quickly if a customer asks you for a team or player that you have. It can be embarrassing when you cannot find what the customer is asking and you most likely will lose a sale this way.
  • Since current players sell more, group the cards by year if you can. The 2008 or 2007 will most likely sell the most unless it's a star player or hot rookie.
  • Make it easy on the eyes. Get in front of your table and set the cards up this way. Don't have them too close together.
  • Make some cards stick out - we would place an index card behind a card on the display stand to indicate "rookie" or "low print run" or "Last One!" to create more demand for the card.
No matter how you set up your cards, customers can get overwhelmed. Don't think it's only because of your cards. Usually this is an accumulative effect from checking out so many tables with so much stuff being available. Being overwhelmed is a pretty normal reaction to a card show as a customer. It's your job to make it easy for them to browse your table. Here are some ways to break the ice and turn browsers into buyers:
  • "I know there's a lot to look at so take your time. We'll answer any questions you have."
  • "These cards are really good at reflecting the light in here. We've got special sunglasses to help you see the cards better."
  • "Is there a sport, team or player you're looking for in particular?" (usually the customer gives this away by what they're wearing.)
We would get in front of our tables and guide the customers, giving them an idea of each card's design for each year. A good part of our sales pitch was educating the customers about the etopps online platform. Sometimes we could spend 15-20 minutes talking to one customer depending on the questions we were asked. Even if a sale wasn't made afterwards, it was good to have someone at our table. The more people you have browsing, the attractive your table will be better for others nearby.

A solid, professional presentation is not just about having the best display tools, it's about how you use them to make it easy on the eyes for customers. They'll know whether it's worth looking beyond a glance or not. And when they do look, it's up to you to convert the looking into buying.

And I will show you how.

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