Saturday, December 27, 2008

Closing Out the Year at Offutt

Since this is probably my final blog of 2008, I thought I might tell you more about selling at the Offutt BX (base exchange).

This was my first time in a pure retail environment on my own. Sure, I've done bookstores, but they've done networking, advertising, store signage and word of mouth to publicize my visits. But in the BX, I was truly on my own - I had to set up the table every morning and spend the day there, putting together an eye-catching display while also trying to make eye contact myself.

I don't come from a sales background, but I almost immediately began getting into the psychology and physics of sales. I was always sizing up shoppers as they came near my table, looking for likely history enthusiasts (generally seniors) or spouses of them (generally middle-aged wives). If they'd look with interest at my book poster, I'd have a look ready that said "Come on over - let's talk about it!" I'd get signage on my poster at eye level that I hoped would further interest them, such as "Featuring Fort Crook" (the original post at Offutt).

I also found myself getting more aggressive, not necessarily with the other temporary vendors since we didn't have similar products, but in fighting for my "turf." My original spot was right in the middle of the BX - people couldn't help but see me as they came in and sales were good. When I got moved to a less visible spot and saw an immediate reduction in sales, I fought with management to get moved back. I even took issue with an aggressive VFW recruiter who was stopping shoppers and blocking the view of my table!

After a few weeks of selling just the book (I was there off and on about 12 times from mid-November to Christmas Eve), I got frustrated and began looking for additional items to sell. My publisher balked at my selling other books in their catalog, so I came up with note cards featuring the forts and even developed my own poster for the forts of Nebraska. Both of them sold pretty well!

I loved talking with the customers. A number of them said the book was just what they were looking for, and others couldn't wait to present their loved ones and friends with the book. THAT was quite an unusual feeling on Christmas, knowing that people were getting my book under the tree!

I also enjoyed talking with the temporary vendors. I learned quite a bit about the profitability and the struggles of making a living that way, but also met some enjoyable people in the month and a half. I'll probably try this again, maybe for Father's Day in June.

Thanks to all for checking in. Hope you had a great Christmas and I wish all of you a very Happy New Year!

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